IT IS impossible for most of us to imagine anything more painful than losing two children in their prime, but for one mother, reaching out to others has given her the strength to honour her sons and turn her grief into something positive.
For Monique Story, the experience of losing her beloved son Quinn in 2021 at 16, and then a couple of years later her older son Hunter at almost 23, was paralysing. But inspiringly, that pain became the Mornington mum’s motivation to make sure young people struggling to fit in, or struggling to navigate the world in general, were supported in their journey.
Story says the challenges of understanding who they are and where their future lies can be suffocating for young people, add to that the experience of COVID lockdowns, school stresses and mental health, and you have a crisis.
Her much-loved, vibrant and intelligent son Quinn drowned at The Pillars in Mount Martha in 2021. A Coroner’s report in mid-2023 confirmed his death as being accidental but left many unanswered questions.
Meanwhile, rather than letting herself be swept away with grief, Story focused on ways to help others.
She started Quinn’s Place, a “hang out” space for young people to meet friends. There are activities – X-box and computers, free entertainment, chess, and free food and refreshments from local businesses – but there is also no obligation, some young people just “chill”, play computer games or jam on donated musical instruments.
“I started this place because I know that young people often feel like they don’t fit in, like they have no place to go, and they become isolated, unsupported and anxious, but when they come here there are people to talk to, no judgements, and plenty of do,” Story said.
While still mourning her younger son, Story’s grief was compounded last year with the death of Quinn’s older brother, Hunter.
Hunter had been taking medication for bipolar disorder but, after deciding he didn’t need it anymore, his depression and erratic behaviour returned, and he lost the battle with his demons and the will to live.
Story is now more determined than ever that Quinn’s Place remains an inclusive, welcoming and supportive place for young people.
“We get young people who find it hard to talk to people, or just want some space from the world, and that’s fine, but I do find that after a while they often come out of their shell enough to make friends and feel comfortable,” she said.
“That’s what I love to see, I’ve seen kids blossom, and that’s what tells me that young people need support and when they get that support, they can shine.
“Sometimes it has taken a lot of courage for them to actually walk in the door, but because of the friendly, relaxed vibe, they usually come back.”
As another way of dealing with her grief and helping others, Story has published a book, The Quinn Story, a brave and honest account of Quinn’s battle with PTSD, peer pressure, the trials of being a teenager, and psychosis. It is available at Farrell’s bookstore in Main Street, Mornington, and Wickety Wax in Mornington.
Quinn’s Place has been closed for the summer break, but opens again on Friday 2 February, at 8 Drake Street, Mornington, from 6pm to 10pm.
Details: Quinn’s Place (facebook.com/groups/965575644159291/).