Me and My Grief - One Year On

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

On the anniversary of my mother's death (otherwise known as the worst day of my life) I just wanted to express how I feel about it now.

My name is Padraig O’Carroll.

I am 22 years of age.

I am from the Bog Road in Ballinageragh, Lixnaw in County Kerry.

One year ago today, I lost my mother Helen and about one month later, I wrote an essay called “Me and My Grief” which you can find in the following link if you would like to read how I felt in the immediate aftermath of her death.


I really felt that I was done with publishing my writing after I wrote that essay because I am too much of a perfectionist when it comes to publically expressing myself. As some people may or may not be aware, I wrote an essay on having an anxiety disorder but I deleted it because I felt it was not good enough, no one told me that it was a bad piece of writing except me and I would not publish something that I didn’t think was good enough and it wasn’t, it was a contrived crock of shit criticising everyone around me while taking absolutely no responsibility for how truly awful I am at being a human being.

I was also going to delete my essay on grief, but I realised that that might actually help someone understand and to feel comfortable with the feelings they have in the aftermath of a potentially traumatic experience and its there for anyone who feels they need to read about how I felt during my own time where I was overwhelmed with grief.

I have always relied on my ability to write as a way to express myself and in the past year I have used writing as a coping mechanism. I write words down when I believe I have said something profound in my head and, usually, it’s not very profound, but I always feel some thoughts are worth remmebering so I keep a journal. 

So why have I decided to publish another essay today?

Because one year ago today, my mother Helen died and today I feel dreadful and I am trying to inform people that April 27th is a dreadful date and I cannot cope with that date because it has already made me feel uncomfortable (Go see a counsellor or someone whp cares, yeah smart man, I already do). I detest how suddenly one year has passed and the date itself conjures up all the intense and negative emotions that I experienced this day last year, why does one date have so much power?

The logical answer is that I have made a mental connection to the ill-fated event of this day last year and I can’t cope with that. I have been awake since 10 o’clock this morning and I didn’t want to get out of bed today. I just wanted to sleep it off in the hopes that I would be able to just pass this date entirely and I could wake up tomorrow and I would be alright again but of course life does not work like that.

I can still remember everything that I did on April 27th 2017. I can still remember waking up at 8 o’clock in the morning and feeling like the World was about to end but I was wrong, my World was going to change, but my World didn’t end. This morning, I woke up and it felt like the World was about to end, but so far I have been wrong, yes, my World is still changing, but it has not ended. I then had a cup of tea and I smoked a cigarette. I did the same thing this morning. I still remember leaving Kerry to go to Cork with both of my sisters and their respective partners to confirm what had been painfully evident for the entire week; that our mom was about to die. This morning, I just lived in a vacuous bubble of a past reality where I am reliving the worst day of my life, but at least today, I don’t actually have to relive the nightmare. I also haven’t spent my night dwelling on how truly appalling I was at being a son, but the night has not yet occurred, so I am not sure how that will go.

Words are really the only thing that I have at this moment, I really feel like I have lost my Mother all over again, why does this fucking date decide that I have to be miserable again? There’s a simple answer to that question; because I’m allowing a date to have that amount of power over me, well, now it can fuck off.

So how do I get it to fuck off? Well, I can start by recognising that my mom would not want me to be upset, so I will start by expressing myself on this difficult day.

By reading my first essay, I have noticed that I never actually spoke about my mother. I mean I did, but it was predominantly just about her death. So, let me tell you about my mom, Helen O’Carroll, the wife of 1 husband, the sister to 2 brothers, the mother of 5 children and the grandmother of 6 grandchildren. My mother was a devout Catholic, who was headstrong in her opinion on any subject and who was frustrated when you couldn’t get the frequency for Radio Kerry on Sunday night. A woman who would chase her son around the field with a rake when her son when he annoyed her and yet she would always give me money nonetheless (which was much to her chagrin). She was a woman who told me that I would never get a job but also a woman who supported me in any decision I made wholeheartedly. She was always on her bicycle visiting her friends (and by God, there were many friends to keep track of in my mind, it has become a bit embarrassing mixing up Mary with Bridget).

Helen O’Carroll liked to have a laugh with her friends and family and for the love of God, do not interrupt her while they played the country and western songs on Radio Kerry because you would get chased by the brush. I also remember she would have about 50 cups of tea a day (which most likely explains why I drink so much tea) and she would always put the hot water in and then she would immediately follow that up by putting in the milk and that used to absolutely disgust me because who puts in the milk first? Like, I have never seen anything that audacious before or since, who fucking puts milk in with the hot water? (I still cannot get over this and I really regret not asking who showed her how to make tea).

What I loved most about my mom though was her ability to produce the most spontaneous and bizarre one-liners you could ever imagine, these included but they are not limited to; “I should be on top of that Christmas tree because I’m the real star” “My phone went off in mass and now they’re going to think I’m unholy” “Where’s Spain Padraig, is that in Africa?” and my personal favourite “Those messages you brought wouldn’t choke a duck!” because Padraig decided to bring the wrong milk so he could scrounge a few quid for rollies.

Another aspect of her personality is how she would describe her children depending on whether we were in her crosshairs or not. A prime example pertains to me obviously because one day I was a human being who would not take out the rubbish, which made me public enemy number one and she would then chastise me for my laziness, usually it was coupled with the sentence “I have seen dead ducks work harder” or else I would play Xbox for too long and she would come in and say “lights out Padraig” which was great craic when you’re trying to finish a level where you can’t save the game.

Of course, on the other end of the spectrum, apparently I was the smartest person she ever met. I remember that I once calculated her spending in town and she said “how did you do that?” as if it was that difficult to put basic sums together, and then she would go around Lixnaw village and tell everyone that her son was a genius, which I will admit was nice despite that statement being inaccurate. I know for a fact though, she believed in me wholeheartedly, I could make a minor commitment to something and she was off on a tangent about how successful I was going to be. I’ll give you an example, I was once singing along to a song on my phone and she then spent three hours showing me how I was going to be a successful musician or when I wrote an essay that one person complimented, she was convinced that I was going to be an English teacher.

If I was to attempt to summarise my mom, I would say that she was a frustrating, annoying and altogether head-wrecking person who had the best of intentions for everyone she loved, whether that was her friends or her family, she only saw the best in everybody, and she just wanted them to be happy.

To really highlight my words, I remember what Fr. Brick said about my mom at her funeral. He said “in a World that feels like it is now moving at a faster pace, Helen was an exception, because to Helen, people were the most important thing and everything else was secondary”. I could not have summed her up better myself, because before or after mass, she would be in conversation with any number of people and this was also applicable when she would cycle to the shop as she could and, in all likelihood, would meet any number of people to have a conversation with, which was a pain in the arse when you’re waiting for milk for your tea, because I would then have to cycle after her to retrieve the milk.

Everything I have listed, I miss dearly everyday and there is most likely 2 million more things I could have added, but I just can’t think, still, I believe it provides a rather candid image of the woman my Mother was.

If I had a chance to speak to my mother one more time, then I would apologise for the years of annoyance that I put her through, I would apologise for the nights where I stayed out and I never came home, I would apologise for not getting my act together on time, I would apologise for every curse and insult I labelled at her, I would apologise for every one of my stupid decisions that made her life harder and I would tell her that I love her very much and I am grateful to have had a unique and warm person as a mother. Of course, it’s too late to tell her that now, but what I can do now is remember what a brilliant human being she was and I have to tell as many people as I can that my mom was the best mom you could hope to have.

I was at her anniversary mass on Monday night and Fr. Brick spoke about how her singing voice was missed from the celebration of mass (which is one of the 2 million things that I forgot to mention, she loved to sing and she always sang her socks off in the church, I don’t know why, she just loved to sing and she was quite good in fairness).

While he was saying mass and while we remembered her, I stumbled across a thought. Why was mass so important to her? I mean, she would have gone to mass every day of the year if that was possible, she even went when it was raining, fuck it, if she was alive during the snow we had in late February and there was mass on in the Church, I guarantee you that she would have gone to mass. But she never told me why she was always at mass. To be fair, I don’t think I ever asked, but she was adamant that she had to go to mass, no matter what. So, at mass on Monday night, I think I cracked the code. During her funeral, I felt a sense of peace amongst the chaos. On Monday night, I felt the same sense of peace. That was it. My mom lost a lot of people in her own life, which includes her mom, her dad, and her husband. I now truly think that that was why she was always there; for the peace and tranquillity. It gave her a chance to reflect on what she has lost and it most likely made her appreciate her own life. I know that now because that is exactly how I felt on Monday night, I felt peace. I think that that is the most subtle lesson she could have ever thought me, not exactly going to mass because myself and the Catholic Church aren’t exactly best mates at the moment (we won’t talk about it here) but she was encouraging me to follow her example and find peace and I feel a lot more peaceful now that I wrote this essay. Even beyond the grave, my mom is still somehow teaching me life lessons and that should really underline how incredible she was.

I’d now like to just reflect on myself and the year I have had. I have just completed a PLC at the Kerry College for Further Education and I am fairly confident that I have got good results after my exams during the week which will hopefully lead me on to the next step (which I am still undecided about, again, we won’t talk about) it was a place where I met quite a lot of nice people, who I am now going to miss seeing every day, but that’s not my point. My point is not giving an in-depth outline of what I have or haven’t done since last April 27th; rather it is to tell you what I have learned. I have learned a lot from the course certainly, but more importantly, I learned one significant lesson: That I am beyond grateful to be alive.

I am grateful that I get to wake up every morning, I am grateful that I have been able to study something that interested me, I am grateful that I have a chance to redeem myself for my many misgivings on an academic level, I am grateful that my friends are the funniest group of people that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, I am grateful that my family are quite a loving and supportive family, I am grateful that I get to be an uncle to three nieces and three nephews who I absolutely adore, I am grateful that I have the ability to express myself with words, I am grateful that I get to walk, I am grateful that I can see, I am grateful that I can hear and most of all, I am grateful that I was the son of a mom and dad who adored me and who taught me many important lessons in life.

I remember last year, a few people would label “brave” or an “inspiration” and while I am absolutely flattered to be labelled with such nice words that fill me with positive vibes, I have to dispute the accuracy of these words because I don’t feel they are true. There is nothing brave about what I have done, there are thousands of people in Ireland who have done what I have done (attend a PLC college), the difference is that I am only 22 and I have lost both of my parents, but that doesn’t make me brave, it’s just what I have to do, I have to make sure I remember the lessons my parents taught me and just because I am able to express that via constructing some syntax in relation to my grief, it doesn’t make me brave, I have committed many, I really mean many, cowardly acts in the past year, there is absolutely nothing brave about me. I also dispute what could be so inspiring about me because when you eliminate all the bollocks, I’m just a boy who decided to get on with life, there is nothing inspiring about that, it’s what I imagine most people realise that have to do amidst all of their pain, they have to get on with their life.

So while I am grateful for all the plaudits and platitudes, I cannot say they are true to myself because I genuinely do not believe there is anything extraordinary about me, I am a boy who has had difficult circumstances certainly, but beyond that, I am no different to any average 22 year old lad.

It has taken me two hours to express all of what I wanted to say and if you have read this to this point, I would like to say thank you for reading about my ordinary life and my extraordinary circumstances, it means the World to me that you were willing to sacrifice even a few minutes just to read what I had to say on the anniversary of the worst day of my life. I feel much better than I did two hours ago and I am grateful that I have something which helps me cope, because despite my gratitude, there has been some really hard days in the last year (namely, Mother’s Day, that was a fucking disaster, but I shall speak about that another time).

I think the last important point that I should highlight would be the comparison that I made in my own head during the week. On April 24th and April 25th 2017 I was travelling up and down from Cork with my family waiting for my mother to pass away. On April 24th and April 25th 2018, I was doing exams. I was quite taken away by that when I realised the date of my exams, because those dates in 2017 were a symbol of change but those same dates in 2018 were a symbol of progress.

I have learned a lot in the last 365 days and I think I have another piece of gratitude to express; I am grateful to be able to learn every day and that is thanks to my parents. I will finish by thanking everyone for the way they supported me in the last 12 months, I could not have got to the chance to be grateful without the support of everybody and I really feel the way that the way that Ireland deals with a bereavement (people come to the house and sympathise, people are there if you need help, people take the day off to go to a funeral, people make sandwiches, they tell stories of who has died and then we all go drinking) is the most beautiful testament to the character of the Irish people, I don’t think they do that in any other country on Earth and it really is a lovely way to deal with all the misery that death brings to a family’s life.

My name is Padraig O’Carroll and thank you for reading what I had to say.


Submitted: April 27, 2018

© Copyright 2023 Padraig O'Carroll 22. All rights reserved.

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I am so sorry about your Mum. Remain strong.

Wed, June 20th, 2018 7:05pm

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