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Daughter of murdered Jason Corbett wants schools to teach kids how to deal with grief

The young Limerick author wrote Noodle Loses Dad as a way to help children deal with grief or loss either through death or separation.
Jason Corbett

Jason Corbett

Sarah Slater

The teenage daughter of murdered Limerick man Jason Corbett, wants schools to teach children how to cope with grief.

Sarah Corbett Lynch’s 39-year-old father was killed in his US home in Walburg, North Carolina, on August 2, 2015 while he slept.

Mr Corbett, was killed with an aluminium baseball bat and paving stone. His children Sarah and Jack were in the house at the time of their father’s death.

Mr Corbett’s second wife Molly, 37, and her father Tom Martens, 71, were found guilty of his murder by a court in 2017 but walked free from a US jail in March, with a retrial pending next year over their murder convictions over the Limerick man’s killing almost six years ago.

Sarah, 14, and her brother Jack, 16, now live in Limerick with Jason’s sister Tracey Lynch and her husband David who are their legal guardians.

Tracey Lynch, sister of Jason Corbett, who was murdered by Tom and Molly Martens in North Carolina. Photo: Mark Condren

Tracey Lynch, sister of Jason Corbett, who was murdered by Tom and Molly Martens in North Carolina. Photo: Mark Condren

The young Limerick author wrote Noodle Loses Dad as a way to help children deal with grief or loss either through death or separation. The Boogawooga series is aimed at children aged between three years and 12 and is inspired by a funny mimic her late father would perform for her and Jack.

The teenager was 12-weeks-old when her mother, Mags Fitzpatrick died after she suffered a cardiac arrest brought on by an asthma attack and was aged just eight when her father died.

Speaking on South East Radio’s, The Selfie Show titled Empowerment the teenager said she thinks the conversation around grief in the classroom is “very important,” as if “grief builds up inside of you and it gets worse.”

Miss Corbett Lynch said: “I think with grief that a lot of things are happening, it’s not that you don’t understand it, it’s just that you don’t know how to express how you feel. That’s why it’s so important for me that my books that the Government give them to children.

"It’s not in the (school) curriculum about grief and it’s really important that it should be because there’s no framework to learn about it in school so you really don’t get to understand it.

“It’s really important for kids. It starts the conversation and they are able to talk about it because some in primary school don’t know what the word grief means. But for me in my own experience I did know what was going on (loss of her parents) and I did feel it but I just didn’t know how to say I was feeling it (grief).”

The Limerick secondary school student said that her aunt Tracy, gave her a word every day, so she would be able to express herself because her understanding of grief would build through various aspects of life.

“We like to call it our tool shed to help me express myself. So there’s equine therapy, counselling, singing, acting and writing. All of those helped me with my grief and find myself as a person and about what I want to do when I’m older.

“I know that going through grief is really hard and a lot of people in Ireland have lost others this year (due to the pandemic). People just need to be there for each other,” the young writer explained.

The Limerick girl said that stigma still exists around counselling. “We have a cry and then go off and find something to do that’s fun. Counselling has been amazing for me and I still go.

“There’s a big stigma around counselling and it’s not something you talk about but I’ve no problem saying I go because there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s for your mental health. There’s nothing to feel weird about (talking about counselling). I found a lot of different things to help me,” she added.

“Empowerment (is important). It is about showing people you are strong enough to be yourself and comfortable in your own shoes. Empowerment is mostly about being yourself and not worrying about what others think about you. That’s the reason I want the books so that everybody can learn about bereavement, grief and hope - to help people understand”.

Also speaking on the programme was musician and mental health advocate Bressie who said: “I can’t even relate to what she (Sarah) is going through especially at such a formative time in her life. I can’t even begin to relate to it.

"It’s a trauma that will have to be dealt with in some way. People who have gone through something like that need to be allowed to express themselves.”

The Martens father and daughter pleaded not guilty to the charges and claimed self-defence was the reason behind their actions which resulted in the death of the father-of-two. Both were serving 20 to 25 jail terms in high security prisons in the US.

The daughter and father — who never denied killing Jason but claimed they acted in self-defence — were freed after being granted bail on a bond set at $200,000 or €170,000 last month. They are now living back in their family home in Knoxville, Tennessee.

A retrial is not expected to be held until late 2022 at the earliest and the District Attorney Garry Frank said there is a “strong possibility” that Jason’s children will be called as witnesses after they recanted statements made to authorities in the immediate aftermath of the father’s death.

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