Bereavement Support

Grief is the normal response that a person has, in the face of a life altering loss.  The following information may be of support to you and yours in a time of grief:

While not every grieving person needs counselling, every person who is grieving needs and deserves our support. If your parish would like to support those who are grieving: please see 'Setting up parish support groups for the bereaved' section.


Everyone grieves, and yet each of us will grieve differently. Grief lasts as long as it takes us to accept and learn to live with our loss, and that’s different for everyone. This does not mean that we try to put our loss behind us, but that we now have to adjust to a life without the person that meant so much to us. As we grieve, we try to make sense of what has happened while learning to live our life without that person. For some people, that grief process lasts a few months. For others, it may take years. Even within a family, grief is different for each person, because everyone had a different relationship with the person we have lost.

Support for bereaved

Most people cope with their grief with the support of family and friends. Local community, parish, neighbours, can all offer practical, emotional and other supports at this difficult time.  If you are struggling with a life altering loss, please: 

  • Seek out good, clear information about grief & loss.
  • Be patient and gentle with yourself as you grieve.
  • Recognise the extent of your loss.
  • Allow yourself to cope & grieve in a way that suits you.
  • Try to sleep well, eat well and take gentle exercise.
  • Try not to make major or rash decisions while you grieve.
  • Accept emotional and practical support from friends and family.
  • Get professional help if you are finding it too difficult.

(From Understanding Grief. A HSE Bereavement support leaflet. 2008)

Sometimes family and community support isn’t enough. Bereavement counselling may be a support to you if your loss was unexpected, unexplained, possibly avoidable or sudden; if your relationship with the person who has died wasn’t fully resolved, if you are alone or feel unsupported in your grief, or if you have a lot of other stress in your life.

THE IRISH HOSPICE FOUNDATION supports those who are bereaved. A list of helpful leaflets and further information can be found here.  Free leaflets and other information is available at HERE, including:

  • Understanding Grief,
  • When someone you care about is bereaved,
  • Grieving the death of someone close,
  • Adults grieving the death of a parent,
  • Living through the death of your partner or spouse,
  • Grieving the death of a child,
  • Children’s grief,
  • Talking to children about death,
  • Adolescent grief,
  • The grieving family,
  • Grief at work,
  • Bereaved by suicide,
  • Coping with the death of a same sex partner,
  • Coping with Christmas,
  • Grieving the loss of a pet.


Parish support for the bereaved

A parish is a faith community committed to supporting those in need – including ‘comforting those who mourn’ (Matthew 5:4). A parish bereavement support group is a voluntary parish-based ministry. It consists of parishioners whose aim is to support others on their grieving journey. It is not a counselling or therapy group, but it is a peer group of supportive loving listeners who are committed to ensuring that you have support when you need it, privacy when you crave it, and prayer and love at all times.

To find out about local bereavement support groups, check your parish newsletter/notice board or ask your local priest.

Is your parish interested in setting up a parish bereavement support group?! Heres some information to consider as you begin:

Questions for a parish pastoral council to consider before establishing a parish bereavement group:

Parish Bereavement Support:

  • Is this parish ministry a service of neighbourly listening or a voluntary counselling service? Are we clear about the difference?
  • Is this ministry based on homes visits or open meetings or something else? What skills and resources does this parish have to offer these options? What support will be offered to those in this ministry?
  • Does this parish ministry  include liturgies and prayer services for the bereaved?

... or maybe it is all of these or a combination of parts? Who decides this and is it set in stone or evolving?

The key to creating a sustainable pastoral ministry group is open, clear conversations all along the way. So, it is important that the parish pastoral council ask the above questions and be able to state clearly:

  • what we are inviting a group of parishioners to do.
  • why we are asking them to take on this ministry on behalf of the parish and,
  • how this group will connect into the parish network? (training, support, supervision etc).

Unless these points are clear; training may not be relevant to your parish, misunderstanding of purpose can cause tensions among members and lack of connection with parish can leave a group isolated and unsupported.

Training a parish bereavement support group

When a parish pastoral council is clear about the above questions – then it is ready to invite some parishioners to create a bereavement support group. The primary task is to identify the appropriate tasks for this group as it supports the bereaved of this parish. Consider issues like:

  • Privacy: No one should have support forced on them. The bereaved  person’s right to say no, and to confidentiality, is more important than any groups goals. Training should consider and decide on appropriate boundaries, and procedures for working with the bereaved. All members of the group can then consider if they are happy with and able to commit to this.
  • Listening: Whether one-to-one or in a group, active listening is a powerful support for the bereaved. Clear boundaries and training prevent listening slipping into advice-giving, and support from becoming interference. Are all members of the group open to on-going training in the skills of active listening?
  • Visiting homes: Who should be visited in the Parish, and do they have a choice about receiving a visit? A template that all agree to adhere to is very helpful here – with outlines re: first contact, first visit, time spent, number of visits, etc. Remember that the parish is responsible for organising GARDA vetting for those in parish ministry who visit homes of the vulnerable.
  • Professional support – how do we know when people need more than we can offer? As volunteers our role is not to decide for another, but to share information as to what else is available in the area (perhaps a leaflet of local services) and to offer appropriate continued support. Creating a simple parish flyer with other local support is an important task for a new bereavement group.


All pastoral ministry groups need some training in meetings and group work. Otherwise the group is dependent on personalities rather than being self-sustaining. Its clear that training and reflection is essential both for parish leaders and for new group members, and this must be based on your expressed needs as a parish. For example, you can contact the Pastoral Development team to discuss training  for liturgies for the bereaved, for visiting homes (including Garda vetting), for an annual review, etc. We will tailor our programs to your parishes needs.

Supervision and review

It is appropriate when setting up a group like this to also set up on-going resources and support. Group members need to meet regularly, and some supervision (e.g. a bereavement counsellor regularly meeting with the group) is important to ensure that the groups work is appropriate and beneficial for all involved.


Support for children dealing with life altering loss

Rainbows Ireland

RAINBOWS IRELAND, a registered charity, is a peer-support programme to assist children, youth and adults who are grieving a death, separation or other painful transition in their family. Founded in Chicago, USA in 1983, RAINBOWS was established in Ireland in 1988. Today RAINBOWS operates in all thirty two counties of Ireland. Rainbows helps by providing a safe setting in which children, youth and adults can share their feelings, emotions and struggles with others who have similar experiences. They are supported in this process by a trained facilitator.

The Limerick Diocesan Pastoral centre works with Rainbows to offer training and support to local Rainbows groups.

  • If you feel Rainbows might be helpful to your child: please call the National Rainbows Office for details of your nearest site ( National Office: Loreto Centre, Crumlin Road, Dublin 12, Ireland. Phone 353 1 4734175. Fax 353 1 4734177 Email
  • If your school /parish /community centre in Limerick wants to find out about offering Rainbows: contact Noirin at the Pastoral Centre


Children's Grief Project - Continuing the Mission of the Sisters of Mercy

THE CHILDRENS GRIEF PROJECT has been up and running in Limerick since September 2009. It offers confidential support for school-aged children and young people affected by loss through death, separation or divorce.It provides a safe and supportive place for children, young people and their families who are grieving.

The Project offers both one-to-one support and peer group supports. Support groups are offered for (a) bereavement and (b) separa-tion/divorce. Trained and experienced facilitators work with children (5 to 11 years), young people (12-18 years), and parent/guardians. Groups meet for 9 consecutive weeks, and there is no fee for attending these groups.

Helen Culhane is Project Leader at the Children’s Grief Project, Limerick. She works with school aged children affected by loss through death, separation or divorce. Helen trained as Social Worker and is also a qualified Play Therapist. Helen has facilitated a number of support groups for bereaved children.

The Childrens Grief Project is based in the Old Model Convent in O Connell St, Limerick (near Punches Cross). You’ll see its cheerful red door as you walk into the grounds. If you are interested please contact Helen Culhane during the following times: 9.30am-5.30pm at 061-313037, Mobile: 087-9851733 or e-mail for a registration form. There is no fee for attending the above groups. The groups website is HERE

Blue Box Project

Sometimes when a child is feeling sad or hurt it is good to have a safe place and someone to help you. The BLUE BOX Creative Learning Centre is working with schools and families in Limerick City and environs to provide just that space and to provide trained professionals to help guide our children through difficult times. Driven by innovative Arts Therapy programmes we are making a real difference. In 2009 we operated 23 therapy centres in preschools, primary and secondary schools and in community settings in Limerick City, working with 770 children, young people and families.

Blue Box Creative Learning Centre, LEDP, Roxboro Road, Limerick, Ireland
t: 061 315070    e:    Website HERE

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Other Agencies that may be of support

Each person and their families must decide themselves what support they need in the light of their circumstances. The following details are simply information offered as a support to you in that process.

Support for Bereaved Parents

Support for those bereaved by suicide


Milford Care centre, Milford. Limerick

Website HERE. Tel: 061 485800  E: Opening Times: 9.00am 5.00pm, Monday to Friday

Bereavement Support Service information HERE - Leaflets about loss and bereavement HERE.


Target Groups: (a) Those who have been bereaved through the death of a family member, relative or friend, who had been cared for by Milford Hospice, either in the inpatient unit or by the Home Care Team. (b) On a limited basis, and as resources allow, any person in the MidWest Region who has been bereaved for any reason and without having had prior contact with Milford Hospice i.e. a bereavement brought about by any type of illness or cause including suicide, accidental death, etc. (c) The Supporting Bereaved Children programme is available to children and teenagers who are adjusting to the death of a family member or loved one. Individual counselling and support is also available. Participation in these programmes is with the consent of a parent or guardian.

Aims: To provide bereavement counselling and support through (i) individual sessions and/or (ii) participation in a bereavement support group. In addition, a Milford Hospice Bereavement Support Training Programme runs twice a year. Information and application forms from Education Dept.


Limerick Social Service centre

Upper Henry St. Tel 314111 / 314213 Open Mon – Fri 9:30 – 5:30 (closed for lunch 1-2). Website HERE

Free counselling for adults available at the centre and at three venues in county Limerick



The primary aim of the Samaritans is to be available, at any hour of the day or night, to befriend those passing through personal crisis and in imminent danger of taking their own lives.  Where: 20 Barrington St. Tel 1850 609090.



Connect- National Counselling Helpline Service (HSE)

Connect is a free out of hours confidential Service available Wednesday to Sunday from 6.00pm to 10.00pm on 1800 477 477. Private counselling or therapy. Private therapists and counsellors can be very helpful. Look for accredited members of recognised associations. For example, for therapists see or for counsellors see


Support for Bereaved Parents - Isands

A Little Lifetime Foundation (formerly Isands) is a voluntary organisation, founded in 1983 by a group of bereaved parents whose babies died before or at birth (stillbirth) or some time after birth (neonatal death).

What the group does
  • Publish and distribute a booklet "A Little Lifetime".
  • Support bereaved parents and families whose baby has died or is expected to die.
  • Arrange regular Parents' Support Meetings.
  • Publish a Newsletter twice yearly with information, views and experiences of bereaved parents and families.
  • Produce Information Leaflets.
  • Produce A Little Lifetime Foundation Memories Collection.
  • Organise Public Meetings.
  • Organise Inter-denominational Services of Remembrance.
  • Make representation to groups of professionals such as Doctors, Nurses, Clergy and other interested groups of the needs of bereaved parents and families.
  • Provide training for Support Team Volunteers.
  • Heighten awareness about perinatal death (the death of a baby around the time of birth).


Website and information HERE or contact Mary 087 2395096


Support for Bereaved Parents - Lost Futures

To bring bereaved parents together to support one another. Contact Mary 085 1270165, or Fr Joe 061 405835. Meetings Thursdays, here at the Pastoral Centre.   You can hear Marys story in the 'Would you believe' documentary on RTE HERE



Console was established in 2002 by Paul Kelly after he had experienced the grief of losing a loved one by Suicide. Through his loss, Paul recognised a need for a dedicated Suicide Prevention, Intervention and Postvention Service here in Ireland.  Since then Console has developed into a National Organisation supporting people in Suicidal Crisis and those Bereaved by Suicide through Professional Counselling, Support and Helpline Services. Console has centres in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Athlone, Wexford and Kildare.  Website HERE. Tel: 1800 201890. Email:

Limerick Centre:  Console House, 114 The Grange, Raheen, Limerick. 061 306792

Living Links, Limerick

Living Links provides Outreach Support to the Suicide Bereaved. Website: HERE

Contact: Patricia, Living Links Outreach Co-ordinator on 087 799 8427 (Mon - Fri). If busy, an answering machine will take a message. Just leave your first name and telephone number. Patricia will return your call as soon as possible.

We offer:

  • Trained individuals (Suicide Outreach Workers) are available to offer confidential, practical support and advice to families after a suicide has occurred.
  • An eight week ‘Healing Programme’
  • A monthly support group who meet in the Pastoral Centre (call for dates & details: 061 40133)