Bunbury will host a State forum in August which will delve into an array of discussions surrounding caring, dying and grieving. It is the initiative of the South West Compassionate Communities Network and titled 'Let's Build a Compassionate and Connected WA'. The Mail will be running a series of stories on the topic in the lead up to the forum. The second in the series explores the importance of 'grief literacy' among children.
Australind mother Carla Jarvis loves it when someone speaks her son's name.
Her only son, Harley Jarvis, died on August 10, 2016 from a rare genetic condition which he was born with less than three years prior.
His death left a gaping hole that will never be filled for Carla, husband Aaron and their three daughters.
However, the family are courageously moving forward and taking every opportunity to honour the memory of their son.
Mrs Jarvis has welcomed an endeavour by the South West Compassionate Communities Network to ensure families like hers were better supported by the community during the process of caring, dying and grieving.
This is done through connecting trained volunteers with those who are dying and also by boosting death literacy in the community.
"We're lucky to live in a beautiful community but from my experience there are still many people out there who are very uncomfortable speaking about death," she said.
"While we've got a lot of great friends, there have been others who avoid us and, five years on, they still seem afraid to speak Harley's name.
"Sometimes I just want to remind people that speaking about Harley won't bring up painful memories but instead, it shows us that you care too.
"This is especially important for our girls to help them grieve in a healthy way. We want their teachers, our friends and their friends to be comfortable having conversations about Harley and keep his memory alive."
The Jarvis family attended a Lionheart Camp for Kids in 2018 where they met with other families experiencing the same need for support and understanding.
"It was clear from that experience that it's not healthy to try and shield children from grief - from the day Harley was diagnosed, we have always had a very open and honest policy with our girls and I feel that's helped them and us."
Among a vast array of topics at its forum, the South West Compassionate Communities Network will include information sessions on grief support programs in schools and grief literacy for children.
A pilot program overseen by the Network is currently implementing grief support programs into three local schools.
"At its core, grief literacy can start with children," South West Compassionate Communities Deputy Chair Leanne O'Shea said.
"By guiding and listening to the children, we start to connect the whole community.
"We all have a role to play to become a more connected and compassionate community."
William Barrett and Sons has also been hosting information sessions on speaking to children about death this year and developed a grief activity book for children.
This resource and others will also be available at the forum.
The forum will be held at the Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre on Saturday, August 7. Tickets are available through BREC or for more information visit www.comcomnetworksw.com.