Finding strength in friendship after losing their husbands
A POLICEMAN'S wife is made of very resilient stuff.
That was certainly the message that came through at the quarterly NSW Police Legacy Legatee Local Area Lunch in Ballina when I sat down with five policemen's widows and had the honour of hearing their stories.
Each of the women around the table had suffered the loss of a husband and their children had gone along the rough road of dealing without their dad.
Whether it was through the long process of a cancer diagnosis, as Therese and Petria experienced, or the sudden shock of death on the job, which Toni had to deal with, or a medical condition that took their husbands quickly, as happened with Valerie and Nerida.
These women had come to find each other through the network and friendship of NSW Police Legacy, which was there to support them and their families in their darkest hour.
Having enjoyed a delicious lunch at The Wharf on the banks of the Richmond River, the women discussed what it meant to be a policeman's wife.
Many times their men would come home and need to unload, so their wives had listened.
Petria talked of how her husband Murray had watched three children die in a car accident, while Toni shared how her husband Greg was as white as a sheet after one horrific job.
Nerida told how her husband Len needed to talk to her after having to deal with the Hilton Hotel bombing.
After their husbands' deaths and while staying strong for their children, they had found similarities in experiences and depended on each other for support.
Police Legacy helped each of the bereaved families in different ways, including camps for their children, education grants for those in university, legacy lunches and even trips overseas.
Police Legacy was founded 30 years ago and Toni still remembers attending their very first lunch.
"My husband died in 1987 and then in 1988 they had their first lunch, which I attended in Sydney," she said. "Police Legacy make you feel like you have a back-up system."
Valerie's husband, who had retired from the force when he died, agreed that Police Legacy had helped people, who were going through the same problems, to stay in touch.
Therese agreed, saying getting together with other widows had been incredibly supportive.
"Your family can only do so much," she said.