Bereaved parents offered support at monthly group

Helen Charters from The Compassionate Friends. INCT 06-001-PSB
Helen Charters from The Compassionate Friends. INCT 06-001-PSB

A Carrick mother has told of how a support group for bereaved parents helped her in the aftermath of her son’s death.

Helen Charters became involved with the local branch of The Compassionate Friends after her son Wayne died in a road accident almost 17 years ago.

The UK-wide organisation runs five support groups in Northern Ireland for bereaved parents, with the local group having moved last week to new premises at the Vineyard Church, Lancasterian Street.

Speaking to the Times last week , Helen said: “Wayne was like any other young fella his age; he loved to go out with his friends, loved partying, but he also loved his family. He had just started a joinery apprenticeship and he was very settled; he knew what he wanted to do with his life.”

The 19-year-old was the only fatality after the car he was a passenger in crashed on the Albert Road on March 16, 1997.

“I remember the police came up to tell us and my husband had to go down to the scene of the accident. I stayed in the house with our daughter as she was only seven and a half at the time; that was very hard,” said Helen, from Eden.

“The next few days we were just in shock. My other two sons were that bit older, but it was hard to explain to my daughter what had happened.

“We had the funeral at St Colman’s and it was absolutely packed. Wayne was very well known in the area.”

In the months following Wayne’s death, Helen heard of The Compassionate Friends from fellow east Antrim woman Ursula Gates, who lost her son Matthew in August 1996.

“Ursula and her husband Joe came to visit us and she told us about the group, but it was a few months yet before I could go; it’s a big step and it’s something you have to come to in your own time,” Helen added. “Losing a child is something that doesn’t ever go away; you learn to live with it but even years later there might be something that triggers a memory.

“Talking to other parents who’ve gone through the same thing, you might see someone who is four or five years down the line from you and it helps to know that if they had made it through, you could too.”