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Kelly Merchant

Graduate Diploma in Counselling
To be the right support for other people during difficult times is such an honour, and one that motivates me in what many people see as a traumatic and sad field of work.

I’ve always had a desire to help others but my journey into bereavement counselling began after a traumatic experience of my own. In 2007, I welcomed my beautiful baby daughter into the world, and she was sadly stillborn after a perfectly normal pregnancy, labour and delivery. Of course, my whole world shifted.

A direct experience in what was and wasn’t available to me in terms of emotional and practical support, led to me vowing to help others journeying through what can feel like a raging storm.

It became clear in my mind what that help would look like and I set about finding ways to make it a reality. I already had an undergraduate degree in Health and Behavioural Science so I could have applied to do a Masters, but I could see the Grad Dip would get me to where I wanted to be faster.

By the time I’d finished the course I felt well set up to achieve my goals. Not only did I have the knowledge base, I also had plenty of practical experience and networks from placements and volunteering which prepared me to head straight in.

I firstly worked for SIDS and Kids NSW, taking calls from bereaved parents and supporting them to find services. Shortly after, I also opened up a private practice that I still run today. My main focus is helping people experiencing grief and loss, particularly parents, but I also see clients for anxiety, stress, life and career transitions.

My real passion though is my work with Bears of Hope. We’re a small charity that provides a range of supports to families after the loss of a baby. I do 20 hours of paid work a week, and another 20 volunteering. It sounds like a lot, and it is a lot, but I just love it. As well as individual counselling, we run support groups, weekends away, and importantly speak to health professionals and social workers about the needs of bereaved people at their rawest moments.

Like my personal journey, my career journey hasn’t always been plain sailing, but I just bring myself back to why I’m doing this. Because of my experiences, I’m in a strong position to help others using not only my mind, but also my heart. If I can offer a sense of comfort, or even a glimmer of stability, it makes all my hard work… just so worthwhile.

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