Lost for Words…

This time last year, I described myself as an adventure racer, mountain runner, author, wife and mother. Less than three weeks ago, I was forced to change that description to include the term, widow.

Pete and I with our young family in 2016.

I have lost count of the amount of people who have approached me since that day and told me that they are lost for words. I too cannot begin to describe all the thoughts and emotions I have been through since Pete passed away. All I know for certain is that depression is a horrible, horrific illness. It brought an incredibly bright, intelligent, funny man to his knees, convincing him that the world would be a better place without him when nothing could have been further from the truth.

After Pete’s death, my head and heart soon rushed to our two boys. Aran and Cahal are too young to understand what has really happened. All they know is the simple fact that Daddy is gone. A friend advised me to ask Pete’s friends and families to write to our sons, to tell them all about their father. Cards, photos and letters have since flooded into our home, full of memories of Pete. Though I doubt Aran and Cahal will remember their father, they will at least get to know who this formidable man was.

Pete hanging out with kids and Tom our dog at Tollymore Forest Park.

Many people also knew Pete because of my books. It was Pete who stood at the roadside as I tried to complete the Wicklow Round in 2008; he who lowered me into the bath when I had stopped two summits short, trying desperately to wash off the mud, sweat and tears that had accumulated during my failed attempt. It was Pete who encouraged me to write my first book, to put down on paper all that I had learned so that others could be inspired to mountain run in turn. Pete also had the starring role in my second book, Bump, Bike and Baby. Those who have read it have often come up to me and told me I had married a saint. Pete was always pleased when I put a positive spin on things.

Ultimately, I could sit and reminisce about Pete until the day I die, but the reality is, life goes on whether I like it or not. I need to start covering the bases that Pete did. I need to get back to work, to provide for my young family. I need to find positive male role models for the boys, so that they learn to become resilient, responsible men. I am also aware I need to leave space to grieve when yet another wave of despair unexpectedly washes over me.

Standing at the funeral on New Year’s Eve, receiving consolation from Pete’s friends and family, I was bowled over by how depression and suicide is far more prevalent than I ever thought. Many told me of their cousin, brother, husband, mother who also succumbed to the disease and took matters into their own hands. It made me wonder, is there anything can be done, that I can do to help stem this tide?

Writing this blog post is one way I hope someone, somewhere can be saved. Speaking about depression is apparently the first step to breaking the taboo.

Hiking New Zealand’s Milford Track in happier times, 2010.

A recent conversation with a fellow ultra runner also sparked a thought. Was it because ultra running, especially in the mountains, throws at you so many issues that some sort of resilience is built? Over the many weeks when Pete suffered from tormenting thoughts, I often drew on examples when I had been caught out on mountains or in races, where I had to dig deep down to save myself and others. When I told him these stories, I was amazed how he didn’t have similar experiences of things going wrong where he was forced to summon up such strength. He had lived a gifted life.

Now faced with raising two young boys, I wonder if the outdoors will help build my children’s resilience for the years to come. I’ve asked an incredibly strong and bright young woman to teach them to rock climb. I’ve decided to travel to Scotland this year, to introduce them to this wild terrain. I will also continue to bring them orienteering and mountain biking, so they will get lost and fall over, and learn to rise again.

Raising my two boys to be more resilient will not, however, turn the tide. This is where I hope my new initiative, Happy out Adventures, will do something more. I’ve wanted for many years to teach others, especially women, how to travel safely in the mountains and to learn to embrace the outdoors. The mountains have taught me so much, given me so much strength, and have been my solace for many years. It is my hope that by helping others, especially women, to have the skills, knowledge and confidence to travel in the mountains that they can teach this to their sons and daughters in turn.

I realise I am embarking on this very soon after Pete’s untimely death. Sometimes however, life forces your hand, but I am sure Pete would fully support me in my endeavours.

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13 thoughts on “Lost for Words…

  1. moire, reading this really touched me, thank you for sharing, I feel sad and I am so sorry for your loss…i remember you and pete from my time at Concern….and I liked your use of the term ‘formidable’ to describe Pete…he took over my job at one point and handled it with such composure and care…a great role model…sending love, Robyn

  2. Hi Moire,

    I know my words won’t help much, but I am so sorry for your loss. I am in awe of your strength and I have all faith in the world that you will raise your boys to be as strong and resilient as you. Your “Happy out adventure” is a wonderful enterprise and I hope I will be able to join one of our courses very soon: I keep meaning to learn more about staying safe in the mountains to properly enjoy them.
    Best wishes to you and your boys,
    Alex

  3. I am so sorry to hear about your husband. I didn’t know him but I know the boys have an amazing strong and resilient mother so I am sure they will be fine. Make sure to look after yourself as well as the boys.

  4. Greetings from Los Angeles, California
    I am 2/3rds of the way through Bump/Bike when I happened upon this post. I am floored by this tragedy. Your writing almost makes me feel part of your family, and this news made me so sad.
    I do although, have hope that your boys will grow up right.
    Your line is the key to healthy development
    ” so they will get lost and fall over, and learn to rise again”
    May God bless you and give you peace.

  5. So sorry for your loss, Pete was a gentleman, pains me to write this, I had the privilege of being his bus driver on the days he traveled to Dublin, a man whom I liked, as he always spoke/had a chat with me & other passengers on the bus and I know they will agree with me on that, he chatted about his boys & touched on mountain walking a bit too.

    Hope this may be of some comfort to you & the boys.

    Aaron Rooney
    (Eamonn Rooney Coach Hire)

  6. It’s a while since I read Mud, Sweat and Tears – but I was very glad to find another book celebrating a woman’s achievements. I lost my first (divorced) husband in a mountaineering accident two weeks after my brother took his own life. That’s now nearly 30 years ago when people didn’t talk about death and mental illness. It’s good that you can share the pain of the loss, but also the way you are choosing to forge your new life. One never ‘gets over it’, one learns how to live with past tragedies, and being able to celebrate a life lost is such an important thing, especially for your children. You are a very strong person – worth remembering for when you’re not feeling strong – your resilience is inspiring.

  7. I only started reading Mud, Sweat & Tears shortly before Christmas and was immediately struck by your determination to overcome so many challenges. I was immediately struck by the way you used running to create a social bonding network as you returned to Ireland from Africa. Your book has drawn me even closer to the running Jasmin Paris has done this week because the two of you are massively inspirational and both demonstrate the challenges that can be overcome. This news is a tremendous shock to read from the outside. I wish you, your sons and all your family the very best as you begin to start the next chapter.

  8. Hi Moire, I’m a runner from Porirua. I have been through depression myself and still struggle sometimes. Be strong for yourself and your boys and enjoy your runs and adventures.

  9. Moire- I am in awe of your strength. It’s been almost thirty years since I have seen Pete and a few since FB messages and MY heart aches each time I see a post or a memory from you and your family and friends. I can only imagine all the ache in YOUR hearts. We all have friends and family who suffer with depression so it hits hard to hear about Pete. As you know, and I will agree Pete was just an amazing guy. My college friendship with him was a favorite. I will pray for you and your adorable sons.

  10. Oh Moire, my heart pains for you and your boys. You’re a brave woman, with a great attitude and hope. I too suffered a similar pain. My brother John left us tragically when he was 21. Not a day goes by where I don’t think of him, or draw strength from him in many ways too. Sending you a big hug. I hope to bump into you on the mountains sometime soon too. Take care, David

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