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Annaghmore couple organise charity abseil in memory of stillborn son Oisín

'Our grief journey is ongoing but we are also looking forward to helping others see that life truly gets better, if in some way this fundraiser helped inspire others, it contributes meaning to Oisín's life'

Christopher and Bridget Byrne with their son Aodhán present Little Forget Me Nots Trust Founder Louise Taylor with a cheque following their Abseil fundraiser

A Co. Armagh couple have raised money for a bereavement charity by organising a daring charity abseil in memory of their stillborn son.

Christopher and Bridget Byrne, from Annaghmore, were left bereft and heartbroken when their son, Oisín Thomas Byrne, was born sleeping on June 23, 2022.

They decided to use their experience to raise awareness – and much needed funds – for the Little Forget Me Nots Trust, a charity set up by Lurgan woman Louise Taylor, who lost her firstborn son Ruben mid-way through her pregnancy.

Christopher took the plunge – alongside friends; Neil, Shane, Rachel, Colleen, Bridget, Stephen, Patrick and Noreen – from the Europa Hotel in Belfast on October 8 last year in what was a poignant display of resilience and love.

In doing so, the group managed to raise an outstanding total of £3,634 for the charity, including a generous £500 donation from the Halifax Foundation NI.

The funds raised will play a crucial role in nurturing the trust’s mission to expand its outreach in 2024, ensuring that every bereaved parent receives the support they deserve.

Christopher told Armagh I about how they came up with the idea.

“It was approaching the one-year anniversary of our son Oisín’s passing and we decided to celebrate him by beginning a GoFundMe for LFMNT, to raise money in his honour, a birthday gift from us and our friends and family,” he said.

“Within 24 hours there was over £1000 raised!

“What could have been a tough day turned into a positive experience for us, donations were coming in every other minute. It genuinely helped deal with the potential grief that was approaching us.

“That evening, we lit a Chinese lantern and watched it fly into the sky in Oisín’s memory. It truly was a beautiful day filled with the kindness of many people from Armagh and beyond. It started many conversations with people past and present that maybe didn’t realise what we had gone through.”

After a month of fundraising, they decided to turn the GoFundMe into a charity abseil event, inviting family and friends to take part. The target was initially £2,000, but after the initial success, this was upped to £3,500.

Continued Christopher: “On the day was great fun. We all met at the bottom of the Europa in Belfast. I’d never looked at that hotel with as much angst before. As we started to get briefed, there were some panicked looking faces and the reality of what we were about to do was kicking in. The training was excellent and we felt well prepared as a team.

“The most nerve-wracking part for all of us was stepping over the edge and seeing the drop. I then realised this was not going to be easy. However, once you were moving the fear got slightly easier as the ground was approaching!”

While the abseil was a great day of fun for all who took part, the most important part of the day was raising awareness around Oisín’s life and story.

“The abseil was a true testament to people stepping outside their boundaries for such a special cause. some members of our team had also experienced child loss, so we were doing it for those children also,” said Christopher.

“It was a chance for us to speak out about the great work a local charity is doing and raise awareness that there is a great support network for bereaved parents. We have met so many people through the LFMNT community, a place for befriending others and helping others create a safe space for people to grieve.

“Our grief journey is ongoing but we are also looking forward to helping others see that life truly gets better, if in some way this fundraiser helped inspire others, it contributes meaning to Oisín’s life.

“Our second son, Aodhán Christopher Byrne, was born in October 2023. There was a time we never felt this would happen.”

For Christopher and Bridget, the work of the Little Forget Me Nots Trust has been invaluable in their journey, with Christopher describing the charity as an “anchor”.

He said: “The support of Louise and Catherine has been invaluable. We have taken part in pottery workshops, punch needle workshops, glass cutting workshops and ongoing one to ones.

“What we love about the charity is that its core focus is supporting parents through creative activities. It’s a safe space to explore new ideas and come together to feel supported through hard times and help support others who come to the charity.”

Added Christopher: “There is no wrong or right way to grieve; the range of emotions are endless, guilt, fear, anger, blame, they all raise their head at some point. We spent so long going over and over in our minds everything we did or did not do around the time of Oisín’s passing.

“These thoughts weigh heavy on our mind, the ‘what if’s’. It took time to realise that these thoughts are normal and we are on our own personal grief journey.

“We also managed to seek bereavement counselling for 12 weeks after the event through Teddy’s Wish, which really helped work through the immediate shock and trauma of the time. It gave us a roadmap to start working through our grief, not as individuals but as a family. We both reacted differently to the initial shock.

“In a strange way we both used our creativity and quietly but we kept ourselves busy to help time pass. This is another reason why we resonated so closely with the work that LFMNT does, working through grief in creative ways.

“We created songs, art and a mass of other things.  If you have experienced anything similar, please know that this charity welcomes you with open arms and is a safe haven for you to be a part of as much or a little as you want, to help remember your littles ones.”

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