Bereaved hail work of Beyond Words group that's helped them cope with crippling grief
A woman who lost her sister and brother within five months of each other has told how a bereavement group helped her come to terms with her grief.
Frances Reynolds joined the Beyond Words group in Londonderry, a support organisation for people over 60 which has six branches here.
The Foyle group meets once a month, providing somewhere for men and women struggling to come to terms with the loss of a loved one to meet with people who know and understand their grief.
After the loss of her brother and sister, Frances says she found herself in the depths of sorrow and nothing made sense. After completing counselling sessions she was still struggling, but accepted the suggestion of attending the Beyond Words group in the north west.
She said: "I went for counselling but at the end of the eight weeks I didn't really feel any better.
"Then someone from Cruse (Bereavement Care) suggested I come here, to Beyond Words.
"That was the best thing for me, it was like reaching a turning point simply because everyone here was going through the same thing I was, so I didn't need to explain how I felt.
"This is such a safe space where you know anything you say is kept between the group, and people here have become real friends.
"We have put together a book of poems, we create memory boxes and go on occasional outings, so together we learn to get our lives back again."
Christine McGowan is also a member of the group.
She met husband Peter when she was just 16. They wed four years later but, after 39 years of marriage, Peter died just six weeks after being diagnosed with cancer.
Christine said that while she will never get over his death, the group has helped her see that it is possible to take joy in things again. She said: "I went to counselling thinking someone was going to tell me how to cope with my grief, but that's not how counselling works, so I came away feeling as lost as when I started.
"When I came here it was different, everybody was in the same boat as I was and everybody had their stories.
"Out of the group, I learnt to laugh again and I learnt from other people that it was light at the end of the tunnel.
"After Peter died there were days I couldn't even get out of my bed or into the shower, and it is hard even now but I have learnt to cope with not having Peter.
"I really would encourage anyone who is struggling with their grief to go to their local Beyond Words group. It doesn't matter who you are or what you are, grief is grief. We are all going through it but having people who know and understand what you are feeling is a big help."
Eleanor Ellerslie, who is the support manager of Beyond Words, is preparing to open a new group in Co Down.
"There are groups in Bangor, Belfast, Lisburn, Larne and Antrim as well as this group in Derry, and we are about to open another group later this month in Newry," she explained.
"People are free to come here for as long as they want, whether that is once every month, and twice a year we have residential weekends where people from all the groups come together."
To find out more about Beyond Words, call 028 9079 2419 or email Eleanor.Ellerslie@cruse.org.uk