Loss of Mitch hit like a 'physical force'
EVERY year Karen Eveleigh remembers her son Mitch by placing a bunch of silk flowers on his grave, which sits side by side with the three other boys in the Goonellabah cemetery.
After a tragedy that affects a whole community, different people embody different roles.
Mrs Eveleigh became "the rock” to support others, even as she was learning to deal with her own grief.
"At first my whole life fell apart, even getting out of bed was difficult for awhile,” she said.
She learned through counselling to put her grief into a little box, not ignored, but put to one side and opened from time to time.
It was a way of continue on dealing with life's responsibilities, which included supporting her surviving children Logan and Rachel, now 30 and 24.
Mitch was a top student and an accomplished guitarist, who would often love to hang around the family pool with his friends on a Saturday over a barbecue.
Neither Mitch nor the other boys had earned a "risk taker” tag; nor were they ever in trouble at school, either.
The early morning hours after the accident were a "living hell” for the family who quickly heard about the crash but not the exact extent.
It was not until 5am that the police knocked on the Eveleigh's door.
She remembers when the officers told her Mitch didn't make it, the news hit her like a "physical force”.
The next few days were a mind-numbing experience as in shock and grief one day rolled into the next, as friends and extended family converged on the Eveleigh household, bringing themselves, food, flowers and anything to support the grieving process.
Mrs Eveleigh said she was still in awe of the community response after the accident.
She recalled kids gathering in the days and weeks afterwards at the gate outside Kadina High School where a makeshift memorial had been created with flowers and messages.
One of the touching things the family did was give away to his friends Mitch's many tee-shirts with the names of his favourite hard rock bands emblazoned on them.
Ten years on, "you never get over the grief of losing a child, you just get used to living with it,” Ms Eveleigh said.