A suicide bereavement ‘talking’ bench and a ‘Letters to Heaven’ post box have been officially unveiled in a touching ceremony at Lytham Park Cemetery & Crematorium.
The new features are the results of a partnership between Fylde Council, Jon Nichol, and Joanne Hargreaves-Doherty from Doherty’s Destiny. The specialist suicide bereavement charity based in Cleveleys raised £1112 towards the cost of the materials and installation through a generously patronised fundraiser.
The talking bench is the seventh placed by Doherty’s Destiny across the Fylde coast, giving people a place to find comfort and support in a tranquil setting. The Letters to Heaven post box is the second associated with the charity, with the first present at Carleton Crematorium in Wyre, and provides a special opportunity for people to express their deepest emotions and sentiments to their lost loved ones through the healing act of sending letters.
The ceremony on Monday 13 November was attended by Cllr Chris Dixon, Fylde Council’s Lead Member for Social Wellbeing; Joanne Hargreaves-Doherty, the founder of Doherty’s Destiny; Jon Nichol of Doherty’s Destiny, responsible for the creation of the Letters to Heaven post box; and Samantha Southern, who lost her husband Glen Southern to suicide. Glen is commemorated by this new talking bench, which as the seventh placed by Doherty’s Destiny, also marks seven years since the loss of Joanne’s son James Doherty to suicide.
Jon and Joanne spoke movingly about their own experiences of losing loved ones to suicide before unveiling the talking bench and the post box to applause from those assembled. At the climax of the ceremony, Jon and Samantha released three doves symbolic of the Trinity, provided by Karen Mankowska of Little Dove Tails Dove Release.
Also in attendance was Lisa Westoby, the local resident who along with Jon Nichol initially approached Lytham Crematorium about installing a talking bench and letters to heaven post box like those at Carleton Crematorium. Lisa, who also sadly lost her husband Toby to suicide, was passionate in ensuring this community project went ahead. Toby is commemorated by a talking bench donated by Doherty’s Destiny at Fairhaven Lake.
Cllr Chris Dixon said: “To be bereaved by suicide is a circumstance many would never imagine finding themselves, and while we all hope never to be affected, it is vital to provide support for those who are. Bereaved people – particularly those bereaved by suicide – are at far greater risk of suicide themselves, and we are glad to be able to offer the community an opportunity to reach out for the help they need, either from a talk with a stranger, a heartfelt letter to the departed, or access to local resources.”
Jon Nichol said: “The ‘Letters to Heaven’ post box will provide a unique opportunity for individuals to communicate and express their thoughts, deepest emotions, feelings, and messages to their lost loved ones.
“The simple act of writing and sending letters can offer a profound sense of healing and connection during the grieving process. The post box will be a sacred space for everyone within our community to use.”
Funding for the bench and post box were raised through contributions from the community via a GoFundMe campaign set up by John Nichol, with 50% of the cost covered from Fylde Council. A post with a QR code nearby directs visitors to the Fylde Council bereavement support page, from which people can access a range of local resources, including professional counselling help and community support groups.
Doherty’s Destiny also runs a 6-week ‘Positive Mindset Programme’ in local high schools for children aged 11-16, focusing on building resilience, developing a growth mindset, strengthening relationships and encouraging self-care. For more information, and contact details, visit the Doherty’s Destiny Facebook page.
If you or someone you know have been bereaved and would like to know more about the support available, we welcome you to visit the bereavement support page on the Fylde Council website. From here you can be directed to whatever type of support you need.
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