Grief and Creativity following Suicide Bereavement

Above: Cumulus clouds across Tasman Bay [photo by Kerry Sunderland]

AUGUST 12, 2023
Grief and Creativity following Suicide Bereavement
Meet: Author and publisher Iona Winter, Death in Print: Loss Adjustment by Linda Collins, Death on Screen: On the Couch With My Depression by Paula Harris
Listen to Episode 5 on the following podcast platforms
Or, if you've already listened to the show, scroll down for more info and links . . .
Meet Iona Winter

Above: Iona Winter

In episode 5 of Deathwalker's Guide to Life Season 3, I speak with author Iona Winter (Waitaha) about the role of grief and creativity in suicide bereavement.

Iona Winter is the author of three published collections of poetry: Gaps in the Light (2021), Te Hau Kāika (2019) and then the wind came (2018). She has recently completed her fourth.

First and foremost, though, Iona is a mother who knows grief. Her tama (son) Reuben took his own life in 2020 during the pandemic.

In 2022, Iona received the CLNZ / NZSA Writers’ Award to write a non-fiction book on being suicide bereaved. While researching grief in all its complexities, she says it became apparent that New Zealand lacks non-academic and personalised resources for grief; unlike most other countries.

In January 2023, Iona launched her side project Elixir & Star Press (ESP*), as a dedicated space for the expression of grief in Aotearoa.

ESP* opened for multidisciplinary submissions to a new 'Grief Almanac' from New Zealand based creatives earlier this year, and Iona received well over 200 submissions.

'All expressions were welcomed, since grief by its very essence is a universal experience,' she says.

Iona selected mahi (work) from 103 artists: poets, photographers, musicians, storytellers, and visual artists, who come from diverse backgrounds, ages, creative ability and expression.

The new anthology, which is titled a liminal gathering, celebrates the destigmatisation of grief, by making it relatable through multiple creative lenses, and to normalise the various ways grief can be expressed. The almanac seeks to provide comfort, and act as a taonga to be shared between loving hands, during difficult times.

Iona is hoping to raise $14,000 via the Boosted campaign and publish the anthology in November 2023.

Iona recently moved to the Tasman region, from Ōtepoti Dunedin, and joined me in Fresh FM’s Motueka studio to discuss her experience of suicide bereavement and the inspiration for the anthology.

Please support the Boosted campaign for a liminal gathering if you can, and invite your family and friends to join you.

Above: Reuben and Iona Winter


Find out more about Iona Winter.
Support the Boosted campaign.
'The value in creating an outlet for grieving people – both contributors and readers – cannot be overstated. With this in mind, I believe it’s vital to see the rise of Elixir & Star not simply as a mental health resource. The publication is designed as an example of artistic expression, and with Iona’s leadership, will be dynamic in how they approach grief and grief-adjacent experiences.'
- Dudley Benson
Loss Adjustment by Linda Collins
Photo by Jacob,_(1961_%E2%80%93_2006).jpg#/media/File:Richard_Carlson,_(1961_–_2006).jpg
In Loss Adjustment, author Linda Collins writes about every parent’s worst nightmare.

Linda was living in Singapore when her daughter Victoria McLeod took her own life in 2014. In Loss Adjustment, Linda writes with startling candour about what happened in the lead up to her daughter's death: the secrets they discovered she had been keeping, the revelations in the personal journals she left behind, and the struggle Linda and Victoria’s father, Malcolm McLeod, faced to find answers in the midst of their enormous grief.

How, they ask themselves, could they have missed the signs? What did the counsellors at Victoria’s school know about her state of mind? Did her school friends have any idea how desperate she was? And above all, why would a beautiful, talented, much loved young woman take her own life?

Holly Walker, in a review of Loss Adjustment published on Stuff, describes it as clear-eyed memoir of navigating, and somehow accommodating, this loss.

Linda examines the tragedy of teenage suicide from her profoundly personal viewpoint, while Victoria’s journals, uncovered after her death, give an incredibly valuable insight into the unseen stresses and anxieties suffered by many teenagers.

As well as being a memoirist, poet, fiction writer, journalist, and editor, Linda is also a mental-health care advocate, and co-founder of the PleaseStay.movement for youth suicide prevention in Singapore.
'There is no grief like the grief that does not speak.'
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
On the Couch With My Depression
On the Couch With My Depression is a poetic short film by Angharad Gladding based on a poem by acclaimed New Zealand poet - and self-described 'accidental essayist' Paula Harris. It is one of four poetic short films inspired by her words.

In 2017, Paula won the Lilian Ida Smith Award and, in the following year, she won the 2018 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize. That same year she, like me, wrote a personal essay for the anthology, Headlands: New Stories of Anxiety, which was edited by Naomi Arnold and published by Victoria University Press (now Te Herenga Waka University Press).

Paula's writing was also published in various journals, including Hobart, Berfrois, New Ohio Review, SWWIM, Diode, Poetry NZ Yearbook, The Spinoff and Aotearotica. Her essays have also been published in The Sun, Passages North and The Spinoff.

Paula was reported as missing on 26 June 2023 and was found dead on 13 July. In the days and and weeks that followed, her friends and colleagues around Aotearoa paid tribute to her in person and online.

As The Big Idea pointed out, Paula wanted people to know about mental illness, to acknowledge it, to see it, and to talk about it. You will find a link to the article, and can watch the film, below.

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact:

Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email or online chat
Samaritans – 0800 726 666
Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Visit the Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust | Te Whare Oranga Ngākau at
On the Couch With My Depression
Watch the short film
Catch up on previous episodes
Deathwalker's Guide to Life kicked off in 2021. Catch up by browsing past episodes, which you can listen to on all the major podcast platforms.