Aus Watt knows all too well how difficult it can be for a widowed man to get help.
The father-of-one was looking for support when he discovered First Light Widowed Association, but it was a transformative experience at his first Camp Widow® that showed him how important it was for men to come together to support one another in their grief.
Aus was in his early 40s and had a young daughter when his wife died.
“I literally didn’t know what to do. So I went online and that’s ultimately how I found out about First Light,” he says.
Aus read about Camp Widow and in 2022 he decided to attend. He was one of 11 men to attend the conference, and with approximately 200 widowed people in the same room, Aus could have easily felt out of his comfort zone. But instead, he leapt right in.
“Men grieve very differently to women. Women will cry and vent but as men, we’re not allowed to vent and be angry.”
Aus says Camp Widow created a space for men to come together and be heard and understood by each other.
“We were from all over Australia, but we all had the exact same experience.
“It’s not that your mates don’t want to be supportive, but if you break down and cry we are not trained to deal with that. So as a result our support network is a very, very small group of people that actually understand.”
Aus wants more widowed men to know not only about Camp Widow, but about First Light.
“The best thing you can do is meet people who are in the same position as you. You look at everyone who attends Camp Widow and there are hundreds of people and hundreds of stories.
“Everyone has a different story about what happened to them, and you realise that while what happened to you isn’t normal, you’re normal.”
He also encourages men to ask for help and talk to people about how they’re feeling.
“Just like the story about the light at the end of the tunnel, sometimes the light is real and sometimes it’s a train. It’s going to vary every day. In those first few years, you’ll get up out of bed, see the sunlight and boom, it’s a train. But you’ll get there in the end.”
Aus says while he still struggles with what happened, he has found a way through.
“My guilt about being the one who lived will never go away and I think about it constantly,” he says. But I’ve learned how to go forward and take it with me.
“It’s kind of like reading a book. If you haven’t read the previous chapter, you don’t understand the next one. So you have to understand and come to terms with what’s happened before you can open the next door.”
Aus’ final piece of advice is for the wider medical industry.
“Getting help as a man is difficult,” he says. “There just aren’t that many places that are equipped specifically to deal with men and their grief.”