Son’s death took Lucy on a journey through grief

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Lucy and Gerard Dineen during their Camino journey.

by David Raleigh

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A Limerick mother who trekked across northern Spain to help her cope following the sudden death of her son has written an emotional account of her journey.

25-year-old Robert Dineen passed away on May 8, 2017 after suffering a seizure at his home in Limerick city. Struggling to come to terms with their loss, his parents Lucy and Gerard set off together on the pilgrimage trail to Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain.

Describing life after her son’s death as a “blur”, Ms Dineen, a social care worker, said she felt she was “walking around with a gaping wound’ and feared that her marriage would not survive the loss of a child”.

“The death of our son changed both of us and I didn’t know if we could withstand the pressure the pain of this loss put on our relationship,” she wrote.

After two years of turmoil, the Limerick couple, who now live in west Clare, seized the moment to take time out and walk the Camino after Mr Dineen lost his job.

Mrs Dineen, who is a native of Shanagolden, kept a diary of their 38-day journey across 1,000km, taking them from grief to healing.

Setting out with their backpacks, the couple found a greater understanding of their grief.

‘My Camino Through Grief’ is the moving journal of their experiences, travelling from the Pyrenees in southern France, through the valleys of Navarra, and westward through Spain, final coming to a rest at the famous cathedral city of Santiago de Compostela.

As they clocked up the miles, issues that had been buried for a long time begin to surface, which Mrs Dineen recorded in a notebook gifted to her by her daughter Rachel.

The journal became the outlet for Mrs Dineen’s innermost thoughts and pain.

“The Camino stripped us of everything and became a journey of personal exploration, bringing us to a place where we had to face our pain, with nowhere to hide, as we desperately searched for meaning and inspiration,” she wrote.

Walking allowed the freedom to explore their feelings of loss as well as space to remember their son.

Ms Dineen recalled how family life was disrupted when Robert began to suffer from seizures from the age of ten.

She had experienced previous family losses through the death of her father and her twin brother two years apart, when she was in her 20s.

“The loss of my beautiful child has taken me to a place of darkness and now, as a pilgrim, I am searching for the light to shine again,” she wrote.

Despite his condition, Robert refused to be defined or limited by his illness, which he referred to as ‘The Monster’, and a poem he wrote about his illness appears in the book, along with others penned by his father and sister.

“Robert was a wonderful young man who never got a fair chance of life without illness. We are left with the frustration of there being no reason or explanation for our son’s death, just as we lived with no real understanding of his illness,” Ms Dineen added.

Despite their aches, pains, and blisters, they arrived in Santiago on their son’s 28th birthday on October 18, 2017.

At the end of their journey, it was “very emotional…and we had a memory stone that we cast into the ocean in Robert’s memory“.

This was the end of their Camino journey, but their journey together continues.

Lucy Dineen will launch ‘My Camino Through Grief’ at the South Court Hotel in Limerick at 7.30 pm on Friday, May 17.

The book is now on sale at http://www.mycaminothroughgrief.ie