Me and My Grief

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Grief sucks. Here's why.

Submitted: May 31, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: May 30, 2017




"It'll take time"

"They will always be looking down"

"You have time to make them proud"


To whom it may concern,


My name is Padraig Martin Francis O'Carroll (Pronounced; Paw-drig).

I am twenty one years of age.

I am from a small village called Lixnaw, in County Kerry, in Ireland.


Now that I have introduced myself, it's time for a story. 

See that woman in my profile picture? That's my Mother Helen. 

In March 2016, my Mother began to lose her ability to walk. I laughed at the prospect of her never recovering. But she didn't. In September 2016, she wouldn't leave her bed because she felt she had become a burden to myself and my family, because we had to carry her everywhere.

I nonchalantly scoffed at this, it was just a hiccup on the road to recovery, she'll be fine I thought.

On November 15th 2016, my Mother was admitted to hospital to detect the problem. In retrospect, this occurred about six months too late, but we desperately sought a diagnosis.

How could a woman who constantly travelled on a bicycle and walked and danced like there was no tomorrow suddenly cease mobility? It made no sense. 

And to make matters worse. She refused to do a lumbar puncture procedure due to her unsubstantiated fear of injections. And she also refused the alternative solution, which was to drink some sort of dye compound. These were the phobias she had from childhood. I don't know whether they were psychological reasons or just a general fear but she remained adamant that she wouldn't do either of them. This ultimately led to her release. 

She stayed in hospital until January 17th 2017 (missing Christmas as a result), when she was moved to a nursing home. She was the youngest patient in this nursing home, she was only sixty five, in comparison to the average age of seventy two for the home's patients.

She hated that place. She was agitated, irritated, upset, angry. She was a collective barrage of every human emotion imaginable, with the exception of happiness, something she sorely lacked. 

Then it all came to a head. When she was transferred from hospital to the nursing home, she had developed a blood clot from a severe lack of mobility. That was ominous.

Even more precariously, she developed a chest infection, which initially seemed inconsequential.

And it was inconsequential.

Until, April 22nd 2017.

My Mother was complaining of respiratory difficulty to my Brother in the nursing home, at which point, she was taken back to hospital.

I went to see her and she seemed her usual jovial self, she was dehydrated due to the oxygen machine but her personality remained intact. If ever I wanted a crystal ball, it was that day. 

The next day, my sisters, Nicola and Grace travelled to Cork City, (Lovely city, lovely people,rubbish football team).

My Mother was transferred to Cork to get a pacemaker fitted, and once at again, I scoffed at the prospect of any long term repercussions. I presumed she would be fine. 

At 10 O'Clock that night, my sister Nicola rang me to tell me that my Mother had suffered a heart attack. I knew in that moment, my mom was going to die. 

And therein lies the significance of the quotations that precede my introduction.

To continue this story, I must go back about eight years. 

I'll keep this short but when I was thirteen, my Father Brendan, died.

That is a kick in the balls that a young teen doesn't need, but it happened anyway.

He went into cardiac arrest on 16th November 2008, in my bathroom. Such is the arrogance of youth, I believed he would be fine. He wasn't.

On November 21st 2008, at half past three. My Dad died.

I never felt like I cared that he was dead. In fact, I resent him a little bit for having left me stranded at this age. He could've drank less alcohol etc etc. But as you'll see in a minute, I now know that I was so young and I hadn't a fucking clue how to cope with grief. I did not truly deal with my Dad's death until 2016, when I was twenty. It's no longer a subject that causes me discomfort and grief. 

And while I still did resent him a bit, I now know in the first thirteen years of my life, no one loved me more. I had become so bitter, I forgot the man was one of the two best friends I ever had. The other was my mom.

The way in which Nicola delivered the news about my mom, was exactly the same tone she had delivered the news about my dad eight and a half years previously.

My brother Justin collected me, Nicola and Grace and we travelled to Cork. After driving for what felt like seventeen billion light years, (Cork City is a two hour drive from our part of Kerry), we arrived at our destination.

After a waiting period, we saw my poor mommy hooked up to wires on life support. Part of my spirit died right there and then. 

What my sisters had neglected to mention about the reason she ended up in Cork was because her heart had stopped three times the previous night. I am forever grateful that they didn't, because I had spent the day on my own, I would've been freaking out alone otherwise. 

The oxygen supply to her brain during her cardiac arrests (yes. Plural. She got two of them.) had been so detrimental that she was essentially brain dead. The exact same way my Dad died in 2008.

I could tell you about the week. A week in which we had spent the majority of it waiting for our mom to die. But I'll just skip ahead to;



I woke up at 8 O'Clock in the morning. I had a cup of tea and a cigarette. 

Myself, my sister Nicola and her boyfriend Colm travelled to Cork with my other sister, Grace and her husband Ger, who drove. In what can only be categorised as a horrible coincidence, it just so happened to be Grace and Ger's 15th wedding anniversary.

My brother Justin travelled in his car with his partner Amanda and my other brother Ciaran.

All five of us and the three respective partners arrived at 11 O'Clock.

We were greeted by my Uncle Eddie Joe (my Dad's brother) and his wife Bernie (they lived in Cork).

At half past 11, my Uncle Brendan (my Mom's brother) arrived with his wife Mary. 

At half past 12, they turned off her life support.

We spend the next two and a half hours waiting. 


Just waiting.

At five minutes past three in the afternoon, after hours of head rubbing and last goodbyes, my mother Helen died surrounded by her loved ones. 

I will never forget the scream Nicola let off. It's exactly how I felt, I was just too numb to express my dissonance.

The rest of the day was a blur except for the fact that we had to inform her grandchildren. That would be my Nieces Lauryn, Jade and Kelsey and my nephews Adam and Ben. My youngest nephew Jack is only two, so he'll unfortunately never remember her. 

The next few days floated away, they just floated. 

In a usual departure from my shy, anxious, walking on eggshells mentality, I decided to give the eulogy at her funeral. Death has an amazing way off changing your perspective. Normally, I would've been too scared to speak in front of one person but I got an assured confidence from somewhere and I delivered the eulogy very competently.

There was only one thought that kept entrancing my brain while I was delivering the eulogy. 

In February 2017, My Auntie Maura (My Dad's sister) died.

At her funeral mass, her son (by pure coincidence, his name is Padraig too) delivered her eulogy. All I kept thinking was that he was very brave and that he is a great orator. He spoke with such passion and conviction about his Mom. I admired that. 

I also wondered if I would ever have to give a eulogy. As you can imagine, I didn't expect to have to do it two months later. I felt guilty for having thought like that.



It's been a month. A long fucking month. 

Upon introspection, it's difficult to communicate how I fell but I have to try. 

I feel like the worst son ever. All my mom wanted was for me to talk to her and I do that half the time because I was too busy. What the fuck was I too busy doing exactly? Was I busy being the underachieving wanker I always have been? Yes. Yes I was. 

My mom wanted company and I was always too busy. 

I feel like a complete prick. 

Would it have killed me to talk to her more? 

No is the answer to that question.

But to quote the mystery writer Fulton Oursler (Aka Anthony Abbot).

Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves - regret for the past and fear of the future

I believe he was very accurate with that one.


Now don't get me wrong. I truly do appreciate the gestures, support and love that I have received. The local community have been superb, my family have continued to prove their claim as the greatest family ever and my friends have been amazing.

But let me put this into perspective. 

Five lives have been drastically altered by this bereavement.

But my siblings have an advantage.

Grace and Justin have their families. 

Nicola has her job and her boyfriend.

Ciaran takes care of an old man who is essentially his second father. 

I know those comparisons may seem unfair and insignificant. But my World revolved around my Mom.

In a way, she was all I had. 

And even though I have outlined the fantastic support network I have, it doesn't help me with the fact that I have never felt so alone. Having lost a Father at thirteen, my Mother took on both roles in her stride.

Now I feel like a lost soul. Completely isolated from reality.  

It makes adjusting and coping to this situation that little bit more difficult.



I wish I wasn't bitter about this. I truly do. But, I've lost both my parents by the age of 21. I have earned the right to complain.

I am pissed off and angry. Partially at my Mother for not keeping her health in check, but the poor woman was probably suffering immensely, there's no point in being angryband resentful at her when I know she was so ill.

So how does it feel to have lost both of your parents by age 21?

You start to feel that life is unfair. You ask wasn't one enough? You curse at everything and everyone. You wish to go back to the worst arguments you had with them because they suddenly seem better than this shit. You can't cope with the thought of having no one to turn to at a still rather delicate age. 

And I'd like to tell you that it gets better, but until the one year anniversary, it just gets worse and worse because you past the date of every significant milestone that has occurred. And you obsess over what your future now looks like, it starts to feel non existent. 

You compare yourself to people who have experienced worse and try to take solace from that. But it doesn't help, in fact, it makes you feel worse.  

You obsess over everything you did to them. The amount of times you broke their heart. You don't focus on the positives, just the regrets you have and the misery you caused.

You try to stay positive but your mind won't let you. And you want to lock yourself into a room and never come out. But there is no pause button on life, it continues without you, regardless of whether you like it or not.

And that's the reality. They're gone and you're here and that sucks.



There is one positive that helps in its own small way.  

My Mother's death has given me a renewed perspective on my Father's death.  

Whereas before I was bitter and resentful. I understand now. I am not a terrible human being for not caring, I was just too young to understand what death was. I have also learned that my dad would've done anything to be here for me. I can't resent him for dying, that is absolutely preposterous, but a pubescent mind is absolutely toxic, I want you to remember that.

I have now truly accepted my Father's death and I'm actually alright with that, unfortunately, I now have another death to contend with. Maybe that's karma.

I also went through his entire funeral without shedding a tear. With the power of hindsight, that's not an accomplishment I'm particularly proud of. It may seem like an achievement when I was thirteen. At twenty one, it feels disgraceful. 

But I can explain. I was bullied relentlessly as a child and I led myself to believe that tears were a sign of weakness. I didn't want people to think I was weak. I had to be strong.

Another form of closure comes in the form of tears. I know that doesn't seem to make sense but it does.

When I found out my Mom's death was as an inevitability. I cried interminably. It's almost most as if I was grieving twice. Once for my mom and once for my dad. And maybe I was. Time will definitely tell on that one.

But at least I had eradicated years of bitterness about my dry eyes at his funeral.



It really doesn't matter how you grieve. The outcome is still there.  Your loved one has died and you must learn to accept that. It can feel like climbing Mount Everest in a suit with no oxygen tanks, but if I can offer any consolation, it's this. 

You will learn to adapt. If you can't adapt, you won't survive. At least that's what I believe.

I can't tell anyone about how to deal with grief. That's their own prerogative.

But I can tell you about myself. 

I know the greatest honour of my life will be being the youngest son of Helen and Brendan O'Carroll. 

Life can take away both of my parents but it cannot take away the joy I have from telling people that.  

I poured my frustrations on a page because I needed to express myself. It's the first productive thing I have done in a month, at least it justifies my existence to myself. This is the middle of my story, so I can't tell you how this story ends but I have the potential to give it a happy ending.

Maybe, just maybe, this is the creative spark I have yearned. Maybe this will help someone cope with their own grief. Maybe no one will read it. Those statements are tinged with a substantial amount of uncertainty.

But what is certain is this. 

I am certain that I will recover. I am certain I will retain my ability to love. I am certain that I will remain a beacon of hope to myself, because if I can accept another parent dying, then I can do anything. All I need is focus and time. 

That's about as positive as I can be for now.

Because I am still grieving.

I am still learning.

I am still recovering.

I am still accepting.

But crucially, I am still Padraig O'Carroll. And that will never change. 

Where does the future hold? I'm not sure. But I know it's mine. And that's enough.

So that's not the greatest conclusion but it's the best I can do. 


All I can say is thank you for taking the time to read this. I really appreciate it.


Yours faithfully,

Padraig O'Carroll.


Dedicated to the memory of Brendan O'Carroll



Dedicated to the memory of Helen O'Carroll (née McMahon)







© Copyright 2019 Padraig O'Carroll. All rights reserved.

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