Northern Ireland news

'There is no set pattern for grief': Tom Kelly writes following death of estranged mother

Irish News columnist Tom Kelly has spoken of his emotions following his estranged mother's death

IRISH News columnist Tom Kelly has spoken of his struggle to articulate his grief following the death of his estranged mother.

Mr Kelly, who was raised in Newry by his father and an aunt, was 13 when his mother left him and his younger sister and brother, then aged just four and two.

The children only saw her again 30 years later, in a meeting Mr Kelly describes as "a calamitous and ill-thought out 40-minute encounter".

Now in his fifties, the businessman and former SDLP vice chairman, who also chaired the Northern Ireland Stronger In Europe campaign during the Brexit referendum, tells today of his difficulties in processing his mother's recent death.

"In normal circumstances my two siblings and I should have been inconsolable but there has been nothing normal about our relationship with our birth mother," he writes in his column.

"When the word came through that she had died it arrived as disruptively and chaotically as when she walked away from our family over 40 years ago."

Mr Kelly said he has "always been someone who has to work things out by writing things down".

"Over the years as a columnist I have also drawn on my family and personal experiences to share with readers," he said.

"The Irish News is such a family newspaper and its readership is like an extension of that family. It's seems the natural place to share what is very personal but also very public as I have lived with this backdrop all my life.

"I read recently that all our stories really are our mothers' stories too because they start with a mother. Ours did too but it led into a cul de sac.

"For many years we didn't talk about it but today I personally would like others who experience similar life-changing events to open up and talk about them.

"We were lucky to have such a loving family environment provided by my father and our Aunt Rose - others may not be so lucky."

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