Limerick's Children's Grief Centre in 'funding crisis'

 Limerick Bar Association supports voluntary work of Sister Helen Culhane

Donal O'Regan


Donal O'Regan


Limerick's Children's Grief Centre in 'funding crisis'

The Limerick Solicitors’ Bar Association presented a “very generous” cheque for €2,000

GRIEF knocks at all our doors but for children it has the power to last a lifetime.

One County Limerick nun and her team of volunteers have been at the forefront of making a difference in the lives of young people affected by loss. 

Sr Helen Culhane, Croom, started the Children’s Grief Project in 2009, seeing over 900 children since then. It has now been renamed the Children’s Grief Centre as Sr Helen says it is no longer a project.

“There is obviously a huge need for the work that we do,” said Sr Helen, who along with 10 others volunteer their time.

Currently she says they have a “funding crisis” and are in desperate need of support to continue their good work. They provide a safe, non judgemental environment where grieving children and teenagers can express what they feel and learn that they are not alone. It is completely free of charge.

“At the moment we have 120 on our waiting list and the wait is eight to nine months. We try to prioritise teenagers,” explained Sr Helen, who thanked the Limerick Solicitors’ Bar Association who presented a “very generous” cheque to them for €2,000 last week.

To put the sum in context the only annual grant they get is €4,100 from TUSLA.

Sr Helen wanted to thank JP McManus for giving €15,000 to set up a database and Sr Peggy Collins, Provincial of South Central Province, and her team who have supported the centre financially and provided their premises at Westbourne, Ashbourne Avenue, SCR.

“Seventy per cent of our parents are separated so they haven’t got the money. Sadly there are no services for children. We would have CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) referring children on to us and that is the State body. Isn’t it very sad that they have to refer children on to us?

“I had one woman, who is separated, come to me. Her daughter was acting up so she brought her to a psychotherapist, who charged her €65 an hour. She couldn’t afford that. As somebody said to me children don’t vote. I hear the Government going on about their concern for children and I ask where are all the services,” said Sr Helen.

Recently they contacted the guardians of everybody on their waiting list.

“Very few came off it and they were very excited to hear they were going to be offered an appointment. They don’t mind waiting because to see a psychologist in the health board you would be waiting two years,” said Sr Helen.

This time last year there were 44 on the waiting list so it has trebled in the space of a year. If she had extra funding the first thing the nun would do is hire a full-time person to see more children and teens.

“Thirty per cent of those we see are bereaved. They have lost parents, grandparents, siblings - that is always heart rending. Seventy per cent we see, their parents are separated -the biggest thing they tell me about is being caught in the middle and used as pawns.

"One teenager told me his mum and dad separated when he was four, he was ‘sick of being a pawn’ and ‘can’t take any more of it’,” said Sr Helen.

“I always say to children your mum and dad have separated or divorced from each other but your dad will never divorce you and your mum will never divorce you,” said Sr Helen.

Stephanie Power, president of Limerick Bar Association, said they are honoured to be associated with the Children’s Grief Centre.

“As a profession we come into contact with families who are affected by bereavement, separation or divorce on a daily basis. Thanks to the Children’s Grief Centre the children of these families need not feel alone. They provides a forum for the children of these families to tell their side of the story and get the comfort and support that they need.

“Our members are delighted to assist in some small way in bringing the great work of this centre to the attention of our clients, the profession, and the community at large,” said Ms Power.