When Diane Banville’s husband Kevin (33) died in a farm accident on St. Patrick’s Day 2014 her whole life changed “in a split second”.
The couple had been married just 11 months and were celebrating the birth of their second child; for Diane “everything changed” on March 17 when Kevin went out to his farm and never came home.
Diane and Kevin’s sons Ryan (7) and Cillian (5) are to the fore now as far as their mother is concerned and her focus is on their emotional and psychological well-being.
In the aftermath of her husband’s death Diane reached out to Embrace FARM - Ireland’s dedicated farm accident support network for those that have been affected by farming accidents.
Founded by Brian and Norma Rohan, Embrace FARM hosts many support events for those who have lost a loved one in a farming accident or have suffered serious injury as a result.
With over 130 families contacting the organisation annually Embrace FARM has become a fully registered charity and hosts an ecumenical service every year to remember all those who have died as a result of an accident on the farm.
The suddenness of change
Meanwhile, when Kevin Banville died on his farm after a bale toppled down on him, the lives of his family “changed in that split second”.
Diane recalls now how it seemed like a “whirlwind” and the suddenness of her changed life was overwhelming.
It was a whirlwind – to think how suddenly your life can change and you have no realisation; you’re just on autopilot.
She continued: “There is so much loss – the immediate loss; the loss of the future; the loss of the boys’ dad; the loss of a partner.
“And then there was the farm – it was a business and needed to continue.”
Embrace FARM support
So when Diane made contact with Brian Rohan she didn’t realise at the time the “lifeline” she was being offered.
After Kevin died I rang Brian because I didn’t know what else to do.
She continued: “Embrace FARM was originally about holding the remembrance mass for all those who had died in a farm accident.
“That year myself and the boys attended the service.”
Meanwhile, Diane was struggling to deal with the business side of the farm – that had been Kevin’s job.
She says that she found it difficult because when it came to running the farm and “sorting things out there was a lot of red tape”.
I was finding it very difficult to get on top of things – Embrace FARM helped me with that.
Diane continued: “As time went on Brian and Norma became more and more aware of the difficulties people were experiencing when a loved one died in a farm accident.
“When the then Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney established a liaison officer to assist families - that really benefited the service offered by Embrace FARM.
I didn’t have to tell my story over and over again - the liaison officer really helped – in my case Kevin died in March and the Single Farm Payment (SFP) application had to be in by May.
“I found myself in a situation where I simply had no idea what to do in relation to all of that.
“The liaison officer was a point of contact for people so that all these kinds of things would become easier to sort out and deal with.”
Dealing with farm deaths
Meanwhile, Embrace FARM also provided access to bereavement counsellors and this was something that Diane welcomed.
It also organises weekends for bereaved families and this too provides a lifeline for those who are bereaved.
This month there will be a weekend organised for bereaved families.
Diane added: “It’s an annual event where everyone comes together and we chat, have some fun and try to make sense of everything that has happened in our lives.
“The first time myself and the boys attended that it became such a turning point for Ryan – he would have been five by then and it really helped him so much.
“With Embrace FARM you find yourself in a community – not by choice but by circumstances and we can grieve together.
“We have a WhatsApp group as well and we meet up - so it’s a great support.”
The grief process
Grief, meanwhile, is a process – one has to go through it and Diane Banville is acutely aware of this.
With grief you have to go through it yourself but with support from organisations like Embrace FARM you know you are not alone.
She continued: “That is very important in the bigger scheme of things and for me Embrace FARM is a lifeline…
“I believe Kevin is still with me and I talk to him all the time – I give out to him too…
“The boys talk to him as well; every so often his death hits hard.”
'Be safe; be prepared'
And, for Diane - having lived through the impact of a farm death on loved ones – on-farm safety is paramount.
I’d ask anyone who works on a farm to try and be as safe as possible.
She added: “I know accidents happen – but if something happens there are people left behind to pick up the pieces.
“People need to make wills and ensure that they have everything organised.
"Nobody is invincible and for the sake of the family left behind it's important that things are left in order.
“Be safe and be prepared.”