Rainbows Ireland is a small charity organisation that offers support for families dealing with bereavement and separation. They facilitate groups for children and young people who have been affected by the death of a close family member, or whose family has changed because their parents have separated or divorced. Read on to find out just how Rainbows Ireland support these families in need:
Rainbows Ireland has a national reach of programme delivery to children and young people in primary and secondary schools, family resource centres and youth and community projects.
These children are not sick, they do not need medical treatment. However, they do need support as they struggle to adapt and adjust to a changed world following the death of someone they love or their family changing after parents separate.
Below, two families who were supported by Rainbows Ireland tell their story.
How Rainbows Helped My Family With Separation
I will be eternally grateful to Rainbows Ireland as they helped my two daughters when my marriage broke down. My daughters were 14 and 8 at the time and they felt like they were the only children in the world whose Daddy had left the family home.
By attending Rainbows, they got to interact with other children in the same situation and, through group sessions with children of a similar age they realised “it’s not just me”. It was reassuring for them as they worked through the programme that there would be good days and it gave them coping skills for the sad days.
As a parent, you battle daily trying to keep strong for your children when your world is falling apart around you. You are dealing with your own emotions and the loneliness separation brings, maybe financial pressure and all the worldly worries, but you are still a parent and have to deal with your children’s emotions also.
It is tough to try to have the right answers all the time and stay strong, but the programme the children go through helps by giving them the language they need to express themselves, coping skills, learning about their feelings, and knowing that while their family is not what it used to be, that you are still a family and that there are all kinds of families.
I feel my daughters were better prepared for the world around them with the skills they developed from attending Rainbows workshops. They were not afraid to express their emotions, and by talking about them it stopped them bottling up anger and resentment.
As they have grown, I feel it has helped ground them as they progressed into teenagers and on to adulthood. It also made our bond stronger as we worked through emotions together, and Rainbows equipped them for this. They knew Mammy was sad, but they knew talking together was the best way to work situations out and Rainbows gave them this confidence.
How Rainbows Helped My Family With Bereavement
Rainbows Ireland helped my child and I during a very difficult time as we dealt with our grief and the loss of my child’s father, who was my best friend and husband.
I had never heard of Rainbows until my sister approached me to say that she really thought that my daughter and I should look at their service. We were at a crossroad in our grief, going two steps forward and three steps back. We had some good days, more terrible days. And there were unbearable days I didn’t think we could get through.
I had an overwhelming sense of fear – how can we do this without him? This was not part of the plan! How can I get us through this? When will it get better? Why us? When will we be better? So many questions which nobody could answer, or so I thought.
Rainbows were there to help us and that support was life-changing. The answer was ‘this is a one day at a time journey and you can only do your best’. The answer was getting help, and as a parent this is the best advice I can give – ask the experts. You are not failing, you are being a good parent who is trying your best for your child.
Our Bereavement Journey
As a parent you want to shield your child from death, but death is inevitable. Death is something you cannot protect your child from. You just hope they get many years where they will not have to experience grief up close and personal, but mostly this is not something you can plan or avoid. The pain of grief comes in many forms and the one thing I have learned is that we all grieve so differently.
Our journey began the morning my child was born, when my 59-year-old mother collapsed suddenly and passed away after no illness or any warning.
At her funeral, my young, healthy husband turned to me and said “I have a terrible pain in my side and it’s not going away”. I knew looking at him that this was serious.
After scans and tests we got the news that you truly only believe will happen to somebody else. We were told very bluntly and clearly that he had stage 4 terminal lung cancer. It was treatable, but not curable and the doctors told us he had, at best, around three years.
We went home, sat with our new child and cried. After the initial shock, we decided we were going to live our best life. We did as best we could until my husband died following a very brave and dignified battle – exactly 3 years and 3 months later.
My then 4-year-old went into complete shock, she was inconsolable and cried nightly for months on end for her father. He had been her main carer while I went to work during his illness, and they were inseparable.
We thought we had prepared her, that Daddy was sick and that Daddy was very unwell. But there is no preparing a child, or any of us, for death and when we told her that her Daddy had died, her first words were “are we not a family anymore?” I could not believe it. Kids can be very real in their views and vision at that moment in time.
I found that her support needs changed over the years. What she needed at age 4 was different from what she needed at 8 and now, as she turns 12, I see a new need there.
Rainbows gave me the tools to understand this. Rainbows let my child see that it was not just her, that she was not alone, that other children her age have lost parents too and that we are not different. She could interact with her peers for the first time.
Rainbows helped her and I get our family unit back, they pulled our little team of two together to see our new view, our new role, our new reality of two.
They gave me the confidence to see that we were moving forward, in an age-appropriate way. That it was “normal” to have bad days and it was OK to have good days too.
I am eternally grateful that we reached out to Rainbows and I would recommend anyone who is going through a similar situation to get support too.
How To Get In Touch With Rainbows Ireland
If you would like to donate to help Rainbows Ireland keep their support service going, you can do so here.