Bereaved parents in Northern Ireland now have the help and support they need thanks to The Compassionate Friends who have established a group in the Mid-Ulster area.
Yvonne, the facilitator of the group lost her son in an accident in February 2007. She knows only too well the grief, isolation and shock that a parent can suffer following the often unexpected death of their child. Despite her own bereavement, Yvonne is dedicating time to supporting parents who may find themselves in a similar situation – with nowhere to turn and no one to talk to.
The Compassion Friends is a national charity which provides support and friendship to parents and families following the death of a son or daughter. No parent expects their child to die before they do, but often their lives are cut short by a terminal illness, suicide or a car accident.
Comfort, understanding and sympathy are needed following a death, but they are not always easy to come by. Often parents will feel neglected and confused and they may develop a fear of forgetting their child. However, now that The Compassionate Friends is establishing itself in the area, parents will be able to seek that much-needed support, friendship and listening ear they so desperately require.
Anita, co-ordinator of the Northern Ireland groups, is encouraging bereaved mums and dads to come along and take advantage of the support they are offering in the area. Already The Compassionate Friends groups are up and running in Lisburn, Enniskillen and Carrickfergus, helping hundreds of parents to find comfort following their child’s passing.
Anita told me that The Compassionate Friends was formed in 1969 in England and was introduced to Northern Ireland 25 years ago.
“We are keen to get groups going in areas where they are needed. And in the Mid-Ulster area we have identified a need for a group such as this. It doesn’t matter when the child died – It could have been two years ago, it could have been 20 years ago and it doesn’t matter what age or what denomination – we are there for all parents,” she said.
Yvonne recalled that when she heard the news that her son William had been involved in an accident, she was in a state of shock. Tragically, the 22-year-old was on his way to college where he was studying catering with a fellow student when the car in which they were travelling collided with a lorry.
The bereaved mum said she found immense comfort through The Compassionate Friends.
”People can only surmise how you feel. When you need to talk about it, you want to be able to talk to someone who has been through it. I phoned The Compassionate Friends and I got a lot of comfort from it. I made a lot of friends and I realised that there is help out there,” she told me.
Anita added: “Friends and relatives can empathize with you, but other bereaved parents are the ones who know the pain. If people don’t want to come along to the group, perhaps they may feel daunted, they can ring the helpline and we can do a one to one visit or we can send out leaflets.”
The Compassionate Friends also has a helpline number manned fully by bereaved parents 365 days a year. There are a range of support services offered by The Compassionate Friends, including a telephone helpline, a website with a forum, one to one support, e-mail support, leaflets, a library service and meetings.