"I’m stronger now, I can speak to my community. There’s always a way through."
Through art, singing, and her church, Fia was able to share the overwhelming sense of loneliness she experienced after losing her grandfather when she was just 11 years old. Reaching out to others helped Fia get back on the path to wellness.
For me, it’s about not bottling it up. Not sweeping it under the rug. Depression knows no boundaries, no religion, gender, age. It can affect you when you’re a child, like how I was 11. I grew up in Porirua with my grandparents, and I lost my grandfather. Just losing him made me feel so alone, and I had no one to talk to. And being so young, I didn’t know how to cope with that. No one spoke to me. I think I was caught up in the whirlwind of Fa`a Samoa, not understanding what was going on.
When everything died down, I felt this emptiness, and I couldn’t explain it. I didn’t know what it was. I woke up and I was in hospital; everything was black. I was eleven. I didn’t want to be here anymore because I felt that he was the only one that truly loved me and looked after me. The way through it for me was art, singing.
My church group, youth groups; that’s what brought me through. That was my first brush with death in the family, you know, someone so significant to me, until recently, I lost my grandmother. After my grandmother passed away, I returned back to work and I still wasn’t… my boss could see, mmm, that spark’s not there. That sparkle. And so he suggested I get some counselling through work. I did a few sessions and it helped me through.
Things improved for me when I spoke about my experiences, because, you know, I've been able to share my story with the youth group. When you share your experience, you lighten the load and that’s something that I don’t have to carry anymore.
Within the Pacific Island community, there’s a lot of shame around this topic. Sorrow and grief - it’s so different for everyone, you know, but you have to talk to someone, especially if you can’t cope, like myself and going to that extreme. The reason why, I believe, we’re not speaking about it is because the Pacific Island community are so close knit. You want to utilise someone in your community but you’re afraid to speak to them because they will know your Uncle, your Aunty. Maybe it’s going to get out. You’re scared, but talking to someone, you know, someone you trust. There’s someone out there for everyone.
It’s about, just knowing there’s brighter options out there. And just being more supportive and understanding and talk to our kids. My story might reach that one person that’s out there, that’s going through this right now, that can’t talk to someone and we need to talk about it. I’m stronger now, I can speak to my community. There’s always a way through.