A MOTHER whose world was torn apart when she lost both her husband and son to suicide within two years has been named the Limerick Person of the Month for the remarkable courage she has shown in helping others recover from their bereavement.
In August, Margaret O’Connor did a skydive to raise funds for Console – a national organisation supporting people in suicidal crisis and those bereaved by suicide, through professional counselling.
Her kind act has raised €11,332 with money still coming in. “I’m humbled and deeply honoured to have been chosen to accept this very special award,” said Margaret this week at the Clarion Hotel where she was presented with her award.
The nurse and mother-of-two from Raheen was left devastated when her husband Christy died on April 17, 2010. He was 53 years old, and they had been married for 22-and-a-half years.
“I was very angry with God many days - I said ‘Lord, I was a good person, I worked very hard, why did he do this to me? But I look at it like this now - I was very lucky to have been married for 22 -and-a-half years to a wonderful man,” she said.
While Margaret recalls many days when she was “on the ground and went under the duvet covers and thought I would never come out again”, her deep faith coupled with the support of her family - particularly her mother Margaret, sister and brothers - gave her the strength to get back on her feet and face the world again.
Nothing could have prepared her however for August 5, 2012 when her youngest son Stevie (Steven) died by suicide. He was just 20 years of age.
This August was a poignant time for Margaret, as it coincided with the two-year anniversary of her son’s death. So she did the skydive to remember him.
“It was to help other people as well and there is a certain amount of healing in that - and it was going to raise awareness.”
On a day-to-day basis, Margaret says we are all “Oscar-winning performers” and need to be more open when it comes to carrying our burdens. Even with me, people would say ‘look at this woman’ and they would never believe the pain that is in her heart.”
One of the messages she is keen to push is that when people are going through a tough time, when they are in a calm state and rational that they should list five people they could speak to, before they got overwhelmed and start to entertain dreadful thoughts. “I call it the high five - the five people they have chosen - whether they are cousins, friends, or peers who they admire, or their parents.”
While there are days when she struggles, Margaret, a nurse in St John’s Hospital, says that for the most part she has found a new meaning and purpose in life connecting with others to try to turn the tide on suicide.
“I have chosen to live life to the full and enjoy every minute,” she smiles. “What helped me the most to get through the guilt - because a huge thing you have afterwards is blame and guilt - is the mantra I live by: ‘I did the best I could, in the circumstances I was in, with the information available to me at that time. And if I did all those well, I have no regrets. I think you can use that for anything in your life. That has helped me to have peace and acceptance in my heart.”