‘We’re running the Dublin Marathon for our son Ross – and to help other parents and families to cope with suicide’

Heartbroken parents take on Dublin City Marathon in aid of HUGG

by Rose Barrett
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Conor and Cathy McCarthy’s lives were changed forever on May 1 when their beloved son Ross died by suicide, two weeks shy of his 25th birthday.

The couple say they are now undertaking a journey of grief that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.  And they have been hugely supported by HUGG, a suicide bereavement charity whose message is all about  hope and healing.

Conor says: “We are very grateful for the support and shared understanding that we have received from the HUGG fraternity, support and understanding that we know will help us cope with the immense grief and loss in the months and years ahead”. The tragic death of their son Ross was particularly shocking because he was such a happy chap with an outgoing personality, and immersed in sport, as his mother said, “in the thick of the action!”

HUGG was founded in 2017 by Fiona Tuomey who lost her own daughter Milly to suicide, HUGG is a national suicide bereavement charity which helps adults bereaved by suicide by providing support and information. HUGG currently has 16 support groups in various locations around the country. Each group is facilitated by two trained volunteers and meets every two weeks for two hours.

Conor and Cathy hope to raise a minimum of €10,000 to help HUGG set up support groups for bereaved parents and families outside of Dublin, including one in Sligo.  These essential funds will also assist with training and upskilling facilitators for HUGG Groups in addition to supporting funding for general day to day operations.

Their son Ross loved sport and excelled at many activities including golf, skateboarding and especially soccer. So, the family, since his passing, have turned towards sport and running in particular, to help them cope with the immense loss they are coping with.

Now, Conor and Cathy, who are both vastly experienced marathon runners with 17 marathons completed between them, are fundraising and training for what will be a very emotional experience as they take to the marathon starting line in Dublin on October 29.

Cathy says: “Ross was a beautiful boy, always in good form, always smiling, always stuck in the middle of the action. He had wonderful friends who he loved, and they loved him. He was an outstanding sportsman and so it is to sport that we have turned, and, in particular, to running, as our mechanism to cope with our grief challenge and for our own wellbeing and health. 

“Although long committed to positive thinking and to the principle that a healthy body breeds a healthy mind, we both thought our days of running marathons had ended. Ross’s death changed all of that. To his memory and to promote awareness for HUGG, we decided we would once again put our feet on the start line and set about the challenge of completing another Dublin City Marathon.”

Bur rather than wait until October, Conor and Cathy are actively promoting HUGG at every opportunity they can. They have taken part in the Clontarf Half-Marathon, the Wild Atlantic 10-mile road race in Ballina, a three-quarter marathon earlier this month in Swinford, Co Mayo and the Sligo 10 mile Coast to Coast. On all occasions they wore specially designed HUGG running vests, clearly displaying the “Hope and Healing after Suicide” message.

Conor says: “We both find comfort and healing in the coping power of running. It distracts us from the tiredness, the exhaustion, the breaking into tears for no apparent reason, the lack of concentration, the absence of focus and interest, and of course the physical pain, all those many symptoms of the grief we endure on a continual basis as we deal with the stress of the loss of our beautiful boy, Ross. Ross’s struggles are over now.   He is finally at peace. We will think of him every day.  We will miss him terribly.”

The wonderful support of HUGG

HUGG group meetings provide a safe space for parents and family members to meet, share feelings, emotions and experiences with people similarly bereaved who understand and who simply “get it”.   However, Conor is shocked by how few men he has seen attending the group meetings. 

He says: “Men have feelings and emotions too and I would like to appeal to men bereaved by suicide to attend HUGG group meetings to share their experiences in a safe space and benefit from the support and understanding that HUGG provides.”

HUGG also arranges seminars on grief delivered by grief and loss specialists whose talks and expertise help those impacted by suicide to understand the grief they are experiencing and to develop mechanisms to cope.

To support the McCarthy’s fundraiser, see https://www.gofundme.com/f/raising-awareness-of-hugg-support-service?  All donations gratefully recieved. 

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