Dad's gratitude as Northern Ireland bereavement body given Lottery boost
A father-of-two who was left devastated after his wife died suddenly has told of the importance bereavement services play in supporting families across Northern Ireland.
Gareth Murphy (41) was plunged into grief when his wife Linda died suddenly of a brain haemorrhage more than four years ago.
Mr Murphy was speaking after a project run by Cruse Bereavement Care received a major funding boost to help adults and children cope with the grief of losing a loved one.
The Big Lottery Fund's families programme has awarded the charity a grant of £676,384 for a five-year project.
It will be used for the Families Learning Together project, which it will run in partnership with the Corrymeela Community.
It will offer an intensive package of support for families who have suffered or are facing bereavement.
It is one of three projects awarded grants totalling £2 million from Reaching Out: Supporting Families, which helps families facing issues such as such as separation, poverty, disability, homelessness and abuse.
Mr Murphy said Linda's death, aged just 41, left him and his two sons Jordan (14) and Nathan (11) struggling to cope.
"When Linda passed the shock was horrendous but I remember looking at myself in the mirror and telling myself I had to be strong if I was going to be able to look after the boys," he said.
"In a way I could rationalise what happened, but the boys couldn't – they were just eight and 10. It was traumatic, but as an adult I could sort of deal with it – watching your kids in that sort of pain is something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy."
Four years on, Gareth and the boys are still living in the aftermath of the tragedy, though now the future is much brighter. Gareth has remarried and is rebuilding the family and a business, We Are Vertigo adventure park, with new wife Lorna.
"We talk openly about Linda and Lorna does lovely things with the boys.
"I know Linda wouldn't want us to be struggling emotionally but would be very happy to know that there was someone caring in the boys' lives who wants the best for them, just like she did," he said.
"It's reassuring to know now that thanks to the Cruse Families Learning Together project, kids facing bereavement will have access to this kind of peer support when they need it."
Cruse project manager Elaine Roub said that each year in Northern Ireland, more than 28,000 children lose someone they love and more than 9,000 school-aged children here have lost a parent or sibling.
"There are so many young people and their carers suffering in silence," she said.
"Once Families Learning Together begins in October, we want to reach out to them and offer them the care and support they need to cope with the bereavement and become stronger as a result," Elaine said.
"When a child has lost a parent or sibling, the surviving parent or carer can have the biggest influence on how the young person will cope. If they get the support they need, they are better able to help their children through the maze of grief.
"Children may also be protective of their parents, so they don't want to talk about the loss and make the surviving parent even more sad, which increases the child's sense of isolation," she added.
Autism NI also received £699,810 from the fund.
South Lough Neagh Regeneration Association, meanwhile, has been awarded a grant of £700,000 for the Loughshore Family Action project.
- For more information about Cruse Bereavement Care contact (028) 9079 2419