Tuesday 16 October 2018

'I wouldn't be a spiritual person but Darkness Into Light is the most spiritual thing I've done in my life'

Case study: Frankie Connolly, Donegal

Trying to make sense of it all: Frankie Connolly describes his mother Teresa as the 'nicest, friendliest person you could ever meet'
Trying to make sense of it all: Frankie Connolly describes his mother Teresa as the 'nicest, friendliest person you could ever meet'

Frankie Connolly will never forget that phone call five years ago. Earlier that morning his mother Teresa (67) had taken her own life.

His father had passed away after a stroke the previous November and his mother slipped into depression afterwards.

For Frankie, a psychiatric nurse, the shock is still reverberating. He describes his mother as the "nicest, friendliest person you could ever meet" and he says her neighbours in her home town of Falcarragh in Co Donegal were devastated at her death.

"The Christmas after my father died was a very lonely period for her. We could see she wasn't herself. Loneliness would have played a big part in it."

Frankie recalls arriving at his mother's home after his father had a stroke and seeing the ambulance outside. "I could see my mum standing on her own. It was a steady decline after that. She hid everything from us and she became almost reclusive in a way," he says.

"They told me to go to the morgue at a certain time to identify the body. I remember they pulled back the sheet. I was looking at my Mum and I said 'that's not her, it's not her'. My brain wouldn't allow me to register it. My wife Natasha identified her. My brain just wouldn't allow me to go there," says Frankie.

"I struggled myself for a long time after that. I've got my own family and I have to get on with it," he says.

In his work as a psychiatric nurse Frankie says he has dealt with many people with post-traumatic stress. He believes his mother was dealing with this after his father died so quickly.

"In small town Ireland when someone dies, through suicide or not, the way the community pulls together is incredible. The support I got is amazing. I'm still very raw. I could logically give lots of reasons why it happened but to be involved in it is shocking and devastating. You can't grasp it until you've experienced it," says Frankie.

Last year Frankie decided to do Darkness Into Light in Falcarragh in honour of his mother and to raise funds for Pieta House. He set up a page and within a matter of days he'd raised over €3,500.

"I wouldn't be a spiritual person but Darkness Into Light is the most spiritual thing I've ever done in my life. You go down into a wooded area and you walk into a walled area. There was a choir singing and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

"It's really about the people Pieta House are helping. In my work I'm at the forefront of what's going on. I can see what people are dealing with," says Frankie.

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