Losing a loved one can be devastating and isolating. Family and friends find they must create a new ‘normal’ around the gaping hole left after someone dies. Arguably, those who lose a child, whether by accident or illness, will suffer a more profound grief and navigate a wider, deeper chasm.
Michelle Ronan, from Schull and now living in Cloughduv, whose nephew passed away last year, has found that even as she grieved she knew that her own feelings would never fully compare to those of her sister. ‘When someone in your family suffers a loss like this you can’t comprehend it. As much as you try to put yourself in their shoes you can’t.’
Michelle has been reassured that there are people out there who know her sister’s grief and are willing to provide invaluable comfort to her.
Anam Cara is an organisation founded by bereaved parents to offer therapeutic services and peer support for families who have experienced the death of a child. ‘To know there is somebody out there that completely understands what they’re going through and that they’re there for them – that’s a huge comfort.’ explains Michelle.
Anam Cara, through their website, printed literature and group sessions, assures grieving parents that they are not alone and that they will smile again. Carmel, co-founder and mother to Carl, explains in a video on the Anam Cara website that, ‘there is nothing as powerful as sitting with another bereaved parent.’
Michelle learned about Anam Cara from the hospital chaplain. She says they are gentle in their approach and that they don’t impose themselves on families. ‘You can link in with them today and get something off your chest – you are speaking to somebody who completely understands and then you may not speak to them for another six years and that’s fine. It’s just knowing that they’re there.’
Support is extended to all family members. ‘I know my own daughter is very affected by her cousin’s death because she was very close to him and she is only a teenager. And it offers support to people like that. They’ve no limits really on who they support.’
So impressed is Michelle with the work Anam Cara does that she decided it should benefit from her upcoming climb up Mt Everest. In October she will embark on an adventure of a lifetime. She and a group of fellow hikers will trek from Lukla, Nepal to South Base Camp guided by Sherpas and assisted by yaks. Her trip is 100% self-funded so any funds she raises between now and then go directly to Anam Cara. She has already raised over €3,000 and has organised numerous events across County Cork to raise more.
People who wish to support Michelle’s efforts can keep an eye out for these events: a coffee morning in Cloughduv on May 6th; a Cheval Ride in Schull on May 22nd; a coffee morning in Schull on June 5th; and a Golf Classic in Macroom on June 17th. On June 18th family friend and Schull’s very own Lucy O’Callaghan, aged 15, will have her long locks cut at Wayne Lloyd’s hair salon in Ballydehob to benefit Anam Cara and the Rapunzel Foundation.
There is also a donation button on Michelle’s blog www.basecampwith.me and she has good old fashioned cards distributed throughout the Schull and Cloughduv communities.
Anam Cara has vowed that the funds raised by Michelle will be earmarked for Cork’s rural areas. ‘Anam Cara are so grateful to Michelle and her friends and colleagues for their terrific fundraising efforts this year. All monies raised will go directly towards supporting bereaved parents across Cork,’ says charity representative Hugh Harkin.
According to Harkin, the fundraising done by Michelle and her supporters has made it possible to establish a regular Anam Cara group that will meet on a monthly basis in Bantry.
Come October when Michelle reaches the 5,550 metre peak of South Base Camp she will release a little white ribbon – a small gesture for her nephew and for the good people who give unselfishly, despite having had so much taken from them.
‘For the world you can wear one face; for your Anam Cara (Soul Friend) you can show what is happening in your heart.’ – Anam Cara
For more information follow Michelle’s blog, like her basecampwithme Facebook page or email [email protected]
For info on the Macroom Golf Classic contact Bernie O’Shea 087-2311103.
• To order a free Anam Cara information packet email [email protected], phone 085 2888 8888 or visit www.anamcara.ie