Donegal woman Ciara Gallagher talks about how Mother's Day will be forever marked with sad memories after the death of her son.
Mammy, mother, mum – whatever you call the woman who brought you into the world, the time to remember her is fast approaching on Mother’s Day, March 26th.
Donegal-based charity Anam Cara is asking people to share a special picture with their mother using the hashtag #MammyandMe on social media, and nominate three friends or family members to do the same. Social media users are being asked to donate €2 to Anam Cara by texting REMEMBER to 50300. Anam Cara provides support services to families who have experienced the death of a child, and donations go towards provide these supports locally.
Mother’s Day is a particularly difficult time for those who have been bereaved of their mother or their child.
Saying goodbye on Mother’s Day
Ciara Gallagher is a mother from Kerrykeel who has benefitted from the support of Anam Cara since it was first established in Donegal eight years ago.
Last week was the 10 year anniversary of the death of Ciara’s son, Eoghan. He was three and a half years old when he passed away following heart surgery.
Mother’s Day is a particularly difficult day for Ciara, because it was the day she buried her little boy.
“It was 10 years ago but there are days when it just feels like yesterday,” Ciara told Donegal Woman.
“It was a real kick in the teeth when I realised I was going to be burying my child on Mother’s day. Every day was Mother’s Day to me when Eoghan was alive because he was such a ray of sunshine.”
Ciara shares her experience of grief at the monthly Anam Cara meetings held in Letterkenny to support bereaved parents. The group meetings are co-facilitated by professional counsellors and a bereaved parent and they are open to anyone who is experiencing parental grief.
As a co-facilitator, Ciara gets a great personal reward in helping others. “It is very rewarding but it can be very tough too. Everybody’s story is different,” she said.
“The grief that comes after the death of a child is a grief that is very different to anything you could experience. It goes against the natural order of things, and it’s not supposed to happen at way, you’re not supposed to bury a child,” Ciara said.
“It’s such a shock to the system that it’s really indescribable. For me, the first couple of years were really a complete blur. I wasn’t making new memories because everything that normally came to me wasn’t automatic anymore. I had to force myself to get out of bed in the mornings and to do basic things.
“You can never move on from the grief of losing a child. You move around it, and you can build a new life around your child but that’s a terribly difficult thing to do.
“I am not the same person I was before. Life is not the same and at every occasion there is always somebody missing. There are so many milestones in life that keep on coming even though your child is not there.
“I’m very lucky that I have three other brilliant children and I try to make every occasion a positive one for them,” she said.
Ciara regularly attends the Anam Cara meetings where parents speak about their journey through grief and share the understanding of their loss.
“It’s a club that none of us wants to be in but it’s important to have it.
“It is hard to make the first move and come to a meeting because you don’t know what to expect at first. The meetings are for bereaved parents but we have had people who bring a close relative with them for moral support, that’s perfectly fine for the first time,” she said.
Anam Cara services are free of charge and open to all bereaved parents, regardless of the age of their child, the circumstances of their death, or whether this was recent or not.
The #MammyandMe social media campaign is designed to celebrate the bond between a mother and child, all the while raising awareness and funds for Anam Cara.
Ciara is looking forward to taking part again this year: “It’s a lovely idea both for people who have lost a child and those who haven’t. It’s a great way to celebrate your relationship with your mum. The important thing to remember is to send the text to show support.”
Anam Cara aim to ensure that all money raised locally is spent on local services. There are information evenings in Donegal twice a year with bereavement specialists who discuss various forms of grief for various people, including mothers, fathers and siblings.
Missing special hugs
Sharon Vard, CEO, Anam Cara, said: “Our #MammyandMe campaign is about remembering our mothers and also the many mums throughout Ireland who will be missing their children’s hugs today and every other day of the year.
“On Mother’s Day we like to remember our own mothers for all they do or have done for us, we’re just asking people to get involved and any funds raised will help Anam Cara provide support services to those that will be suffering following the terrible and unimaginable ordeal of losing a child”.
Nearly two thirds of Irish people know someone whose child has died, but the intense grief associated with the loss of a child lasts much longer than society realises. It’s estimated that last year 2,100 families suffered the loss of a son or daughter.
The Donegal Anam Cara support group meets on the second Thursday of each month in the Mount Errigal Hotel, Letterkenny at 7.30pm. For more information on its services please visit www.anamcara.ie or call its information line on 085 2888 888.
How Can You Take Part in #MammyandMe?
- Share a picture of you and your mother on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, including the hashtag #MammyandMe
- Tag and nominate three friends or companies to do the same!
- Don’t forget to include the text number – ‘Text REMEMBER to 50300 to donate €2 to Anam Cara’. (Text costs €2. Anam Cara will receive a minimum of €1.63. Service Provider: LIKECHARITY. Helpline: 076 6805278)