Féileacáin Bereaved Dads“Whether we say something or not, we’re here together and there’s this bond.”

As heard on Today with Sean O'Rourke

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The charity Féileacáin, which supports parents who’ve lost a child around the time of birth, will host a very special football match in May. The players involved are all fathers who have lost a child through miscarriage or stillbirth. Evelyn O’Rourke went to one of the team’s training sessions, as she told Seán O’Rourke this morning. The Féileacáin dads’ team has arranged to play against Welsh team of bereaved dads and Evelyn met up with them the day their team jerseys arrived.

“On the day, each dad will wear a purple football shirt with their child’s name on the back, so it was very moving to see the shirts – they had just arrived, all laid out in their plastic packaging, with their beautiful baby names on them.”

One of the main organisers of the event, Tony Owens, spoke to Evelyn about how Féileacáin has helped him and some of the dads he’s met:

“Women will come together and they’ll have their chats and they’ve set up their own groups, with choirs and stuff like that, where men will just stay on the sideline and say we’re fine, we don’t need any help.”

Tony told Evelyn that he knows firsthand that men do need help. And the football match gives dads the opportunity to get together, talk if they want to, and just to go out and play. But, Tony says, it’ll be an emotional day, going out wearing those jerseys. Tony’s first child was his son Arthur:

“We only found out on the day. We went into hospital, we thought everything was fine all the way through the pregnancy… So when we went into the hospital, the nurse says, ‘We’ll just take a scan’. She couldn’t find a heartbeat.”

Every parent-to-be who walks into a maternity hospital expects to walk out with their baby and when, instead, you have to leave the hospital with a little white coffin, Tony told Evelyn that our psyches are not prepared for it.

Jonathan O’Halloran, who travelled from Cork for the training session, told Evelyn that he found Féileacáin to be a wonderful support. Jonathan’s twin boys were born prematurely in 2014. Lorcan and Cathal were, Jonathan said, ‘the tiniest little Corkmen that he will ever see in his life’. Cathal died in hospital, but Lorcan is now a bouncing 5 year old boy. He underlines why this football match is so important to him:

“Whether we say something or not, we’re here together and there’s this bond. And you know lads if they want to talk, they’ll talk and if they don’t, they don’t and there’s no pressure. And there’s something about lads kicking a football around and if you’ve a bad day, you can take it out on the football and you walk away and the pressure is left and the stresses and strains…”

You can more dads speaking to Evelyn about their experiences of bereavement and the forthcoming football match on the full piece here.

The main Féileacáin website is here and you can find the Féileacáin Fathers football site here.

Niall Ó Sioradáin

© The Listener 2020

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