Devastating story behind mum's Christmas light display

Nadine Carroll

When the Carter family suffered an unimaginable tragedy they decided to channel their grief into creating a magical Christmas display that could help others survive what they almost didn’t.

Bonnie and Steve Carter, of Canberra, have lost two daughters, Grace in 2016 and Matilda in 2017 - both babies were stillborn.

“We were completely broken,” she wrote in a piece for local publication Her Canberra.

The tragic experience had the couple asking how others survived such heartbreak.

“I could not fathom how those mothers and fathers survived such earth-shattering moments,” Mrs Carter said.

Bonnie and Steve Carter with thier first child, stilborn Grace.
Bonnie holding her first daughter, Grace (left) and with her husband, Steve (right). Source: Bonnie Carter

The couple have dived head first into giving back, participating in raising awareness and funds for causes they feel passionate about, they admit it also helps them grieve their loss.

“Since 2016, we have done everything in our power to honour our daughters Grace and Matilda, all the while doing proactive things in the community to help us survive our own grief,” Mrs Carter said.

The couple have created care packages for other couples experiencing child loss, raised funds for Canberra Hospital’s Fetal Medicine Unit and spoken at Parliament House before the Senate Inquiry into Stillbirth Research and Education.

This year, the couple decided to go all out for the festive season and they have lit up the hearts of their neighbours and put smiles on the faces of everyone who visits their home.

“Our very special Christmas Lights display is in memory of our precious daughters Grace and Matilda,” Mrs Carter wrote on a local Facebook page, along with a video of the colourful display they have created in the front yard of their Canberra home.

The Carter family home lit up with Christmas decorations in Canberra
The Christmas Lights display is in memory of Grace and Matilda, and helping to raise money for Lifeline. Source: Bonnie Carter

The couple invited locals to come and visit the colourful display and donate generously to Lifeline Canberra.

“We have our Lifeline Canberra Donation Station ready to go, so pop by Wearing Street in Higgins this weekend and donate to our wonderful local charity! We look forward to meeting you,” Mrs Carter wrote.

“That’s beautiful,” one person commented.

“I will definitely bring my kids to visit and make donation. Thank you for all you are doing to make Christmas special,” another person said.

A google maps image of the Carter family home in Wearing Street in Higgins, Canberra
The Carter family welcomed everyone to visit their Christmas display in Wearing Street in Higgins, Canberra and donate to Lifeline Source: Bonnie Carter

The Carter family have faced further challenges, including two miscarriages but will continue to work through their grief by giving back.

Although the pain they have felt is still “very real”, the Carter family hope that by sharing their story, they can inspire others to keep moving forward after heartbreak.

Donations to Lifeline Canberra can be made online here.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

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