A WOMAN who has suffered the devastating heartache of losing both her husband and son to suicide within two years has skydived to raise funds for a charity which has helped her and others recover from their bereavement.
Margaret O’Connor, a 49-year-old nurse and mother of two from Raheen, saw her world turned upside down her her husband Christy died on April 17, 2010. He was 53 years old, and they had been married for 22-and-a-half years.
“The devastating events that unfolded changed our lives forever,” she said of the last day that he left to go to work.
“He was my best friend, the person I trusted completely. My world was turned up side down. For a long time I felt so low I lost interest in life,” said Margaret.
It took a while, she said, to find the will to live again, to muster the energy to smile, and “to walk outside the door and face the world again”.
But gradually, after months of counselling along her deep faith, she began to find her solace through meeting friends, reading books, meditation and travelling to New York, where her other son Raymond, 25, emigrated three years ago. She didn’t imagine her life could have gotten any worse until her son Stevie (Steven) died by suicide on August 5, 2012. He was just 20 years of age.
Now, determined that their deaths should not be in vain she dedicates some of her time to volunteering with Console, to help others come through their own grief.
She said her family and friends, and her 72-year-old mother were “her rock”, who helped her through this unimaginable time, along with Console, a national organisation supporting people in suicidal crisis and those bereaved by suicide through professional counselling.
“I knew I had to get better, I knew that I needed help and that I couldn’t do it on my own. For me Console was another lifeline. They were understanding, genuinely caring, easy to talk to and they helped me to verbalise the intense pain I had,” she said.
She joined a support group, meeting with people who were at “different stages of grief” and seeing how they were surviving gave her the strength to keep going.
“No problem is so bad that it can’t be sorted if it is shared. But that is the choice you have to make. Today people are focusing too much on death and dying. They’re not focusing on living. People are seeing it [death] as an option.”
Margaret does not want to examine publicly the ‘whys’ involved in either death, and feels in general that the question is unhelpful to those grieving such a death.
“An awful lot of people dwell on the ‘why’. Why did the person do it? The people that are left behind are left tormented by that for the rest of their lives. We take over where they left off, and we never know really what the reason was. We could have 100 reasons, but we don’t know at the end of the day what went on in their heads.
Now, she regularly speaks at talks organised by Console to help others, and imparts the advice that has helped her. “When you have gone through what I have gone through you find hidden strength that is unbelievable. Strength isn’t in the things we do every day, it’s in the things we never thought we could do. In time, the feelings of guilt, the blame, the shock and the pain will pass and they won’t hurt as bad,” she said.
In the years she has spent recovering from her loss, she has something of a mantra that has helped her through.
“I did the best I could in the circumstances I was in, with the information that was available to me at that time. I live by that - it helps with the burden of grief and guilt. That message is something you could apply to anyone’s life when they’re in stress.”
This August was a poignant time for Margaret, as it coincided with the two-year anniversary of her son’s death. So she did something special to remember him.
“The skydive was just breath-taking, an experience of a lifetime. It’s a really worthwhile thing to do and I would recommend it to anyone to do it for charity,” she said. To date, she has raised €1,500 for Console.
“This is my way of repaying them for helping me through a really tragic time.”
Contact Console on www.console.ie/ or on their helpline 1800 247 247, or through their counselling centre in Limerick on 061 306792. - To make a donation to Console, log on to http://www.mycharity.ie/event/margaret_connors_event/