The Trainor Family's Story | Cruse Bereavement Care

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The Trainor family came to Cruse for support following the tragic death of daughter Ella in a car accident when she was just six years old. Since then, this amazing family have raised over £40,000 for Cruse Newry. Here, Martin and Susan Trainor tell their story in their own words.

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The Trainor Family
The Trainor Family
On the 9th January 2016, my wife Susan and my daughter Ella were involved in a car accident on the way home from a cancelled swimming lesson. Ella suffered bad internal injuries and died later in the hospital. Susan also suffered major injuries (breaking her back) but survived.

It goes without saying that all our lives completely changed after this, including the life of our other daughter, Aoife, who was just 12 at the time. But from that awful Saturday night in hospital, we made a promise to each other that this would pull us closer together than ever and it could only get worse if we weren’t together. I was determined from day one to get and take as much help from anywhere to try and make things easier for us three. 

Cruse Newry has been an absolute life-line for our family, and I can not stress this enough.

Susan, Ella's mother

How did you first hear about Cruse?

As you can imagine lots of help was offered at first. We had a police liaison officer, Vince, who was brilliant and so patient and helpful, and came up with the suggestion of counselling, being a former counsellor himself. It was him who suggested Cruse to us. At that stage, very soon after we had lost Ella, I was straight on to Cruse looking appointments for all three of us. 

We couldn’t get answers and couldn’t get appointments as all the volunteers in Newry were booked up. We were getting frustrated after a while when nobody could see us, but I remember the phone call I received from a lady called Frances one day. We had a conversation about dates and times and when suited everyone. But one thing that sticks in my memory, she asked me “was it not too soon?” And looking back now, it was and we did say it at the time. But eventually, Susan, Aoife and I all had different volunteers and times assigned to each other and we began receiving support.

What were your initial feelings about getting support from Cruse? Did you think it would help?

We never thought about it, we knew we needed help and were determined to take anything going. We are very open people and would have no shame in getting support. Susan and I made a deal that we would go to counselling and also exercise as much as we could, so we could avoid medication such as sleeping tablets and anti-depressants. 

We are also very thankful to being able to run and this helps us so much. Susan and I didn’t want to be sitting feeling sorry for ourselves, it was us who were still alive. Our poor wee girl had lost her life and deserved all the grief, tears and heartache we could give her. If we did feel bad, she deserved it and very rarely did we feel sorry for ourselves.

How did Cruse support you and your family?

From the start, it was made clear to us that we were meeting Bereavement Volunteers that were only going to encourage us to talk and ask questions. There was no formula (from what I know) to making us feel better. But what we soon began to realise was that when we left our sessions on a Thursday night, we felt much better than when we went in. We used it to talk about Ella, ourselves, memories of good times. The times we were going through, the actual day of the accident but most importantly, to cry our eyes out.

However, unfortunately, Aoife at 12 years old didn’t find this experience helpful and wasn’t open to it – it was her age, she wasn't a young child nor was she an adult, and she was also (what we learned later) in protective mode of us. It wasn't until a year later that Aoife felt ready to talk and began receiving counselling in her school, Sacred Heart Grammar School, which has helped her immensely and she still continues this to this day.

With a mix of Cruse, exercise, Aoife developing into a great singer and person, and also a great network of family and friends – we have been kept busy and have managed to stay afloat the past four years.

What advice would you give to people who are thinking about coming to Cruse for support?

Don’t jump straight in after the bereavement, the volunteers aren’t miracle workers but pull you along and listen to you. However, I would guarantee you will feel better coming out of a session from when you went in. Everyone grieves differently.

Tell us about your fundraising for Cruse?

We have no idea of how the fundraising came about, but we knew that the facilities and people at Cruse needed help. We were running mountains and exercising a lot to keep us afloat and I can’t say it enough of how much outdoor exercise helps. But somewhere or somehow the suggestion of a sponsored fundraiser came about and there was only ever going to be one beneficiary, Cruse.  

I had run the Causeway Coast Marathon many times, it was always in September and in 2016 this was the perfect time for everyone to prepare. It was unbelievable what happened after Susan opened up a JustGiving page, along with telling our story, showing photos opening a blog – the fundraising went mad! 

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Ella's army racing to raise funds for Cruse Bereavement Care
Ella's army racing to raise funds for Cruse Bereavement Care
We kept saying it, the messages, donations help and encouragement we got from all over the country, really did help us through the first year. On the day, we had nearly 50 family and friends running the 10k, half marathon and full marathon, all running under the now famous ‘Ella’s Army’. We managed to raise nearly £37,000 that day and through various other runs and days have raised approximately £40,000 for Cruse Newry.

From Susan, Ella’s mother

Cruse Newry has been an absolute life-line for our family, and I can not stress this enough. Aidan and all our counsellors in Newry were absolutely instrumental in helping us begin our grief journey and we never under-estimate the impact and strength this had on our entire family circle.

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Ella's fairy door in the children's bereavement room, Newry Cruse
Ella's children's bereavement room, Newry Cruse
Many of Ella’s friends also received counselling from Cruse, and that is why it was so important to us that the monies raised went straight into the Newry Branch of Cruse and to have an independent children’s bereavement room, in Ella’s memory. Knowing that we were helping not only Ella’s friends, but lots of other bereaved children, for years to come, gave our family and all at ‘Ella's Army’ great pride, and we cannot thank them all enough.

No matter what pre-conceptions you may have, and no matter how painful you think it will be to open up and share your inner most feelings, it is always better to. It is surprising how much speaking your thoughts out loud really helps.

No one wants to lose a loved one, and losing a child is the worst pain imaginable. But if you are unfortunate, like us, please consider reaching out for help and if you have an opportunity to donate to Cruse, please consider it, so that, if you too are ever unfortunate enough to be in our situation, there will always be someone there to help you.