Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Grieving mum sets up local support group for bereaved parents

A local mum whose son was one of three young friends who died in an horrific car crash in August last year has helped to set up a support group for bereaved parents.  Sharon Hughes from Dromintee, says her own experience of searching for somewhere to turn to in the terrible aftermath of her son’s death led her to initiate the group which she believes is much needed in the area.

Her 19 year old son Peter Hughes was killed alongside his best friends, 20 year old Conall Havern from Newry and 20 year old Gavin Sloan from Attical, in a collision on the A1 while returning from Belfast on 23rd August last year. All three were students of Queen’s University and were returning from the city after organising accommodation for the incoming term.

The untimely deaths of the three popular students stunned the entire district and prompted a huge outpouring of tributes to the young men and sympathy for their devastated families.

Speaking to The Examiner after the inaugural meeting of the newly formed support group which took place at the Head Injury Support premises in Newry on Wednesday 12th October, Sharon reveals how her son’s death “ripped her family apart in a split second.”  The grieving mum says she is passionate about offering parents who have lost a child the opportunity to meet with other parents who have experienced the same devastating loss and who understand how tough the journey through grief is.

The Dromintee woman told us she herself had attended one-to-one grief counselling sessions at PIPS and Cruse before being put in touch with Anamcara – an open bereavement group set up solely for bereaved parents. The Anamcara group meetings are held in Armagh once a month and Sharon felt that she needed the support of a group setting more than monthly and closer to home.  She says it was during a recent trip to Liverpool with her daughter that she had her “lightbulb moment” and decided to try to set up such a support group herself.

“I really didn’t know where to turn to after Peter died and so many of us are in the same boat,” she said.

“Although the grief counselling sessions available with Cruse and PIPS are great, I personally felt I needed more.  I needed to talk to people who understood my pain and Anamcara really provided that.  But to only have this once a month wasn’t enough for me and I know from meeting people in Armagh that bereaved parents are crying out for similar groups in their local area.

“When Head Injury Support kindly offered their facilities because of the charity work that has been done in memory of Peter, Conall and Gavin, we decided to go ahead with the bereaved parents group.  If I can say one sentence to make one person feel they’re not so alone then it will be worthwhile.

“In an open group, people can share their story, talk to me and to the counsellor, we can bounce off each other and provide support for one another.  Some people may simply want to come along and listen and know that they are not alone in how they are feeling.”

Sharon hopes that the group will grow steadily and become a source of solace and comfort for parents to share their grief in a safe and secure environment.

“We’re hoping through word of mouth, facebook and the local media that the group will grow and that it will provide a support network and some level of comfort for bereaved parents where they can vent and talk and feel some sense of release in comfortable, laid back surroundings.

“I think Peter would be proud if I could help even one other person who is experiencing the same devastation as we are.”

The bereaved parents support group will run from 7pm to 9pm on the second Wednesday of every month at the Head Injury Support centre in Newry.  The next group will be held on Wednesday 9th November.