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Brian Bethell: What Survivors for Peace means to me

February 14, 2014 | admin

Brian Bethell first came to the Foundation in 2001, to be part of the Legacy Project, which later became our Survivors for Peace programme.  Brian’s son Paul Worrall was killed in 1990 in Northern Ireland.  Here’s what our programme has meant to Brian.

How people deal with sudden death and its immediate aftermath runs to a general pattern. Tears, anger, especially if the deceased has been murdered. Guilt accompanied by a deep sense of loss and bewilderment.  It is at times like this when survivors need someone who has none of these feelings…a prop, a listener. Someone they can tell their story to. This listener whoever they may be, professional or otherwise is, I believe an essential part of a healing process.

When my son Paul was killed in Northern Ireland I was of the mind that I needed nobody to lean on, nobody to listen to my story. This attitude is partly my upbringing and partly my desire to keep control of my feelings, the more personal and intense my feelings the greater the desire to stand alone and deal with my feelings in my own way.  My family were not of the same attitude or capability and were all at sea as far as being able to deal with what had happened.

I took control insofar as my protection of them was concerned.  After a time when things had settled down I began to realise that I was alone with no one to talk to about how I felt.  This story is much more complex and detailed than I am able to commit to paper. I am trying to keep to a chronological series of events for the sake of simplicity.  I now found myself struggling with my feelings…those feelings I have already described but were now almost overwhelming in their intensity.

I had had no contact with any professional grief counsellor or GP etc. In short I was on my own because a brief search revealed there was not a single organisation on the UK mainland who dealt with victims of terrorism.  These victims need the kind of support that ordinary support groups cannot provide. Victims of terrorism’s needs are specific.  The dynamics of death and injury through conflict are different. What the victims needed was someone who understood the dynamics, needs and issues concerning this particular group.  They needed a safe place where they could open up in confidence knowing that those around them had made the same journey as they themselves had made.

My isolation went on for several years until I came into contact with Glencree in Co Wicklow, Ireland. They offered support for which I am grateful…I am also angry that I had to travel to another country to get the duty of care/support I believed my own government owed me and hundreds of others. 

One day I received a message from a stranger who told me of a place in Warrington called the Peace Centre (I live about six miles from Warrington)  He told me what the Foundation for Peace was doing and hoped to do much more.  I went along and looked around and met the man.  We talked and I became convinced that this was the real deal as it were.  I became very much involved in the Foundation’s work and helped to establish a web page – a forum where victims could and did contact each other…not only was it a forum but it evolved into a kind of outreach.  It let people who previously thought they were alone know that there was a vehicle whereby they could make their voices heard.

I don’t want to be too dramatic here, life is rarely like that.  But my involvement with the Foundation and in particular the Legacy Project saved my life, figuratively speaking that is. I am prone to depression and in that period when I felt so alone that I was in danger of becoming overwhelmed the Foundation helped enormously.  The most striking element of the Legacy Project’s work is the dedication of its staff to the work they do. And now to use a popular buzz word which is, ‘empowerment’. Did the Project empower me, No is the simple answer.  It taught me to empower myself. I discovered that no story however seemingly trivial or horrific was too awful or trivial to tell and to tell it in a safe place among those who understood was vital to one’s own cycle of healing.

I am no longer so involved in the Foundation but remain in contact.  I suppose that being no longer much involved could be said that the Legacy Project did what it said on the can!  Do I still grieve for my son? Am I still angry that those who killed him have never been brought to justice…of course I am. What I can say with absolute certainty is that having confronted the devil of sudden death of a loved one and the injustice that followed I am better able to defeat him…had the Legacy Project not been there, where would I be?

 Brian Bethell  

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