Bereavement Support Line 1800 80 70 77

Your Irish Hospice Foundation Spring 2024 Newsletter

A header image for Irish Hospice Foundation's Spring 2024 Fundraising Newsletter.

News of your compassion reaching people touched by death and grief across Ireland

Ireland’s Hidden Heartbroken and How You’re Helping

Every day in Ireland, around 100 people die, and today a thousand of us will feel the raw, unbearable pain of fresh grief. But because of you, when a person is drowning in grief and feels unable to speak to anyone else, a listening ear is waiting for them.

A photo of an elderly man sitting on a couch.

“Hello?” says the nervous voice at the end of the line. Gerard, not his real name, has been struggling with his overwhelming grief since losing his wife. He says he can’t talk to his family because he can’t bear to upset them. 

That’s something our Bereavement Support Line (BSL) volunteers hear often — that the caller worries their grief will upset the people they love. And so, like Gerard, they turn it inside and suffer alone. But because of your generous support, a kind, caring person is here at the end of the phone, ready to listen. Ready to shoulder just a little of the grief Gerard is carrying, if only for half an hour or so.

Words of comfort, because of you

Gerard and his wife met as teenagers and were together for over 60 years — “She was the love of my life,” he says, his voice cracking as he breaks down into silent sobs. Our volunteer reassures him that it’s normal and healthy to cry. She also suggests “making an appointment with grief”, time to let yourself feel the pain to avoid being overwhelmed in daily life. It’s part of the training all our volunteers receive.

A photo of an elderly person flipping through a photo album of black and white photos.

“There’s a palpable loneliness in some callers,” says Eric, a BSL volunteer. “I spoke to a man who’d lost his wife… You could hear his heartbreak. He kept saying, I miss her so much.” Eric describes what they do as ‘emotional first aid’. And he’s grateful to you for understanding what the service means to people who feel lost in grief — “It makes a huge difference to people. We know that because they tell us so.”

Often, it’s men who find it hardest to talk about loss. Male callers represent less than a quarter of calls. But men who do call, like Gerard, often feel a weight is lifted. Just speaking your loved one’s name aloud to another person can do that — keeping them present in this world.

It was the first time Gerard had called us — the first time he’d spoken to anyone about his grief — but, he told us, it won’t be the last. “I feel like I’m after getting a hug. I’ll call again.” 

For giving people like Gerard a place to turn and for bringing help and healing to Ireland’s hidden heartbroken, thank you so much. 

When there is no one else…

Could you help safeguard our Bereavement Support Line for another year? 

Last year, more than 1,000 people — mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives — picked up the phone and called us. Many told us they had no one else to talk to about the grief that weighed so heavy in their hearts.

Please will you give a special gift today and help keep our Bereavement Support Line (in partnership with HSE) going for another year? Thank you for every euro you can give.

bereavement support line IHF 2021

A Sister’s Solace: The Precious Moments Your Kindness Makes Possible

Through your kind and constant support of our incredible team of Nurses for Night Care, this is how your kindness gave sisters Barbara and Bridie the most profound gift of all.

By the time Annemarie, one of our Nurses for Night Care, reached Bridie’s bedside, Barbara had been caring for her sister for years.

“They’ve had a whole life together,” says Annemarie. “I’m just coming in for the final few nights… I never forget that.”

Thanks to your generous support, Annemarie’s presence brought untold comfort and relief in the sisters’ final nights together. Annemarie could tell that Barbara had hardly slept in days. “I said to her, you’re not going to sleep in your own bed, are you? You’re too worried something’s going to happen. So I said why don’t you sleep beside your sister there. I’ll be around to make sure she’s alright, I promise.” That night, Barbara fell soundly asleep next to her sister, just like when they were little girls. And Bridie knew her beloved sister was beside her. 

It would be their final night together. Bridie died the next evening.

Barbara is bereft, as you can imagine. Nothing can take away the pain of losing your sister. But the comfort she’ll forever feel at having slept beside her Bridie on her final night in this world will stay in Barbara’s heart and bring her solace until her dying day. A gift from you beyond all measure. Thank you. 

“I want to die at home with my cows.”

How a single sentence, written in black marker pen, meant that even when he was too poorly to speak, Brendan got the end of life he wanted, with your help.

A photo of an elderly man feeding cows.

We don’t know how Brendan came to find out about our Think Ahead Planning Packs, but you’ll be so glad he did.

Because after he was admitted to hospital, it was clear Brendan could no longer cope alone on his farm. With no close family, the doctors and nurses discussing his options felt a nursing home would be best. That’s when Brendan wordlessly produced an empty fertiliser bag wrapped in bungee cords. Inside was his Think Ahead pack. The only words Brendan had written, his one and only dying wish:

“I want to die at home with my cows.”

And with that, everything changed. Healthcare professionals and extended family did everything they could to make sure he could return to his farm. Only a few months later, Brendan took his final breath at home with his cows, just like he wanted. For understanding the meaning of a person’s dying wish, and helping to make it so, thank you. 

Is now the time for you to ‘Think Ahead’?

Keeping a record of your choices, values, and preferences for care at the end of your life is an act of love you can set in motion today. One that could take a heartbreaking decision out of the hands of someone you love. And protect your wishes should you become too ill or injured to express yourself. To order your Think Ahead Planning Pack, our step-by-step guide to help you consider and document your healthcare choices and end-of-life wishes, go to Get My Think Ahead Planning Pack.

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