Dornan, 36, was 16 when his mother died of pancreatic cancer in 1998. The Fifty Shades actor told the BBC that the experience was “horrific.” He added, “I often say this, but you don’t really know what the effects are of losing someone, particularly when you’re so young.”
On Wednesday, Dornan helped launch NI PanC, a support group for cancer survivors and relatives of cancer patients, at Mater Hospital in Belfast. NI PanC is sponsored by Pancreatic Cancer Action and the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, according to the BBC. He attended with sister Jessica Dornan Lynas and father Jim Dornan.
“I’ve always wanted to be associated to a charity that means something to me in a major way,” Dornan said, according to the BBC. “It all seemed very fitting I could do whatever I can promote awareness of this horrendous disease.”
Dr. Mark Taylor, the chairman of NIPanC, explained the charity’s mission to the BBC. “We must channel more funding, both public and private, into necessary research and we must offer better support to families affected by pancreatic cancer,” he said.
Dornan said that the impacts of losing his mother to the disease persist to this day. “They are daily and continue to have an effect,” he explained. “You feel that they are manifesting over time in a way you didn’t expect them to.”
He continued, “You never get over it, and now that I have kids myself, I see they don’t have a grandmother from my side — that’s an odd thing.”
Dornan has two daughters with wife Amelia Warner, 36.
“We’ve got two little girls now, so it’s pretty insane,” Dornan said in 2016 on Live with Kelly. “It’s been a big adjustment, and it’s definitely harder and you get less time to yourself, but human beings are very good at adaptation.”
This article originally appeared on PEOPLE