Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone has opened up about her grief since the death of her wife, Ann Louise Gilligan, last summer, saying she has sought “sanctuary” in counselling to cope with the trauma and encouraging others in mourning to take similar steps.
In her most public comments on the tragedy to date, Ms Zappone said while she and her partner of 36 years considered retiring before her death because “life is precious and we wanted more time together”, she now wants to continue in office to honour her late wife and as their future is “not in front of me anymore”.
In an at times emotional interview with the Irish Examiner on the passing of Ms Gilligan, who died in early June after a brain haemorrhage left her blind, Ms Zappone admitted while she “appears to be coping” this is only because “I have been supported in ways no one will ever see”.
The children’s minister said Ms Gilligan would be proud of the social changes taking place in Ireland.
However, seven months on from her death she admitted every day continues to be a struggle, holding back tears as she revealed she found a notepad of previously unseen messages from Ms Gilligan just days earlier which she took back to Seattle to comfort her over Christmas.
“I have engaged in counselling, it was certainly a good experience for me, and other people if they’re suffering a lot of loss I’d say go for it, why not, because it gives you that little sanctuary time, just that space to say right now I’m with the loss and feel it,” she said.
Asked about rumours in recent months that she may not continue in office due to the turmoil in her personal life, Ms Zappone said she wants to be re-elected and said she is not considering retirement. However, she acknowledged before Ms Gilligan’s death this was an option both were discussing.
“When I was reflecting on my ministry and my work, when she was alive, I was thinking deeply about when my term ended whether or not to continue.
“It was because she was at a certain point of life and so was I. Life is precious and we wanted more time together. But that’s not... that’s not in front of me anymore,” she said.
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