My wife, Mary, died in April 2020 just as the Covid pandemic arrived in Ireland. Mary was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in June 2017 but even though every conceivable treatment was tried, she survived for less than 3 years. As with other families who lost a loved one during the pandemic – due to Covid, cancer or other circumstances – our grief and trauma was multiplied because of the strict social distancing measures introduced. No proper funeral or wake, no meeting of friends and neighbours, no touch or hug – just utter grief and devastation.
In February 2022, when Hazel from Galway Hospice contacted me about the Walk & Talk group set up for people who have experienced loss through the Hospice service, I was immediately interested. Since then 6, 8 or sometimes 10 people have met at Cappagh Park every fortnight for a walk to Silver Strand followed by a coffee in a nearby hotel. The conversations are always easy, never rushed or contrived and out in the clear air.
We can be talking about different topics – the day’s news, the weather etc. Sometimes we talk about our own circumstances and traumas but often there is no need to talk about such things. There is just a shared experience, an understanding and a camaraderie. In everyday life people are not sure how to deal with someone who has been bereaved, there is an awkwardness and reticence which can lead to avoidance, in my opinion. I am only too happy to speak about Mary to anyone who will listen but I get the feeling that some would rather avoid the conversation. There is a great openness and freedom about the Walk & Talk group and I think we have developed a bond which allows us to speak and share our experiences/feelings and even help each other out with advice or empathy.
– Paddy Noonan