Imagine having two very small children and being told your partner has brain cancer. Well, unfortunately author/illustrator, teacher and mother Tracey Newnham didn’t have to. This Mount Eliza-bred girl’s partner Wes passed away from the disease at 37 when their children were two and three respectively. And the world spiralled. Tracey explains. “My partner Wes is our hero. In 2014 he fought a lengthy and courageous battle with brain cancer. The reality of his passing was incredibly confronting and I was left feeling overwhelmed by my own grief and the responsibility of now being a sole parent with grieving children. Our home was no longer complete.”
Gaps. Space where someone once was. How do you tell a child that their father isn’t coming home and guide them with what to do with that empty space in a way that best serves them? How do you process your own well of emotions, let alone navigate a path for your children to follow?
Tracey used art as therapy, by drawing rainbows with her children. She continues. “I introduced the activity of drawing rainbows with my elder son after his grandfather passed away. Drawing rainbows was a place that they would be able to feel the love and keep the connection alive. When Wes passed, I told the boys their Daddy’s memories could be found in the rainbow. I wanted to keep their connection with their father alive. From then on rainbows seemed to appear everywhere in the house.”
Then came the authentic picture and resource book written, illustrated and self-published by Tracey. “I recognised the need for a resource to assist families living through such an overwhelming time. In The Rainbow is an honest story encouraging adults and children to reach out while educating about the real emotions shared during illness, trauma, loss and grief.”
The book is filled with openness and empowers readers to communicate feelings and build effective resilience strategies. It has had great support from both the cancer and grief sectors. It is recommended in the Cancer Council’s Cancer in the School Community booklet and highly recommended by Magpies Magazine in 2017.
Four years on and now living in Torquay, Tracey sees her tight-knit family’s future moving forward. If you are living a similar story, you can go online at intherainbow.com.au to purchase a copy of this lovely soft-cover book that tells it like it is in a safe and gentle way. In the Rainbow makes annual donations to the RMH Neuroscience Foundation for brain cancer research (neuroscience.org.au) and the Wes Crooke Scholarship/Endowment Fund in conjunction with PANGEA Global Health Education, to support the training of medical professionals in Africa.