Support group for families of road victims

A NEW support group for Fermanagh families who have suffered the painful loss of a loved one in a road traffic accident has been given the backing of local police.
The ‘Life After’ service was set up in the Strabane and Derry area in 2017 by families to support families who had been bereaved by road deaths. The service has now launched in the Fermanagh and Omagh area, and local families who could benefit from it are being urged to get to avail of the help it offers.
Working with the families on a one-to-one basis, the group offers them a bespoke service including a range of different supports, such as home visits, counselling, court support, monthly family support meetings and advocacy support.
PSNI family liaison coordinator, Sergeant Anne Lavery, said her job made her acutely aware of the demands of police family liaison officers “in dealing with families in what must be the darkest days of their lives.” She said the fact Life After was operated by those who had experienced a loss themselves made it all the more effective in reaching those who needed it.
“Despite their best efforts and specialised training, family liaison officers don’t always have all the answers, the psychological expertise nor the personal experiences to deliver the most comprehensive service to our families,” said Sgt Lavery.
“I see Life After as filling that essential void in service delivery, influenced by their own personal experiences and through their unfailing dedication to supporting bereaved families, just like themselves.”
For example, the secretary of Life After is Marie O’Brien, who lost her 23-year-old daughter Caoimhe in a car crash outside Strabane in 2016. A week later her brother-in-law Eugene O’Brien was knocked down in Newtownstewart, and died a few weeks afterwards.
Speaking to Fermanagh Herald sister paper the Ulster Herald, Mrs O’Brien said everyone involved in the support group had first hand experience of the pain of losing a loved in a road crash.
Not knowing where to turn to, and feeling suicidal, she attended a Life After meeting in Derry. After an emotional beginning, she has been involved since.
“Everybody there knows exactly what you are going through, and they know how to listen,” she said. “They understand that their words might not be of any use to you, because really there are no words, sometimes there is nothing anyone can say. But what they can do is lend an ear, and genuinely understand the hurt you are going through.
“You are never going to get over it, but they can help you get through it.”
For more information on the work of Life After, or to avail of its services, email or call Christopher Sherrard on 07871508347 or Debbie Mullan on 07920475438.

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