30 Nov 2015 – Summing it up

WP_20151122_009Barry sent me this photo he took of Cilly and I during a weekend walk in our local area. He wrote on his message to me “this sums up things for me these days.” I knew in that moment it would be the next blog. I wrote back to him, “Thank you.  It’s like we are, photographer, mother, child, all watching the pure white beautiful swan as a being always there but no longer in human form.”  The buggy sits empty. The child and mother hold each other closely. The swan is among many ducks. They all drift by, out of reach, in their water home. The swan, a snowy white beauty that is present yet leaving us to be in our stillness.

I have had a lot of creative energy, angry energy and grief lately. Triggered by a chest infection that is doing the rounds as this year’s illness. It made me stop. I had to rest. I had to be still. It is when stopping happens that the body surrenders to all of the emotions within. So sure enough there was plenty that came up! I started reflecting on my work and the role I want to play in my job as a psychologist, reflecting on how we approach suffering in our health care system, listening to what I have heard a lot of people in distress (me included) say about healing, then of course all of the world events and what they are trying to teach us all…

No one can heal the world but we all play a part on the big stage of life. We can easily divide us and them, me and you, we can put a boundary there to make us feel more comfortable with all that goes on around us. For me, that isn’t healing. That is dissociating. We heal from the heart. We heal through love. We heal when we feel part of something meaningful. We heal when we feel meaningful. We heal when we connect to our own truth and when we live by that truth. We heal when we completely surrender to what is. It is amazing what I have found within this deep pain.

So I continue to surrender. Christmas is coming. There is no getting away from how utterly heart wrenching that feels right now. I never used to get how Christmas was a difficult time of year for many. My only associations with Christmas up until this year have been of cards, presents, mad frenzied shopping and not having a clue what to get people as Christmas day creeps up way too quickly, of rather too much mulled wine, singing cheesy but nice carols, watching really bad TV, decorating trees with tack, mountains of food, family gatherings, weather conditions, planes over to England, generally being busy, catching up with friends and the magic of seeing our two boys meet Santa, open their gifts and bring that special magic to Christmas that only children can.

In a heart beat, all that I knew to be Christmas fell apart, like so many other things, the day I knew our son was going to die. I stared into the matrix that day and the bubble of life as I knew it burst. Now I know the experiences so many people have at this time of year. The person who will be freezing and begging on the street, those living in war zones constantly afraid of their lives, those forced to live as refugees coping with trauma after trauma, those who live in starvation and poverty, those who are alone, those who lost someone they dearly loved. All different experiences of the same one thing: suffering. This time of year intensifies the pain. I feel it in every part of me. OISIN WILL NOT BE HERE. We go through it without him. What is Christmas without our boy. I remember the delight on his face at every Hot Wheels car he opened, at every Lightning McQueen car he opened, his delight at seeing Santa, the fun of decorating the tree. I will never see that incredible look on his face ever again. There will be one less chair at the table. One less the whole time. With every passing moment.

Then after Christmas, it is the anniversary of his death. Then after the anniversary of his death it is his 5th birthday. The dates come one after the other. I have no idea what strength will carry us through. Well actually I do. LOVE. And TRUST that we will just get through. What does “getting through” even mean. Different things to different people. For some it is managing to get out of bed and see some of the day. For some it is downing 15 pints, putting on a silly hat, wearing a smile and crumbling into darkness for a few days before the mask goes on again. That’s it. No magic formula. The bottom line is you just have to go through the pain, over and over and over again.

What do I think gets a person through it? PERMISSION. SELF LOVE. ACCEPTANCE. Permission to be as you are. To Love yourself enough to know when to say no to others and to compassionately be with your experience. Acceptance of feeling whatever thought or feeling you feel – whether it is a dark thought, a feeling of rage and fury, a feeling of terror, a deep and hollow sadness or elated joy and peace. They belong to you. They are yours. Own them. Be with them and give them compassion. Accept without any GUILT or feeling that you SHOULDN’T feel or think this way – that’s when you run into trouble. All these secondary feelings are the guys to toss out! Mr GUILT and Little Miss SHOULD and Mrs SHAME and Mr HOW DARE YOU THINK SUCH  A THING and Ms JUST PICK YOURSELF UP AND GET OVER YOURSELF. Get them out the door and get back to your PERMISSION to feel whatever way you want to – feelings and thoughts in themselves do not harm. You can be with them in the most silent and still ways. You can be with them just in your breath, in your tears, in your creativity. But these secondary guys – they can cause trouble. And they are usually the voices of others, voices of the past, voices of a culture. They are NOT YOURS. Let them out. You have enough on with this one single experience that you are just trying to be with.  Just trying to “get through.” Okay so there’s my rant and on we go….

In anticipation of a very difficult Christmas ahead, Barry, Cilly and I are travelling to Norway. We have some friends there who we are in gratitude to, for offering us their home and kindness. We will have an overnight stay in Roros, a beautiful mountain village where we can do some fun stuff like dog sledding, and hang out with Santa’s reindeer. More than anything, I just want Cilly to feel some Christmas magic glow in his beautiful brave heart. I want it for us all, of course, but so dearly want it for him as he goes through Christmas without his brother.

I have such a beautiful and sad memory of the day it snowed in Ballymore-Eustace last year. Oisin wasn’t walking. He was in Daddy’s arms and I was standing with them in the conservatory. We were watching Cilly, Granny and Uncle Bren outside. Then they rolled snow balls and started throwing them in the window to us for Oisin. Barry helped Oisin to throw the snow balls back out. Somehow we managed to make a snow ball fight and form a beautiful moment between us all. One I will remember. One that made me seek out a snowy place to throw snow balls again this year – and feel the breeze of Oisin on our faces, feel his energy in our throws, hear his laughter in the bitter Nordic wind.

We are in deep gratitude to all of our friends and family who have supported us through this year. Even when I have needed to be alone, I have always felt you with me. We are making plans to combine our donated funds with the hard working, lovely family of people who set up the organisation, Brain Tumour Ireland . For those of you who are friends on facebook you may have seen the fund raising 10k run/5k walk they held in Dublin on Nov. 1st. We hope to continue our connection to this group, and give our inputs into where to focus the funds. Thank you again to all of you who donated and have done various fund raising initiatives.

Peace to you all this Christmas. Hold your coldest experiences with the warmest compassion. Permission. Self Love. Acceptance.

Sheila xxx


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7 Responses to 30 Nov 2015 – Summing it up

  1. Joy Burniston says:

    Sheila, what a fantastic way of expressing the rage, sadness, loving memories, aloneness and sheer desperation at the normality of life with its gaping hole after the loss of a child. I would love to share this with a couple of friends of mine who is still suffering these feelings after 5 years since they lost their son to a brain abscess at the age of 21 and wonder if you would mind me doing this. I think it would help them to know other parents feel the same. This piece, as usual, is so beautifully written and expresses the absolute desolation of loss among the ‘life has to go on’. I applaud your courage, spirit and eloquence and send my blessings for your Christmas.xx


    • Dear Joy. What a beautiful name you have. Thank you for your message and in reply, please share it. It is a public blog and it is healing to know that it can reach out, connect and bring an experience to others. Blessings, Sheila xx


  2. Ellie says:


    Thank you for sharing your feelings in such a beautiful and poetic way. I have been wrapped up in my new found happiness for the last few of months I feel blessed to be reminded of how precious life is and how we should never take it for granted. No one can begin to imagine what losing a child must be like unless they have experienced themselves, but I am thinking of you all especially in this run up to Christmas. I really hope it isn’t too hard for you and that you continue to feel Oisin’s presence in nature.

    Lots of love to you all
    Ellie xxx


  3. Rod Wilton says:

    Dear Sheila. For a long time we have guessed at what was deep in your heart. In your latest blog the door to your heart is wide open and we can see everything laid bare. In a strange way, your words and thoughts hold a beauty of their own.
    As I write this, I’ve just looked over my shoulder at our Orchid plant that is about to bloom. It always blooms on the shortest day darkest day of the year. It can’t get rid of the short dark day, but it reminds us that there is still life and beauty going on.
    I am also reminded of a song your grandmother used to sing, I can’t remember all the words, but I can remember the first line, “It’s always darkest before the dawn ———-”
    Dad xxx


  4. Frances says:

    Dear Sheila, Barry and Cillian,
    I just wanted to let you know I often think of you and Oisin and especially now in the lead up to Christmas. Thank you Sheila for sharing your thoughts and feelings so openly and frankly and yet with so much hope. It has helped me a lot in my own life.
    Wishing you comfort and strength and that you continue to feel Oisin’s presence radiating around you. Frances (EI) xxx


  5. Esther Maher O'Keeffe. says:

    I shall be thinking of you and all of the Boland family at this time Sheila. I did not bother putting up decorations this Christmas but I do have my Crib in my hall and I find it relaxing to look into. I honestly don’t know why. I think that I was probably too lazy to drag all the stuff from my attic down to my sitting room and proceed with this huge chore. I don’t feel any different because the place is not flashing with coloured lights and tinsel. It is the first Christmas that I haven’t decorated the house. Perhaps all the sadness that 2015 brought, not alone the loss for your family of beautiful angel Oisin, but the unbearable pain that the people of Paris will have to endure has had a profound effect on me.

    It brings home to me that People are so much more important than having the brightest lights on the road. In some estates around me those blue and white lights that hang from the roofs of houses make no sense to me whatsoever. Perhaps I am getting old, but I enjoy seeing the little things that my grandchildren bring home from school. Those little items are put together by little hands and monitored by patient teachers. Some people would not dream of hanging them on their Christmas Tree as they might not match the theme of the room.

    I think that everyone goes through a phase of rushing around as if their life depended on it. It only brings tension to other family members. As long as people have time to listen and be there for one another who needs to have a special theme for their Christmas Decor. I lost a very dear friend on Jan 3rd 2014. She told me that she so enjoyed the difference between her two daughters. One daughter was very artistic and asked her sister what was her Christmas theme going to be. In a very relaxed manner she replied – Heatons. It made my dear friend laugh so much and me also.

    Take care of each other in Norway. I’m sure little Cillian will love it.

    Very sincerely,
    Esther. xx


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