Meningitis Now staff member Clara Wiggins

Support for grieving men after losing a loved one to meningitis

Clara Wiggins | 12th February 2020

Finding ways to cope with grief can be tough for everyone but we have found that sometimes men find this hardest of all

Paul Gentry attends StrongMen weekend after Izzy's meningitis death

This is why we were really interested to hear about our long-time supporter Paul Gentry’s experience with a new charity called StrongMen, which organises weekends away for groups of men who have lost a loved one.

And after hearing about his experience we are delighted to announce that we would be happy to fund events like this through our Rebuilding Futures Fund. While the experience that Paul took part in was specifically aimed at men, we would certainly consider other such events for both men and women experiencing grief. 

StrongMen, which stands for Strong Mentally, was set up by a group of men some of whom were struggling with their own grief following a bereavement, and others who will be known to viewers of the TV series SAS - Who Dares Wins. Elements of this series were included in the planning for StrongMen, which provides adventurous and challenging weekend breaks to men over the age of 18 who have suffered the bereavement of a spouse, child, parent or sibling.  

As well as physical challenges, the weekends give the men a chance to talk and relax in an environment with other men suffering similar experiences and circumstances. 

Friendship and relaxation

Paul Gentry, who lost his daughter Izzy to MenB in 2016, agreed that he found men often didn’t want to talk about their loss or find it difficult to be open about their experience. This was one of the reasons he found the StrongMen weekend so helpful: 

“Initially I was apprehensive about going, especially at the thought of sharing a bunk house with 25 men that I had never met before and not knowing what to expect,” he told us after the weekend – which included a walk up Mount Snowdon and a go-cart adventure at Zip World. 

“The apprehension was short-lived as having been met by Dan and Efrem (two of StrongMen’s leaders), I was soon chatting to everyone. There was absolutely no pressure and the atmosphere was one of friendship and relaxation.”

Paul said the whole weekend was well organised and they were given extra confidence by the excellent support of a mountain leader and nurse. But most importantly was the time it gave the men to bond as a group who all understood what each other had been through. 

“When the weekend came to a close it was really emotional saying farewell, but I can definitely say I met some amazing people,” he said. “We started off as strangers but we ended up as a Band of Brothers.

Paul Gentry attends StrongMen weekend after Izzy's meningitis death

“We are already planning future adventures – I can definitely recommend “StrongMen” as an organisation which might be able to provide you with additional support or an alternative way to help you through the difficult times”.

Hugely beneficial

Cheryl Brown, Meningitis Now’s Support Services Manager, said she was delighted to hear about what StrongMen had to offer and to be able to consider funding for it from the Rebuilding Futures Fund

“This sounds like something that could be hugely beneficial for bereaved men and we know that there are other, similar events out there that we could fund.

“Please do get in touch if you think this is something you would like to find out more about or if you have any other ideas like this one. 

“The Rebuilding Futures Fund is exactly for that – rebuilding your future. So please, get in touch and let’s see how we can work together to help you through this time”.

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