SPEAKER SERIES 2018

By: Anna Leask

Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

anna.leask@nzherald.co.nz

@AnnaLeask


Overcoming tragedy: Jane Weekes to help other families after death of triplets

The mother of Kiwi triplets killed in a mall fire in Qatar is set to share her story at a series of workshops across the country in a bid to help other families navigate the tragic deaths of their young ones.

The mother of Kiwi triplets killed in a mall fire in Qatar is set to share her story at a series of workshops across the country in a bid to help other families navigate the tragic deaths of their young ones.

In May 2012 triplets Lillie, Willsher and Jackson died when a fire broke out at the Villaggio shopping mall in Doha.

Their parents Jane and Martin have battled for answers – and justice – ever since.

Jane is now going to share her experience, including some of the darkest moments that she rarely speaks about or lets herself think about, in the hope it will prevent other parents going through the same level of devastation.

She has teamed up with Vicki Culling, who runs a business offering training for health and care professionals around perinatal and infant loss, for a series of workshops called Tragedy, trauma and grief: how can I help?

“It’s a hard thing helping people go through something tough,” Weekes said.

“If there’s anything that I can do to make a difference, that’s really important to me.”

Six years on from the triplets’ death Weekes still struggles with the loss.

But she has learned to cope.

The birth of her twins Poppy and Parker in 2013 and baby Gunner in late 2017 has helped to ease her pain.

While Weekes has her hands full with the trio, she’s determined to use her experience and education to enable other families to navigate loss.

“I think there will be parts of it which I haven’t talked about a lot which will be difficult to share and I’m really mindful of not retraumatising myself,” she said.

“I’ll be going through talking about waiting to find out news, having to tell people what happened, being at the hospital, being at the mortuary – they tend to be the things I don’t, even in six years, spend a lot of time thinking about because it’s awful.

“But people need to know – and people who come into contact with grieving parents are so important. They’ve got one chance to get it right.

“Some things done for us were incredibly helpful but other things were incredibly unhelpful.”

Culling’s first daughter was stillborn in 1998 and since then she has worked to specialise in supporting bereaved families and caregivers dealing with similar losses.

She has been heavily involved with Sands – a voluntary, parent-run, non-profit organisation set up to support parents and families who have experienced the death of a baby – and met Weekes at the 2015 national conference.

“I had thought I would like to do some work with her and she was thinking the same thing,” Culling explained.

“Jane’s experience of tragedy, trauma and grief is multi-layered – multiple loss, dealing with loss in a foreign environment, grieving under the spotlight of international and national media, dealing with social media, experiencing the deaths of all of her children in one incident, as well as grief, the universal response to the loss of those whom we love.

“I knew Jane had gone on to graduate with her counselling degree and was working with families, so it felt like a natural fit to work together on how we might share the knowledge we have in this area.”

Culling said her speaker series – an annual line up of workshops – was about sharing knowledge on grief and loss, providing the opportunity to talk about trauma and grief, looking at how best to provide support, and ultimately making a difference to the experience of bereaved parents and families in our community.

“I think Jane’s experience, her subsequent studies and her willingness to share her knowledge will be helpful to those front line workers and as a result, to those who are grieving,” she said.

“In this workshop we’ll be talking about offering hope to families for whom life feels very hopeless, and navigating life with the ‘new normal’ that our tragedy has presented us.

“Jane can talk about this both from a personal perspective and a theoretical one; this is a unique position and one that I think professionals will find valuable and inspiring.”

JaneWeekes Photo by Doug Sherring Vicki Culling Speaker Series 2018

Jane Weekes is hosting workshops drawing from her experience with grief after losing her triplets in a fire in Doha. Photo / Doug Sherring

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