Agony brings hope
Magazine+ agony aunt Maura O’Neill reveals how she rebuilt her life after loss in a powerful new book
When I was offered the Agony Aunt column in the Sunday World my first question was could I use my own life as a manual for responding to readers’ problems. The answer was a resounding ‘yes’ and since 1999 I have been writing replies sharing my own experiences as support.
I was a contributor for the Gerry Ryan Show on 2FM and I had been offered the job of reporter when the show was broadcast from Capetown, South Africa, sponsored by this newspaper. On return I was offered the role of Agony Aunt.
During my time on radio, I was often asked to open up about my family’s tragic accident when I lost both my parents and two of my brothers, Sean aged 23 and Noel, aged 16. There was never a time I felt comfortable enough to talk about the 2nd of January 1984 when a tree fell on their car during a storm outside Arklow town. We had been celebrating the New Year in North Wexford where my mother grew up. I had often thought about writing a book to help me make some sense of this loss but discovered that I hadn’t yet healed or worked through my grief to even begin to describe that time.
My determination to live life to the full, to honour my parents and brothers who died, brought me into a challenging and exciting career in radio. First, in pirate stations, then independent radio FM 104, later to 2FM and Radio 1. I covered a broad range of roles in RTE from fill-in presenter for Gerry Ryan and Marian Finucane, to reporter on Five Seven Live. I also had a very rewarding career as a secondary teacher.
Meanwhile, my personal life brought me other challenges: divorce, single parenthood when my baby, Kate, was three months old, taking a chance on marriage for the second time, building a house and focusing on making a home.
Some years after the loss of my family I found the courage to talk through the trauma and found my voice to write about those years and I found the strength to write my memoir ‘Leaving To Go Home’.
I wanted to give my daughter, Kate, an account of the accident, to help her understand that difficult time in my life, to give her an insight into how wonderful her granny and grandad, Uncles Sean and Noel were. The book is all about holding memories for the generations to come.
What have I learned? Even if you’re struggling keep moving forward and always look for support.
Dossier | More attacks planned in ‘manifesto’ by Nashville school shooter, police say
Killer free | Anger as seriously-ill gangland murderer released and reunited with family
Ban-ner Boy | 14-year-old Co. Clare teen caught towing caravan while uninsured on busy UK motorway
short term | Domino’s opens store beside Maynooth University and introduces Mescal-inspired uniform
Enoch is Enoch | Two of Enoch Burke’s siblings complain to Garda Ombudsman over ejection from Court of Appeal
Abi Days | ‘Only Fools and Horses’ star David Jason discovers 52-year-old daughter he didn’t know he had
Putt in his place | Farmer in court for attacking nephew’s car with golf club after victim’s mum pelted with eggs
Skid Row | Skier tells court of ‘blood-curdling scream’ before collision with Gwyneth Paltrow
On the Ropes | Kellie Harrington hits back after tense spat with presenter over tweet about immigrants
New Twist | DNA at centre of Kerry Baby case was ‘voluntarily handed over by relative’ of Baby John