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Brave Joyce forced to overcome tragedy of losing two children in four years

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 18/04/2015

Joyce Craig at her home with her son Christophe
Joyce Craig at her home with her son Christophe

Joyce Craig has overcome tragedy in her life.

The mother-of-three has experienced the pain of losing two children in the last four years. Her daughter Nicola was severely disabled and she nursed her round the clock for 26 years. She died in 2011.

Then, last August, her eldest son, Michael, had just graduated from university and was planning to start a new life in Australia when he was given the heartbreaking diagnosis of having a brain tumour. He was given just six months to live. Michael passed away on February 2. He was 25. She described him as her "best friend and hero".

"The only way I can describe it is that he was not just a son to me, but also my best friend. We were incredibly close," she said.

But during his final two months the 59-year-old fought to find a place where her youngest son, Christopher (23, right), who has cerebral palsy, could receive respite care, allowing her to spend precious time with her eldest son.

After fighting to get respite care in Stewart Memorial, Bangor, she believed she had found an amazing place for him to stay.

But Joyce received a further blow when, last November, relatives of the 18 residents of Stewart Memorial House, which is owned and run by the Northern Ireland Institute for the Disabled, were told that it would close within a year as it is not financially viable.

In December the owners postponed the closure to carry out further consultations. A decision has still not been reached. Joyce is now determined that Christopher, along with the other residents, can stay or receive respite in the care home. She is part of the campaign to keep it open.

"I am at peace because Christopher is happy at Stewart Memorial - no money can buy that feeling."

Joyce's determination and strength of character amid such personal tragedy led to her being nominated and winning the 2015 Belfast Telegraph Mum of the Year award.

In the midst of her loss she also finds time to champion Marie Curie, increasing awareness of the charity's vital work.

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