Turning the page on grief

Rachael Dumonic, pictured here with her debut book Do You Think It's a Good Idea?. Photo: Stewart Chambers 328842_04

By Eleanor Wilson

At the dawn of the Covid pandemic, Berwick mum Rachael Dumonic packed her bags and moved across the world to a tier two city in Northern China.

Unaware of a looming global pandemic, the plan was to stay for 12 months to teach English, something the floristry teacher had been wanting to do for years.

She didn’t speak any Chinese and spent the first five weeks of her stay living out of a small hotel room, boiling eggs in a kettle and slowly adjusting to the culture shock.

Despite the challenging circumstances, it was a step on from her reality five years earlier, when, grieving the loss of her 18 year-old son Callum, she said she had “no desire to wake each day”.

“I was so destroyed that I could not see beyond my grief and inconceivable loss, and all of what life was and what I knew was shattered,” she reflected.

It had been a long, hard road for the teenager and his family, who suffered a long battle with mental illness, depression and anxiety, passing away in 2015.

Part of the decision to move to China was a dream she was chasing, to reclaim her life after years of pain and anguish.

But, with Covid taking off across the globe, Rachael made the return to Australia five months after she had arrived, in the middle of 2020.

The stories she brought back with her, both etched in her memory and jotted into journals, were slowly transformed into a book – Do You Think It’s a Good Idea? – which was recently picked up by global publishing company Austin Macauley.

“Being a foreigner in an unfamiliar country really opened my eyes to the challenges immigrants face and just how difficult it is to adjust,” she said.

She hopes it can serve as a reminder for readers to “feel the fear and do it anyway”.

“My story is just one of many but I feel that it could be an inspiration to others to push outside the boundaries of grief and that there can be some small joys in life,” she said.

All proceeds from the book will go towards the SMUK Foundation – which Rachael established in 2017 in Callum’s honour.

“Callum led me to all my achievements, and I hope that he will be proud of all that I have established,” she reflected.

After his passing, Rachael found herself with about $5000 of Callum’s savings.

At the time, she said, she didn’t know what to do with the money.

“I sat on it for a bit and I thought I’m gonna start a foundation and see where we go with this, in memory of Callum,” she said.

In 2017 the SMUK Foundation, which stands for Supporting and Mentoring Unique Kids and also represents Callum’s tag name ‘SMUK’, was created.

The not-for-profit works with local projects and charity organisations to raise funds for youth facing homelessness and mental illness.

“I can’t save the world, but if we can help to save a few kids, and save a few families from going through what we have, then my job is done,” she said.

The official book launch for Do You Think It’s a Good Idea? will be held on 21 May this year, at LOLA St Kilda.

The proceeds are going to be donated to The James Marcon Foundation for mutual projects for youth to support mental health and wellbeing projects at Headspace/ Orygen.

To book a ticket to the event, head to bit.ly/40fu5Ok