I had to cope with Roma's death, now I want to reach out to others who feel the same agony
A mother who lost her three-year-old daughter in a car accident has spoken of how she deals with her grief by helping other bereaved parents.
Andrea McAleese's daughter Roma died in 2009 aged just three years and 10 months after she was knocked down as she played outside the family home at Ashdale Park, Coleraine.
The little girl was taken to the Causeway Hospital for treatment but died a short time later from head, neck and chest injuries.
At the inquest into Roma's death in 2010 a senior scientific officer said the accident had happened in as little as one-and-a-half seconds. The driver was not accused of any wrong-doing.
Roma's mother is now planning a permanent memorial in Coleraine for its deceased children in the hope of helping other parents.
Last night the 41-year-old told the Belfast Telegraph that brief moment on March 31, 2009 turned her life upside down forever and that she now wants to support other bereaved parents as a way of repaying everyone in the community for the support she received.
Andrea, who runs Romaya Hair Sanctuary in Coleraine, which is named after Roma and her other daughter Maya, said: "Coming up to Christmas is a difficult time for parents who have lost children, so I have organised a free pamper night for bereaved mothers on December 3.
"Word spread about the night and I was contacted by local people and businesses with donations of thousands of pounds worth of prizes, so I've decided to hold an auction in February.
"With the proceeds I'm going to approach the council or whoever I need to about getting a permanent memorial built in Coleraine for its children. It would be somewhere for parents to go to rather than a graveyard."
Andrea explained that the pain of losing a child was immense and in the weeks that followed Roma's death her family fell apart.
"Never a day goes past that I don't think about her," she said.
"My whole life changed that day. My family went from four to two in six weeks. My husband and I split, it tore our family apart."
Andrea has slowly rebuilt her life with the help of family, friends and the Family Trauma Centre in Belfast.
She now has a new partner and gave birth to their son Ty 19 months ago, so has lots to be positive about, but there will always be the heartache of the loss of Roma.
"Roma was a happy, outgoing wee girl, who was loved by everyone who met her," Andrea said.
"It gets harder as time passes, knowing Roma is away from me longer than I had her and that my son will never know her, except through us.
"Bereaved parents fear their child being forgotten, they don't want people to think they were never there.
"The idea for the memorial is maybe when parents are there, another mother or father visiting it will know how it feels and talk to them.
"When I meet other bereaved mothers and fathers they understand how I feel.
"I am reassured I'm not going mad and will survive this."
If you’ve been affected by Andrea’s story a number of agencies can provide assistance. Contact your GP or call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 028 9066 4422 or the Free Lifeline 24-hour helpline on 080 8808 800.
The Compassionate Friends charity, supporting bereaved parents and their families, can be contacted on 028 8778 8016 and the Family Trauma Centre in Belfast can be reached on 028 9020 4700.