Around 50 people from Westmeath, Offaly, Meath, Cavan, Longford and further afield attended the launch of an Embrace Farm Accident Support group in Mullingar.
Embrace connects families affected by farm accidents so they can share their experiences and support each other.
There were tears shed and stories shared of losing a child, a partner, a parent and how the need to talk can still be acute 20 or 30 years after the event.
Padraig Higgins and his wife, Joan, from Shannonbridge, who have appeared on TV telling of the tragic loss of their six-year-old son, told the meeting that eight years on it still feels as raw as the day after it happened. The silence in the house, the sound of the clock ticking - stark reminders of what is lost.
The group also helps families forced to grapple with practical issues such as Single Farm Payments, insurance, mortgage, running a farm. They have succeeded in getting Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney, TD, to appoint a Liaison Officer to deal directly with these families
Embrace FARM was set up in 2014 by Brian and Norma Rohan of Mountrath following the death of Brian’s dad, Liam. It started off as a Memorial Service for those lost or injured in a farm accident. Over 600 turned up.
“Every year more join, unfortunately. We are one group that does not need new members,” Brian remarked.
The Memorial Service is now an annual event, held on the last Sunday in June and this year they plan to hold a family weekend for children who have been affected by a fatal or non-fatal farm accident.
One woman told of losing her husband, a baling contractor in June 2011. Their 11-year-old son was with him when it happened. I had to deal with that and run a farm that I knew nothing about, she said.
Another man told how he lost his leg in a farm accident “but I just looked on it as another stumbling block on the road of life and got on with it”. He said he had been shocked to find that some people, after 20 or 30 years had not moved on. He urged them to avail of the help and support that is available.
The meeting also heard from a professional sheep shearer who “went through the long dark tunnel” of depression. He told how he managed to hide the hell he was going through from his family and friends and how he contemplated suicide before he sought help. He urged anyone present who was feeling down to seek professional help rather than suffer in silence as he did.
Professional psychotherapist and counsellor, Joe Thompson said grief comes in waves while depression hangs over you all the time. He spoke of the importance of talking and urged all present to take this opportunity to connect, to talk and to swap telephone numbers.
The formal part of the evening over, the tea and coffee flowed, as did the conversation as new friendships were forged.
• If you have been affected by a fatal or non-fatal farm accident you can contact Embrace FARM through Brian and Norma Rohan, Annegrove, Mountrath, Co Laois, telephone 085 7709966 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.