2017 started really positively for me, I needed to lose weight, get healthier and this was the year I was going to do it. The weight loss began immediately, I joined a slimming club and had positive losses every week, I could walk more (which was something I always enjoyed) and life was looking good. One of my focusses was my youngest sons Graduation in September and how I really wanted him to be proud to stand next to me.
Niall was due to finish University in early May and we were making plans for our summer break to be a celebration but also, with my weight loss, enjoy being able to be more active, there was a good vibe running through our family. Niall did seem a little subdued when I saw him in the holidays but when asked he said it was the pressure of 3rd year and that he was fine.
The evening of May 4th 2017 is one that will be permanently etched on my memory, the transport police arrived at our home to tell us that a young man they believed was our youngest son had been involved in an incident at a level crossing in Canterbury and was dead. I couldn’t comprehend it and wouldn’t believe it was him even though deep down I knew. As the hours unfurled a suicide note came to light and the reality set in.
The following weeks were auto pilot, we had to get our oldest son back from Australia, organise a funeral, support ourselves, his girlfriend and his group of friends, I often reflect now as to how I did all this but you just do. I did all this with that nagging guilt of letting him down and that incessant question of why going round my head. One of the worst things was not being able to say goodbye or see him for one last time.
I wasn’t looking after myself the best I could but then I woke up one morning and thought I could just let everything I’ve achieved go or I could keep going as he would have wanted me to do, so I decided to keep going. The weight continued to go and the walking increased. As a family we found it a great support, we would walk for miles and talk about him freely. It was almost like the outside space gave us the freedom to express things we struggled to within our home, it became a cathartic exercise for us all.
I attended his inquest the first week in September where a conclusion of suicide was recorded, I wasn’t shocked as this had been my belief from very early on and I have been campaigning, raising awareness and fundraising for better mental health awareness since then. A week later I attended his Graduation – he was awarded a posthumous 2:1. I was very proud but oh so sad too, he should have been there to receive it himself!
My personal journey continued and my walking increased tremendously, my oldest son suggested running might be fun for me. I was shocked at first, the idea of me running 11 months previously was quite laughable but now I was quite receptive. So he bought me an early birthday present of running shoes and I began running in January 2018.
In January I took part in RED (run every day) January, the winterwalk and continued to walk to work every day (approx. 3 miles). I hit my weight loss target in early February, 5 stone 7.5 lbs gone forever and am now embarking on Miles for Mind.
None of these will bring back my gorgeous, funny, intelligent boy but they help me to focus and have a reason to go on and if the fundraising helps just one family not go through the nightmare of suicide it’s got to be worth it!
#rememberingniall #happyandsaddays #itsokaynototbeokay #mind
Thank you Niamh for sharing your story. As part of #MilesForMind we want to raise money for Mind and also awareness of mental health issues.