Michael felt his future was all planned and mapped out for him, until every parent’s worst nightmare happened, and from that moment his life took a drastic unforeseen detour in a very unexpected and different direction.
“I joined early on after my bereavement experience; Josh’s murder was in April and I signed up in June. I was still very much in shock following his murder and struggling with the new reality I found myself in. Dealing with Josh’s funeral, coroner’s, an investigation and looking at a trial process. My head was all over the place and everything was a struggle. I started having panic attacks for the first time in my life and felt isolated and very alone and bewildered. The trauma of the murder felt overwhelming and living in a small rural town certainly didn’t help. As a family we were kept in the dark before the trial to safeguard information, I completely understood this, but this was very hard to deal with. As a family we wanted answers, and I had two main ones that plagued me. Was Josh in pain and had he felt scared. I wanted to scream and shout and remember feeling very angry”
The situation Michael was in impacted relationships with those around him, everyone was going through their own loss, and this had a ripple effect. "I could see an empty space next to our youngest son and watching him struggle was really hard, I felt for him and how this would impact as he grows older”.
“The isolation that I felt started creeping in, the night times were particularly hard, and I often found myself in my own head. I just couldn’t stop my brain from going over and over things”.
A member of Michael’s family had heard an interview on the radio with Efrem, one of StrongMen’s founders and felt that the services offered would be a great fit for him. Although it was Michael’s sister that initially took the first steps on his behalf, Michael was open to it as he recognised, he was in a difficult situation with no rule book and knew he needed some help.
“My mind set was that I would try anything, if it doesn’t work then fine but if it does, I would grasp the opportunity with both hands”. Michael has always been an outdoor person, being away from everything has always been sacred to him and outdoors is where he feels that he can really connect with nature and forget normal problems about work, mortgages, or day to day worries.
As soon as that first connection with the charity was made Michael felt he started to fit within a community, initially this was found through friendships that started from men reaching out to him in the closed Facebook group. “This felt like a safe space, and I met some friends that talked from their own experiences, there was a sense of not being alone and I could pick up the phone and know that I would be met with real understanding. The Weekender gave a massive dose of that. Meeting a wider group and putting some names to faces reinforced the community that had already been established for me”.
“Although I am still in such early stages of bereavement I am talking and making friendships that I know I can rely on and reaching out to people is really helping me, we help each other. One of the things as a parent I have felt is complete loss of control, not able to keep my son safe really changed my identity. Being able to be in an environment where men help each other really helped give back a part of that identity. At the start I felt like I had failed as a father because I couldn’t be there in that moment when Josh really needed me. I was so shaken by that, having access to others that have shared the same experiences and feelings gave me a sense moving forward that I really can be useful again”.