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The bereaved dads’ breakfast club: ‘It’s like you’re out at sea and a life raft comes along and there’s a bunch of other lads on it’

Widowed, grieving, lost and lonely, a group of Dublin fathers found their ‘life raft’ in each other. From sharing parenting and cooking tips to just being there to listen, they help each other to find hope for the future

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From left, Darren Cooney, John Fitzsimons and Tom Kennedy, Stillorgan. Photograph: Tony Gavin

From left, Darren Cooney, John Fitzsimons and Tom Kennedy, Stillorgan. Photograph: Tony Gavin

Tom Kennedy. Photograph: Tony Gavin

Tom Kennedy. Photograph: Tony Gavin

John Fitzsimons. Photograph: Tony Gavin

John Fitzsimons. Photograph: Tony Gavin

Darren Cooney. Photograph: Tony Gavin

Darren Cooney. Photograph: Tony Gavin

From left, Tom Kennedy, John Fitzsimons and Darren Cooney. Photograph: Tony Gavin

From left, Tom Kennedy, John Fitzsimons and Darren Cooney. Photograph: Tony Gavin

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From left, Darren Cooney, John Fitzsimons and Tom Kennedy, Stillorgan. Photograph: Tony Gavin

It was 2017 and Tom Kennedy attended a bereavement event at Our Lady’s Hospice in Harold’s Cross in Dublin. The year before, Kennedy had lost his wife, Carmel, to cancer, and he was still lost in a fog of grief. Even though Carmel hadn’t died at the hospice, he and their children Danny, Robert, Amy and Christina — then aged 13, 11, nine and seven respectively — had been invited along to a weekend of services and activities for families who had been bereaved.

Following Carmel’s death, Kennedy had taken redundancy from his job to concentrate on raising the children. Even though he had wonderful support from family and friends, he felt alone in the experience of being a bereaved father.


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