14 September, 2020

Ross was happily living out his retirement with his wife in western Sydney, but in the space of a week his life was turned upside down.

“My wife passed away very suddenly,” Ross says. “She was only 47. I was quite shocked and heartbroken and I wasn’t in a good place. And then on top of that, I was told by housing I wasn’t allowed to stay in the house anymore as I didn’t co-sign the lease with her.”

Ross began the painful process of selling his beloved pets and cleaning his house in preparation to move out. With nowhere to go and no support, his grief threatened to take over.

 “I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown,” says Ross. “I was miserable…things weren’t looking very good at all.”

Ross was at his breaking point when someone suggested he visit the ADRA Community Centre in Macquarie Fields. There, Ross began working with one of the counsellors, who helped him face the trauma of losing his wife. He also accessed subsidised food hampers and, with the help of the ADRA staff and volunteers at the Centre, was able to secure his housing tenancy—which was a huge relief.

“I now am considered a tenant and I’m allowed to stay in the same place. I don’t have to move, which has added considerably to my stability,” Ross says.

With regular counselling and visits to the Centre to pick up his food hampers, Ross’s spirits began to lift. He was learning to process his grief, he had food security, and he began to feel a sense of community through the friendships he formed with the ADRA volunteers at the Centre.

The friendships Ross has made at the Centre have been transformative

“It’s just a friendly conversation,” says Ross. “It makes you feel wanted and in good spirits because the people here are always happy.”

The ADRA Centre was also there for Ross during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing him with connections and support while he self-isolated due to being high risk.

“During the COVID virus, they’ve been good,” Ross says. “It was exactly the same as coming here. The only thing was of course food was delivered and I had phone counselling.”

For Ross, coming to the ADRA Centre was the first step to getting his life back on track and processing the depression and hopelessness which threatened to take over his life. And now, thanks to the support he received, his creativity is starting to flourish.

“With the counselling I feel that I’m getting much better, and then the housing problem is gone,” says Ross. “Since I’ve been coming to ADRA I’ve acquired different things like I’m really interested in music now, so I’m learning to play guitar.”

Ross has discovered joy in learning to play guitar

Ross has been using songwriting as a way of processing his grief. And, the variety of food in his hampers has given him another channel to express his creativity.

“They put a lot of things in that I normally wouldn’t eat, which I find quite good,” Ross says. “And like I can cook, you know, I’ve actually worked as a cook at one stage and I can utilize all of that and make some quite good meals.”

Because Ross was allowed to stay in his current home, he was able to keep a constant companion, his bird.

Ross with his bird and constant companion, Bubby

“She’s a big part of my life. She’s a good part of my recovery. And I think all these things combined: the music, ADRA, you know the relief that I’m now getting, that I can stay in the house, it’s sort of overgrown any troubles that I’ve had.

“My head’s in a much, much better place now and life’s quite good.”

The ADRA Appeal is the main source of funding for community projects in Australia. To help people experiencing hardship hang on to hope – and survive this crisis – please donate at adra.org.au/hangon.