One mother’s attitude to grief after the death of her child is causing controversy.
Last year I received an amazing letter from Julia Bianco-Garrouche, a woman who recently appeared on Insight talking about grief following the death of her daughter. It was in relation to a column I wrote about being criticised. I was the first journalist she’d talked to.
“We had moved to Sydney for my husband’s job and had been there about 18 months. Living in Paddington was starting to take its toll on our vivacious and free-spirited daughter, Yasmina, who at 9- years-old, felt cooped up in the terrace. So whenever we came back to our house near the beach north of Wollongong, she would fling open the front door and take off to explore, breathe the fresh air and let her imagination run wild.”
“Disaster struck when her imagination took her too far. Playing spies, she spotted a pink torch lying on the tracks at a nearby railway station. Being a daring child she climbed down not realising the danger of the trains. Unlike the old red rattlers, silver bullets suddenly appear with 5 seconds warning. She was hit instantly.”
Many criticised Julia: “They’d say: ‘Why on earth was she allowed to go up there?’ I should have known where she was at all times. She should not have been allowed out of my sight!”
“I don’t regret my decision to let my daughter out to play. She would not have wanted anything else. In the short life she had, she was happy, free spirited with an imagination that could not be entertained by a computer game. She should not have been on the tracks, but her sense of adventure took her there and there was no way I was ever going to be able to keep her locked up.”
Some have criticised Julia again after her appearance on Insight because she has accepted the death of her child to the extent she has moved on. She said on TV that despite initial feelings of suicide and overwhelming pain, she knew Yasmina would not have wanted her to grieve. She also made the point that no one knows how long another’s life is supposed to last, and their time with us is a gift.
She told me: “Acceptance is something that I’ve learned from experience. Destiny too. Both have allowed me to find peace in what has happened and to know that Yasmina is safe and happy. Our backpacking trip to India to commemorate her 10th birthday helped a great deal on our spiritual journey. Yasmina’s energy was there and continues to return.
Far from deserving criticism Julia is an inspiration in her decisions. She’s now becoming a grief counsellor. Without knowing it she has already counselled me in how to deal with my own losses just by being so profound and spiritual in her attitude to life and death.
Hi Ruth, your brave story has its good and unconventional sides. You do always seem to unjugmentntal [ wrong spelling ha? ] But you have to be in your profession as you have such an influence . The poor woman should probably been a bit more careful, but no one wishes to be in her sad position. She is brave but will still always blame herself, as we mostly do, One cannot understand unless in that awful position, Good Work Ruth
I think Julia failed her daughter by not explaining the difference between living in a flat in Sydney with all the traffic and congestion and the isolated house in Wollongong.
There is a vast difference in living styles between Wollongong and Sydney and any sensible person would know this.
The mother should have also warned her daughter about the danger of trains and should never go near them.
Some parents are irresponsible in their outlook and training of children and live in the fairyland of Snow White.
Today’s world is very dangerous wherever you live, and all children should be well schooled in these events of every day living.
Anglo Saxons don’t appear to realise that far more people live in flats than in houses, and In Spain, Portugal, and France, the people prefer to live in flats. I do myself and love flat living as you meet more people.
House living can be a very lonely existence, especially today when everyone goes to work.
This is why so many older people inhabit the shopping centres every day, because nobody is home and are not available in house living life styles.
I was brought up in a smart big house in the UK and I hated it and longed to live in a flat, like the people did in France.
Guess, its all a matter of taste. However, its a changing world today and all over the world people are becoming more isolated every day.
When I was in Japan recently I went into supermarkets that had no workers. Shelves were stacked by robots and robots operated the check outs. Robots also drive the trains, no flag waving on platforms like backward Australian railways.
Yet, Japanese trains have no crashes, in contrast, human run trains in Australia are always crashing.
Quite frankly I think Julia is the wrong person to consult people grieving as her mind is bent the wrong way and lives in a fantasy world.
We are such a judgmental lot. I began to think “how could this happen” but when you read it, there isn’t a mother alive that can contain a child every waking minute. We’ve all had close shaves with some sort of disaster – this incident is brain numbing though. Julia’s life will now be about helping people to face the unmentionable – death and loss. Our society goes to such lengths to ignore, cover up and not deal with these issues we all simply have to face. I read a useful book “Staring at the Sun” overcoming the terror of death by Irvin D. Yalom. The more we think about it, the less frightening it all becomes. Great story Ruth – you constantly hit the proverbial nail on the head – so refreshing and much appreciated.
Thank you Ruth.
I also admire Julia’s courage for voicing her unconventional (in western culture at least) view of her personal tragedy.
I admire her higher level thinking, and hope to be more accepting of the natural order of things in my life too.
I was once told, in the context of a conversation about my grief over losing my father to cancer: “If you accept everything as it is, then what are you fighting against?”
Est quod est.