Clontarf Parish Launches a new Bereavement Support Service

19 Mar 2021

The Dublin Bereavement Support Service (DBSS) was launched by Clontarf Parish on St. Patrick’s Day, Wednesday 17th March 2021. Comprising of a team of trained bereavement counsellors who are volunteering their time and expertise, the service will initially operate via Zoom until such time as it can safely transition to a person-to-person counselling service.

The new DBSS was born out of conversations between the Rector, Rev. Lesley Robinson, and parishioners Jim Kieran and Dr. Tony Walsh, both of whom are experienced bereavement counsellors, focussing on the impact that the pandemic and all the associated restrictions have had on the experience of loss and grief. Not only have many families lost a loved one to Covid 19, most of whom could not be with the dying person in their final days and hours, but everyone who has been bereaved over the course of the last year has been denied many of the supports and rituals which are usually such an important part of the grieving process. Gone are the wakes and the reposing. Funerals have mostly been arranged over the phone with the services themselves being shortened, and the attendances greatly curtailed to the extent that sometimes even close family members have not been able to attend. After the funeral, the traditional gatherings centred around the sharing of food and memories have also had to be sacrificed, along with all the callers who would normally bring welcome support and distraction in those difficult days and weeks after the bereavement.

All of this is so counter-intuitive and counter-cultural in a society like ours which normally puts such emphasis on the rituals around death and bereavement and will no doubt lead to a lot of unprocessed grief around the loss of loved ones.

Both Tony and Jim have been involved in bereavement support for many years through the Irish Hospice Foundation and the Bereavement Counselling Service which formerly operated out of St. Ann’s, Dawson Street. Following the closure of the BCS a few years ago and in the circumstances in which we now find ourselves, they and the Rector agreed that a new bereavement support service would be both beneficial and necessary. Jim used his network of former colleagues to bring on board a number of trained and experienced counsellors who agreed to be a part of this new venture, and the seed which had been sown began to sprout.

Although the DBSS will be run under the auspices of Clontarf Church of Ireland parish and is rooted in the Christian calling to show love and compassion to all, the service will be offered in an impartial, non-judgemental way that will not seek to impose religious beliefs on others and will acknowledge that people’s experiences of grief may differ, but all are equally valid.

Initially, the service will be offered via zoom on a one to one basis, but later in the year when the vaccine rollout is more extensive and restrictions have been lifted, face-to-face counselling will be offered. As all the current volunteers are in the Clontarf area, the Parish Centre on Seafield Road will provide one venue, and another will be sourced elsewhere in the North Dublin area. Eventually, it is hoped that with the addition of more trained volunteers the service will be extended into South Dublin.

The support service will be offered free of charge although donations can be given if desired. Prospective clients can contact the volunteer counsellors directly by accessing the contact details on the DBSS website

DBSS wishes to acknowledge the invaluable and generous contributions made by Tom Hennessy, Alive Coaching, Orla Fitzmaurice, Poppyvine Website Design, and Abigail Hicks, Designer and Illustrator in getting this venture off the ground.