This was originally published back in 2020.
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Perspective from Sal O’Regan, Primary (Year 3) School Teacher

Sal has been very open and generous, sharing her story of finding her new normal and helping us to understand grief, which affects us in times of change like this. We’re extremely grateful to her for sharing this story to help families in our SGS Community.

Sal O’Regan creates energy and positivity everywhere she goes. She is curious, dedicated and caring. A love of learning and hope provides inspiration and drives her creativity and daily motivation to be part of the everyday. Her perspective and sense of humour grounds her to deliver innovative learning to her fortunate students and to parent three teenage children.

Three and a half years ago, Sal lost her husband, Adam, in a car accident. She is an expert at ‘finding a new normal’. It may appear as though she takes it in her stride, but she works extremely hard at it. It is a constant work in progress that ebbs and flows at times, but she never doubts how lucky she is.

A true believer in Positive Education, she already had a good understanding of character strengths and many tools. Grasping grief and accepting the change and its permanency was monumental, but understanding that it was ‘a punctuation not a full stop’ helped her and their family of three children begin a journey of acceptance. A new normal that, although very, very different is still vibrant, rich and enabling, their NEW life without Adam.

Bravery is something Sal has in spades. She’s had no choice, but she has been able to choose how she approaches it proactively and how she wants to connect with others. Her true sense of hope has also modelled to others how she wants her family to be treated. They want us to sense their feelings of love and good fortune. Their loss of Adam is very sad, and they miss him terribly everyday, but they still feel lucky and his legacy is his family’s energy to keep living well.

Sal explains grief for us. ‘Grief is the pain of loss. It is overwhelming and does not go away, rather becomes a new layer of your skin. It is not just an emotional reaction you experience but also a physical.

When Adam was killed my heart physically hurt. I never knew this was possible, but sometimes I found it hard to breathe. I have since learnt that this is all normal. It is the loss of the love finding its new home. And it takes some time to re-anchor. As corny as this sounds it made sense.

The greatest tool I was given to help me understand grief was the power of ‘leaning in’. This means that as you experience the many colours of emotion throughout each day when experiencing loss, just roll. Allow yourself to have those feelings, allow those around you to, as well. By leaning in, you acknowledge the feeling and then you allow it to pass.

The other tool that was very powerful and which I still use every day is ‘siloing’. This skill and use of language are very relevant to what we are experiencing at the moment and during this time of change. Modelling is really important, especially if you are parenting whilst experiencing grief. If I cry because I am missing Adam or overwhelmed (this happens) I always explain to our children that I am just feeling sad Adam is not here to support and be with us. This is a separate silo to whether our kids will play sport, be allowed to use the ipad, celebrate their birthday, get help with homework, go on holidays. It sounds obvious but making the commitment to this in your language over tough times that you have never experienced before is actually really, really hard and requires perseverance and endless energy. However, the rewards are monumental. Our children now subconsciously ‘silo’ their own thoughts especially if they are going through a challenging time or just missing dad. They lean into the feeling knowing it is OK and they silo it from other parts of their dailiness.