Australian War Widows (Queensland)

A younger widow tells her story

Dr Kim Morgan-Short lost her husband, an RAAF pilot, in 1999.

She joined AWWQ in 2002.

My children were 3, 5 and 9 when their father died in an F-111 jet crash in 1999. Our world was instantly turned upside down when that late night knock on the door came with the news of the crash. The next few weeks were a blur and I kept going, simply because there was no option.

A few months before the accident, my husband felt that I should accept a job as a civilian medical officer on the RAAF base that I had long coveted. It would help us spend more time together, as we had spent much time apart juggling his career as a pilot, three small children and my jobs as a local doctor and a RAAF Reservist. We had a short time of enjoying the occasional lunch together and sharing the drive to and from work.

My job at RAAF Amberley was fantastic and I enjoyed being able to work in uniform in my capacity as a Reservist when necessary. It gave me the flexibility of being employed primarily as a civilian, which helped me balance the demands of school timetables, sports fixtures, kindy and after school care pick-ups and so on, as my husband was often away on Squadron detachments.

The realisation that suddenly my life was going to be so different and that I would have to raise the children on my own hit me very hard and I felt no one else could understand what I was going through. However, a woman I had never met came to the funeral and several weeks later, she came to my house in the company of a friend, to talk to me. This woman was a RAAF widow whose husband died 8 years before in another crash. Her name was Kay Ellis and she became one of my greatest mentors and also a dear friend over the next 12 years.

Her input made me realise that the support of other widows who had gone through the experience of losing their spouse in sudden tragic circumstances whilst serving their country, was invaluable for my recovery and emotional survival.

I joined the AWWQ early in the piece but I never had much to do with the organisation in the first few years. Somehow, I felt that the relevance to me as a "young" widow with kids was limited. "Legacy" seemed to supply the support that the children needed but I was looking for something that supported me and that could help me with what I was going through.

My friend Kay was busy doing research into how the military could better treat the families after the death of a member in service. She even wrote a manual for tri-service commanders to refer to, should they ever be involved. Kay and I talked for hours about what was the best way to prevent the alienation of widows from the organisation that their spouses worked for and that the whole family sacrificed for.

I decided that as the years wore on, the best way to help was to use the wisdom of those that have been there first and to take advantage of the organisations that were set up for the support of women just like Kay and I.

I felt that after surviving the early years of child rearing without my children's father and also working in the health industry as a doctor, counselling and supporting patients who had to deal with all manner of grief, I should make an effort to try and get involved in the organisation that originally was set up for war widows to draw strength from each other. My desire is to absorb the fountain of knowledge the AWWQ has within its members. I would also like to help the executives work with that knowledge to try and make the organisation supportive of the new generation of young widows with children.

As I have sat on the Council for the last year, I know that the AWWQ supports the older widows very well. The focus naturally has evolved over the years since the Vietnam War, to be on the ageing group which has needs quite removed from those of the young women with young children.

Sadly, the "new" breed of widows are, once again, young and often with children. The AWWQ needs to embrace these new members and reach out with the hand of experience to revitalise the whole organisation or risk having such an enigmatic group gradually lose it's long held and well justified power and influence as time takes it's toll.

I remarried a British RAF Tornado pilot, Stewart, who had been posted into my late husband's Squadron several years after his death. Many times, I have reflected on how fortunate I have been to have had such a gem step in to help raise my children with me and to have a man who has no fear of the "ghost" in our family. My late husband's photos and belongings remain in the house where they belong and I feel grateful that Stew has accompanied our family to all manner of memorials and services. He has embraced my 1st mother-in-law as his second "mum" and he has become a real "father" without asking my kids to relinquish the status of their Dad who died. It is not an easy role that he took on.

I currently spend a significant amount of time with Stew in Saudi Arabia where he works training the Tornado pilots in the Royal Saudi Air Force. This is an amazing cultural experience and I am discovering the difficulties (and pleasures) of living in a society so very different from ours.

Not everyone chooses my path after the loss of their spouse (although sometimes I truly feel there was no choice but a spiritual hand helping me over the mountain of grief). However, now that my children have grown and I have time to reflect on the years since the loss of my husband, I feel determined to help others who end up part of this "bereavement" club that no one would ever wish to join. Hopefully I can learn from those that are running the AWWQ now and be waiting respectfully in the wings to be in the driver's seat when the future calls.

My oldest boy, Ben, has just graduated from RAAF Officer's Training School and has started Pilot's course at Tamworth. So I remain very involved with all types of military life.

A RAAF wife, a RAAF widow, an RAF Wife and now a RAAF mother !!!!

And life is GOOD!!!!!

Dr Kim Morgan-Short MB.BS, Grad. Cert. Law, Post-Grad. Diploma Applied Law (Medical Law and Ethics)