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‘It’s great to know we’re not alone’

Caoimhe O’Brien who died following a road traffic collision in October 2016.

HAVING lost two members of her family to separate collisions in less than a month Marie O’Brien knows more than anyone how difficult life can be for those left behind.

The O’Brien family’s world fell apart on October 13, 2016 when Marie’s beautiful 23-year-old daughter Caoimhe was killed in a crash on the A5 between Strabane and Derry. That tragedy was compounded when Caoimhe’s uncle, Eugene O’Brien, was knocked down near Newtownstewart just 11 days later. He passed away in hospital two weeks later.

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Now over a year on, Marie has spoken out to pay tribute to the work of a victims self-support charity, and thank them for the help they have provided to her and her family.

Crippled by months of grief, Marie and husband Noel decided to attend a meeting held by Life After, a Derry based charity that brings families who have suffered deaths on the road together in a supportive environment. According to Marie, the decision to join the Life After group was “absolutely essential” in helping her come to terms with the tragic events.

“When we lost our daughter Caoimhe in October 2016, my husband and I felt incredibly alone,” Marie explained. “We felt that no-one truly understood what we were going through. Last May we decided to attend a ‘Life After’ meeting, and it has honestly been the best thing ever.”

Started as a small support network of five families, Life After currently accommodates over 35 families and holds monthly addresses featuring trained trauma counsellors, keynote speakers and face-to-face discussions.

“It was a great comfort to know we weren’t alone,” Marie said. “The best thing about Life After is it gives us a chance to talk to people who have been through the same thing. Unless you have been there you don’t really understand, and being able to talk to people who understand gives us great confidence and comfort. It is truly fantastic.

“My biggest concern was driving past the place my daughter was killed to get to the meetings, although the group soon helped me get the strength to deal with this. I don’t know where I would be now if I hadn’t gone to the first meeting.”

On Saturday, February 3, a number of Life After members including Tara Casey, who lost her mother in a road traffic collision, will take part in a sponsored skydive to help raise funds for the charity. A fund-raising karaoke night will also take place at the Canal End Bar in Strabane on Saturday, March 3.

Urging locals to dig deep to support this charity, Marie added, “With so many road deaths in the Strabane area alone, fundraisers like this are extremely important. Life After is an extremely helpful charity that hopes to expand its reach in the near future.”  If you wish to donate, contact Tara on tarasands83@gmail.com.

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The Strabane Chronicle is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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