Robyn Hannam has written a trauma survival guide that she's looking to get published. She lost her son 20 years ago, and her husband two years ago. Photo Christopher Chan / The Observer
Robyn Hannam has written a trauma survival guide that she's looking to get published. She lost her son 20 years ago, and her husband two years ago. Photo Christopher Chan / The Observer Christopher Chan GLA230812ROBN

Life beyond the mourning

THE phone rang at the Hannams' Boyne Island home.

 

Barry answered. His 23-year-old son James was on the other end, calling from Rockhampton where he had a job as an auto electrician.

 

It was 7.25am on Friday, June 26, 1992.

 

James wanted his dad to ferry his CR500 trail bike up to Rocky. The keen rider planned to enter a race on Sunday.

 

Barry did as his son asked, setting off the next morning with his other boy, Chris.

 

The tank had a leak, so Barry patched it. He even organised to return on Tuesday to do some more repairs.

 

But two days later James was found dead under a friend's house.

 

James' mother Robyn relives the horror of hearing her son was gone.

 

"I just screamed, I fell to the ground...I fell apart."

 

The coroner ruled James' death a suicide. But Robyn never believed it.

 

She's spent two decades investigating the case, painstakingly keeping notes, and compiling evidence.

 

This is a woman who knows grief.

 

After her son died, it all became too hard and Robyn overdosed on antidepressants.

 

But just as she'd downed the last pill, Robyn saw her surviving son, Chris, playing.

 

An ambulance was called, and Robyn was taken to the hospital.

 

She survived. But it was tough.

 

The darkness nearly consumed Robyn and her family had to remind her that they too were mourning James' death.

 

"You're not the only one that's grieving," Robyn remembers her daughter Bronwyn saying.

 

Her children kept strong. "I don't think I saw either of them cry," Robyn said.

 

Barry cried quietly when he thought Robyn was asleep. "When James died I would hear the unfamiliar sound of my husband crying in bed next to me..."

 

Barry has since passed. He died two years ago after complications with his pacemaker.

 

That grief returned. "I would curl up and put my head under a pillow."

 

Now, Robyn is in a much better place. She's learned to manage her sadness.

 

Instead of wallowing, Robyn forces herself to get up and get on.

 

Not long ago she travelled down to Byron Bay for the writer's festival.

 

There's even talk of enrolling in a university course.

 

And she's developed what she calls a "real religious streak" to help her cope.

 

"I can pray and I can get answers - it's a very huge spiritual connection."

 

But simple rituals help, like indulging in a massage or lighting a scented candle, reading a great book, or listening to music that inspires.

 

Robyn treks out to Boynedale often to clear her head.

 

When asked what it is about the valley that has such a calming effect, Robyn produces photos of the gorgeous scenery: fiery sunsets and the like.

 

"Just this..." she says.

 

"There are ways of surviving."

 

THE GUIDE

ROBYN Hannam has lost a child. And a husband. And she's come out the other side.

Now, she wants to share what she's learned with others who've experienced trauma.

Over the years, Robyn has developed a survival guide.

The comprehensive manual includes practical tips to dealing with grief. It includes Robyn's own experiences and what simple rituals have worked for her like meditation, keeping a daily journal and exercise.

The goal is to get the guide published. Robyn just needs the funding to make it happen.

"My heart aches for anyone who has to go through what we've been through," she says.

A ROAD TO SURVIVAL

Some advice from Robyn:

Be a survivor not a victim

Walk until you're exhausted, then turn around and walk back, whistling or singing as you go

Positive affirmations work

 

 

 



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