‘’You know if you fail this exam it would be a tragedy but the real tragedy would depend on your perception of that afterwards. That’s where the real tragedy could be.’’

Tragedy or a real tragedy 

(By Terry Connolly)

We must come to acknowledge the fact that suicide is truly a tragedy. This is something most people have difficulty with in the early stages of shock and grief. Some people call this the denial stage which is not always the case but it was in mine. I just could not believe it happened. For weeks and months I even suspected I was just having a nightmare. I would wake up from sleep every day with that hope and prayer. And then I would fall back into a semi – sleep and sleep and semi – dreams and dreams, everyday going over every detail of a different outcome and imagining it did turn out differently through some intervention on my behalf and imagining my daughter Jacqui still alive and living and happy in this world and imagining her with us 1 year, 2 years, 10 years down the road. Then when reality struck at intervals I always felt an overwhelming guilt for not having done the right thing at the right moment when one flicker of an action could have made a difference. I really could not accept what happened. In many semi-conscious states I hoped in some way I could change time and get a second chance. And I convinced myself that if given that one more second chance, knowing how I felt from the experience, my efforts would have prevented the tragedy. This denial stage came strongly at the beginning and lasted and waned for about 20 months. It caused headaches I never experienced previously in my life, constant headaches more like a weight on my head, along with gum disease, cold shoulder, cysts and a host of other bodily symptoms. My mind and body were completely out of balance and to be honest I just did not care because the pain of the bereavement had become so excruciating. For some reason maybe thanks to my wife, family, friends, therapists, group support, mediums, internet postvention sites whatever I finally made some progress and one of the things I did was I faced the event and was eventually able to accept that this was a tragedy. That was helpful but a much more helpful and more difficult concept was to accept that it was not a real tragedy.

When I was a young student in university I once got some advice from a professor of French language who was a wonderful, kind and sympathetic person. I was repeating an examination for the fourth and final time. It was at this point in a young life when things just go wrong for all sorts of reasons and here I was in a situation that if I did not pass the exam I would have to leave the university and not finish my studies. I was a bit overwhelmed with this thought and fairly anxious to say the least. We were studying the Greek play Antigone from a French version. In this play Antigone has a dispute with the king over the burial of her dead brother. The king decreed that nobody was allowed to mourn publicly his death. Antigone went against his ruling and he ordered that she be buried alive and she was put into a cave to await her fate. In the meantime thanks to the intervention of the Gods and soothsayers the king changed his mind and went to the cave with his son who was in love with Antigone. To their dismay they found she had suicided from hanging. The reason I approached my French professor was to get some guidelines on how to answer a question I thought could come up in the examination. The question: Was Antigone’s death a tragedy or a real tragedy? The professor explained that it was merely a tragedy because Antigone used her free will to complete the suicide, she had free choice and used it and as a result it was not a real tragedy. The professor did her utmost to explain this to me and I was not really able to get it until she said: ‘’You know if you fail this exam it would be a tragedy but the real tragedy would depend on your perception of that afterwards. That’s where the real tragedy could be.’’

Thirty six years later, after my beloved 27 year old daughter died by suicide I really was faced with a tragedy and as I said was difficult to accept but it was more difficult to accept this as not a real tragedy. This was important in my recovery and coming to terms with the event. Shakespeare’s Macbeth was a tragedy. Macbeth had all the choices and it was with those choices he came to his doom. Yet his life was not tragic and the play was not a real tragedy. I was at last able to look back on my daughter’s life and despite some tribulations she had in growing up I realised her life was not tragic and neither was her death really tragic. She chose to die herself using her own free will and choice which can be perceived as a tragedy. However the real tragedy of suicide is not the event itself but perhaps how the ones left behind come to terms with it and shape their lives going forward. We have to become aware that as an individual we can act and think with freedom and choice. We define our own meaning to life and try to make decisions despite confronted with an irrational event such as suicide. There are no answers to the why, no second chance. We can only exercise our own free will in the moment of space and time we are in and with this free will comes our personal responsibility to ourselves, family, people we know, the world, the people who have passed away and to future generations. Acknowledging this responsibility can pave the way for our present and future actions in averting a tragedy from becoming a real tragedy.


  • Maureen Slough says:

    Very well written Terry

    Thanks for sharing.

    Regards Maureen Slough 🙏🙏🙏🙏🙏

  • Gail O'Brien says:

    Wow that was a very honest and thought provoking read. Thank you for that Terry. Thank you for sharing.

  • Aisling says:

    Thanks for sharing Terry. Well written and informative. You have done Jacqui proud and you have done so much for all the past and current members of FOSL. You should be very proud of what you have had to overcome and what you have achieved for the good of others and on behalf of all FOSL members I would like to say a big thank you. Here’s hoping 2022 will be a better year for everyone.

  • Mary Jane Byrne says:

    Thank you for sharing 🙏🙏🙏

  • Nicig says:

    Beautifully honest and so true. Thanks Terry for sharing 🥰🥰

  • Sian says:

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom Terry. You put into words exactly how I feel. The real tragedy is for those left behind to live with ❤️

  • Lynette Richardson says:

    Wow , this is amazing! Waking up on New Year’s Eve at 6am in a hotel room., this is the first thing that comes up on my phone. I think I was supposed to read this. Thank you so much for sharing Terry. Beautifully written. Thank you for everything you have done for me and everyone else. Thank you for your knowledge, empathy, kindness and all your hard work. You made a difference in my my life and I’ll never forget that. Jaqui would be so proud. Here is hoping 2022 is kinder to us all and whatever we face we will have the courage , strength and freedom of choice to get through it! Lynette, always twin sister to Olivia x

  • Annette Covey says:

    Terry you have taught me so much in the year since you reached out to me through FOSL over the internet. Your invaluable support then continues through zoom, email and phone calls. Sharing your story about Jacqui, life experience, learning and tragedy, not tragedy as story of the month reaches out once more in helping those of us bereaved by suicide and broadening our understanding. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do with everyone involved with FOSL and the community surrounding it and embracing all of us, following the FOSL Credo. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 🇮🇪🕯💚🧡💜

  • Anna says:

    Beautifully written Terry, I have never thought of suicide event in the sense of tragedy or real tragedy. Definitely going to reflect on this thought deeply as it brings comfort and soothes guilt
    Happy New Year 🥂

  • Jenny Scanlon says:

    Well put together Terry. I will send you a donation next week.

  • Amanda says:

    Just saw this on my phone by accident.Wow what a great article.Very interested in this work and I see great information on this website of yours.

  • Stuart says:

    Well done Terry. That’s ground breaking work.🧡💜

  • Michelle says:

    Thank you for all the work you do Terry and helping my family who are bereaved by suicide. Yes this is frontier work. Well done!🙏

  • Roberta says:

    My friend Michelle just shared this with me. Amazing article.

  • Anne says:

    Well done Terry. I am glad that you are in a good place. Great that you are doing such good work and helping people.

  • Sam Barr says:

    Terry that’s a very moving and accurate article .

  • Bohan says:

    A good read on a difficult subject.Best blog I have seen for this topic.

  • Nassim says:

    Well written Terry, very inspirational.

  • Kevin says:

    Great to see this Terry well articulated and written.Will help many.🙏🙏🙏

  • Sinead says:

    Just stumbled on this.What a surprise made my day.Keep up this excellent writing.❤️

  • Mark Mimnagh says:

    Terry – very well written article. Your work has helped a lot of people. Best wishes for 2022.

  • Wayne S. says:

    A marvelous piece of writing with honesty and hope. Thank you so much🙏

  • Shana S. says:

    This story is very helpful to people bereaved not just from suicide. A big thank you!

  • Conor says:

    The thought process here is quite remarkable, the idea of looking at an event in life as a tragedy or a real tragedy is something I have never seen before and I must say I am glad to have seen this. I find this idea so helpful.Thanking you Terry🙏🙏

  • Rory says:

    I live in Northern Ireland and have got great support from fosl by email,telephone and zoom.Thanks for this great article Terry.Keep up the good work.

  • Helena Byrne says:

    Excellent article.

    Looking at the bigger picture, could it be said that real tragedy is that the prevention of suicide is not being taken seriously enough by the government when it makes laws and guidelines which infringe on the rights and mental health of people and doesn’t adequately address areas which could make a difference for the better in people’s lives?

  • Niamh says:

    Brilliant article. Really moving, helpful and inspiring. Thanks so much for writing it Terry. It put me in mind of Viktor Frankl’s work. Blessings and thanks.

  • Jean says:

    Felicitations Terry

  • Marie says:

    A wonderful achievement following such a tragic loss,Well done.

  • Jacques says:

    A beautiful surprise to read this giving so much hope and courage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *