Lara Jane Coleman and her wife Elise had just welcomed their youngest daughter into the world when unimaginable heartbreak struck. Lara, widowed with two young children, reached out to First Light Widowed Foundation while trying to navigate her grief.
It was a life-changing moment for Lara, who seven years on, has not only received support from the organisation, but has also given back as she has become a passionate advocate and pillar of strength for other young widowed people.
Lara Jane Coleman met her wife Elise at a party in Sydney in 2005. Unbeknownst to Lara for several years, Elise had gone back to her friends and disclosed she’d just met the woman she was going to marry.
They would go on to share the next 15 years of their lives together, laughing and welcoming two children into the world. But Lara’s life took a heartbreaking turn in 2016 when Elise tragically died just three weeks after giving birth to their youngest daughter.
As well as trying to navigate her insurmountable grief, she had to deal with complex red tape that made everything that much harder.
“It was just a nightmare because we weren’t legally married,” she says.
Lara took to social media to share her frustration at the system, and the real-world reasons why same-sex couples needed the marriage act to be changed (something that would not occur for another 18 months). It was at that moment that her life was unwittingly thrust into the spotlight.
“My post had gone viral by the next morning and our story became the heart and soul of the same-sex marriage debate,” she says.
It took three years for Lara to sort through all of the admin associated with Elise’s death. It was during this time she reached out to First Light co-founder Rebecca Adams.
“Her late husband was the brothers of one of my friends from high school,” she says. “She was just really supportive, whereas other people my age were not losing spouses.”
Lara, a naturopath, attended the first Camp Widow in 2021 and bravely signed up to be a speaker, where she shared natural strategies for managing anxiety and stress and enjoying better health and more energy after experiencing trauma.
“I was about four years on by this point,” she says. “I was just getting myself together and I wanted to be able to give something back.”
Lara can’t speak highly enough about First Light.
“Being widowed is one of those things where if you haven’t been through it, you just don’t get it,” she says. “I’ve met some brilliant people through First Light, including another woman who was widowed with a newborn like me.
“Even now, seven years later, I can fly up and stay with her for nights and we just get each other.”
As for Camp Widow, Lara says it’s invaluable.
“It gives my loss a little sense of purpose. You’re still grieving, but by giving back through the event, it helps it feel like you haven’t gone through this hell for nothing.”
To join the First Light community, you can become a free Community Member and be kept up-to-date with our news and events. You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our widowed community for understanding, validation, comfort and connection.
We also have Gold Membership available, which allows you to play an active role in our community and help make a difference to the lives of widowed people. As well as voting at general meetings and holding committee positions, the $100 annual fee also helps us continue to provide the services and support that our community needs.