Bereavement support service for parents and families holds parent evening in the city

A national organisation, set up by a Galway couple which provides free support services for bereaved parents and families, will hold its monthly parent evening in the city next week.

Anam Cara will hold the event on Wednesday April 6 from 7.30pm to 9pm at the Ballybane Enterprise Centre.

The organisation was co-founded in 2008 by Galway parents Sharon Vard who lived in Oughterard and attended the Mercy school in Newtownsmith, and her husband Aiden Murphy from Dangan.

They live in Dublin and set up the organisation - following the death of their daughter Rachel from an inoperable brain tumour in November 2004 - to address the lack of bereavement support services for families who have lost a child.

They believed the service was especially important for families whose son or daughter died suddenly outside a hospital or hospice system and who often find themselves “beyond the realms of any bereavement services, struggling to cope with the intense grief and huge loss in their lives”. That grief can last much longer than society realises.

Anam Cara bereavement support evenings are free and are open to all bereaved parents, regardless of the age of their child or the circumstances of their death. The evenings allow parents to speak about their journey through grief and cover the challenges grieving parents face when they have experienced the death of their son or daughter; highlighting what is normal in this process.

Clodagh Curley of the Anam Cara Parental and Sibling Bereavement Support service, says Anam Cara support groups are situated throughout Ireland and provide parents with a safe, comfortable environment where they have the opportunity to connect with other bereaved parents.

“Anam Cara is an inclusive organisation where parents do not identify themselves by their children’s age, how they died, or if their death was recent or many years ago. What Anam Cara provides is a safe place for bereaved parents to connect with others who understand the intensity of the grief and loss. Although Anam Cara does not offer counselling, each group has a lending library and information on the other services available to parents and families in the local community.

Nearly two thirds of Irish people know someone whose child has died. It is estimated that last year 2,100 families suffered the loss of a son or daughter.

Sharon Vard, who now works as a trainer but previously worked in Katz boutique and Celtic International in Galway, says it is important to ensure that any parent suffering the “terrible and unimaginable ordeal” of losing a child knows that Anam Cara is there to help. The charity supported more than 170 bereaved Galway parents last year.

“Newly bereaved parents and families need the support of those who have suffered a similar experience and learned to cope again, they need reassurance that there is light at the end of the tunnel, that they too will be able to emerge from the depths of despair and start living and enjoying life again.”

Anam Cara does not receive State funding. For further information on its services or to obtain a free Information Pack for Bereaved Parents log on to www.anamcara.ie or telephone (01 ) 4045378. Donations of €2 can be made by texting REMEMBER to 50300. For larger donations please visit http://anamcara.ie/donate/

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