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“When their innocent bodies were shot out of the sky, I stretched my arms as high as I could and screamed for them.”

This was the reaction of the inspiring Rin Norris on hearing of the death of her three children. She has some remarkable wisdom to share that we could all take into our lives.

Rin Norris and Anthony Maslins’ children were on board MH17 when it was shot down over the Ukraine on 17 July 2014, killing almost 300 people. The family from Scarborough in WA were featured on a recent episode of Australian Story on the ABC, coinciding with the handing down of the findings of the international tribunal investigating the incident.

There were so many remarkable reflections throughout the program; however, if there were any takeaway messages, these were they.

Rin and Anthony were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following the incident. They were advised to organise and manage their lives very carefully, which included their physical health: daily exercise, 8-hours sleep, eating well and moderate alcohol. Perhaps more poignantly, they were also schooled in how to manage their mental health:

    √    Stay vigilant to keeping your thought patterns positive.
    √    Set small goals throughout the day.

On bad days, the couple “go back to basics” where all they have to do is get through the day.

Rin notes that focusing on the moments when she can hear a bird sing and realising that “there is nothing wrong with the now” carried her a long way. Her advice for us: “focusing on the now helps us cope with grief and anxiety”.  I would go one step further and say that it supports us in every aspect of our lives, not just adversity.

Of course, this level of grief and loss is extraordinary, but adversity need not be the trigger to learning these important skills.

The advice given to Rin and Anthony is a sound rule for living:

    √    Look after your physical health.
    √    Stay mindful of your thoughts ensuring that they are positive.*
    √    Set small goals and celebrate where you have come from, not where you are going.

Mum, Rinn’s final words: “Why would you want to be surrounded by bitterness towards the people responsible? Why not put your energy into keeping (the children’s) spirt and happiness alive?”

Sounds like a great recipe for a happy existence.


* The family also talked about the reaction of others in the face of their grief and how people’s comments were often (unintentionally) hollow, ill-considered and thoughtless. When you’re next faced with someone who is having a hard time, think carefully about what you say – is it to help them or relieve your discomfort?

The words “help me to understand” are probably far more powerful and supportive than most of the phrases we have been socially programmed to say.