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Hope amidst the madness of grief

Updated: Apr 5

At my daughter’s funeral in the summer of 2016, people told me I would never get over Ciara’s death and that I would take it to my grave.

They meant well—it was probably their way of telling me that they felt my pain. But those words filled me with deep despair and panic. A panic that I would have found it impossible to function with the excruciating pain I felt when Ciara was cruelly snatched from us. A pain that at times left me unable to breathe, and I truly felt my heart had split in two.  John and I also had to think about the two boys and their pain at losing their only sister.

I was consumed by overwhelming grief and, unfortunately, had to experience it. Every day, I would lie on Ciara's bed and cry. My friends would call me every day, take me for walks in secluded places, and have coffee together. In the evenings, we would drink several glasses of wine, and I would quietly listen to them talk since I couldn't bring myself to speak

The constant music in Ciara’s room stopped, and the incessant chatter from her friends stopped. Some days, I would come home to find 10-15 girls in the house, or  I could find Ciara singing and dancing on the kitchen table.

That all stopped.

When people stopped calling, there was a deafening silence in the house.

The last sixteen months have undoubtedly been the toughest for us, but we have survived so far thanks to the support of family, old friends, new friends, and the wider Kilkenny community.

Our friends wanted to do something for John and me. Last May, a golf classic and walk were organized in her name, and we set up The Ciara Lawlor Memorial. The charities we chose were the Heart Appeal and Firstlight (Bereavement Support). The event raised a staggering €27,000. I honestly cannot take credit for any of it. I was truly carried on a wave of unselfish support by my friends and by the kindness of the community in Kilkenny. People donated prizes for the Golf Classic.

Kodaline kindly gave us a signed guitar to raffle. They also immortalized our daughter’s memory in a beautiful song, which they asked us to put on their upcoming album. Their gesture has touched us beyond words.

On this terrible journey of grief, we have met a lot of good people along the way and continue to do so. 

A few months ago, I was paying my respects at a neighbour's house whose 37-year-old  son passed away from a long-term illness.  At their house, the man’s mother told me that I had given her hope. She said that a few evenings earlier, she had left the hospital knowing her son only had days to live, and on her way home, she saw me walking with a friend, and I was laughing, and she said that gave her hope.  I hope that in time, she, too, will be able to laugh again.

I swim, run, and do a bit of a Forrest Gump and just keep running. These are great for my head and help curtail the constant flow of tears, even the invisible ones. Fortunately, I found something to help with the pain and utter madness that goes with grief and I hope other people put in the same unfortunate situation will find something to help them.

Those initial thundering waves of suffocating grief do decrease over the months—each wave gets a little smaller, but grief will never go away. Grief will make you angry. Grief is all-consuming. It is 24/7 and will affect your concentration. You may go in a state of shock, and often you will feel you are going mad. 

There will always be someone missing from the family dinner table, and there will always be someone missing from family photographs. But those initial earth-shattering waves of grief that John and I felt have gotten smaller into an ever-flowing ripple of grief that has become more tolerable. The pain is still constant, but it is not as raw.

It is still a long road ahead for our family, and I know it will be hard. Some days I feel like screaming and shouting, but for me, friends and family, running, swimming and having little goals has helped. This might not work for everyone, and I hope people keep searching and find something that works for them. 

We have lost our only daughter. Ciara’s brothers have lost their only sister, and this saddens me for them. I am angry that this happened to us, but I have to live with that.

Our beautiful daughter’s friendships reached far beyond her family, friends, and school. She was not only generous with her smile but also indiscriminate with her bubbly personality. In her short journey, she always had a kind word for everyone she met. She made them laugh and always made them feel good about themselves. 

I would have died for Ciara, but she died before me. I have to try to keep living.  It’s different, but I have to keep going for my husband, my boys, my family, for my friends and more importantly for my beautiful Ciara.

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