BURYING a loved one is the hardest thing asked of us in life. No matter the circumstances, it can often force us into an apparently downward spiral of loss and grief.
That's where Méala Bereavement Group come in - one of a number of support networks for the bereaved of the county that is helping people emerge from the darkness of grief.
Founded by Listowel man Denis Robinson, Méala meets regularly in Tralee, Listowel, Castleisland and Ballybunion.
Scartaglin native Eilish Moynihan and Castleisland woman Jean Horgan know exactly how invaluable Méala is. Since joining, they found the strength to finally move on with their lives after their own bitter struggles with grief.
Eilish lost her beloved 19-year-old son Noel in a car accident in November of 2000 as her world ripped apart overnight.
"There was just no support available to me at the time. I remember one particular night I really needed to talk to someone and I vowed that if I ever came to terms with my son's death I would do everything in my power to help and support other people," Eilish told The Kerryman.
Eilish helped to get Méala going in Castleisland in October 2011 and is now chairperson of the group in the area. "Since it started we have had at least 60 to 70 people through our doors and apart from my own experience I've seen the benefits to people firsthand.
"Grief is an all too real part of our lives after the death of a cherished loved on. Méala acknowledges this and encourages us to begin to rebuild our own lives in the light of our bereavement. Being heard and understood is often the starting point for us to make some sense of the loss and emptiness in our lives. Méala also organises personal development days which includes trips to Ruah Holistic Centre in Listowel and Dzogchen Beara in west Cork," Eilish explained.
Jean lost her father - her best friend as she said - three years ago and struggled to cope. He was 86 years old when he died. "I lost my dad and best friend three years ago. Coming to terms with this was and is the hardest thing that has ever happened to me. Nothing prepares one for the loss of a loved one. In my case, although family and people meant well, I had no one to understand the grief and torment I was going through," Jean recalled.
She said that due to his long years she felt expected to move on more quickly than one would be expected to over a younger death. "While I put on a brave face, inside I was going crazy wondering if anyone at all could help the anguish I was going through."
Jean then discovered Méala: "At last I found people and friends who listened, understood and shared my journey through the stages of grief. The support I got brought me to where I am today, accepting of my father's death and my grief. Acceptance is the greatest gift of all."
Eilish shares this experience. "I don't dwell on it today, I have to accept it as God's will and move on with my life." On a trip to the Dzogchen Beara Buddhist retreat centre with Méala Eilish found herself overcome with a deep sense of peace in the midst of her grief; in what she now recognises as a pivotal moment in her return to happiness.