It’s hard to believe that it will soon be a month since our manager, Fiona, passed away so suddenly and unexpectedly.
In our culture we often use the end of the first month of grieving as a way to reflect and acknowledge the impact of the loss of someone on our lives, and so for the service of Donegal Women’s Domestic Violence Service (DWDVS) as well as her family, this period will be no different.
Fiona left behind a unique legacy in that people from both her work and her personal life remember her as a warm and caring person who always placed the needs of others above her own.
The nature of her work meant that she was constantly in demand, and she met this challenge each and every day without fault. She was always very service orientated and kept the women and children centre-staged in her decision-making and even when she was under pressure from her managerial tasks she always had time to meet clients and deal with women in our service.
Fiona had an exuberant personality and enjoyed meeting and working with people no matter what they did or what their background or circumstance was. This suited her style of management because as the service manager in her work she had to be involved in all aspects of running the service. This included working alongside contractors and builders, attending fundraising meetings and writing reports as well as working directly with vulnerable women and children that accessed our service.
It was this level of commitment that many of her co-workers across the different agencies that work alongside DWDVS noted about her. Many of them commented that she was so passionate about her work and so totally committed to resolving injustices that her clients faced. Fiona always said she wasn’t a politician and didn’t do policy work very well, but in fact through her work and dedication she achieved far more in building and strengthening communities and developing interagency work than any politician could ever hope to achieve.
Fiona was an amazing woman and her enthusiasm and commitment to the service and the issue of domestic violence will leave its own lasting legacy.
However we are also fortunate that Fiona’s commitment has left tangible and unforgettable reminders of her work and passion, most notably in the form of a purpose built refuge centre in Letterkenny. It is here that she will be most noticeably missed as the service has to begin the process of filling the void that Fiona’s commitment and resolve has left behind.
The building was a lifelong wish and one that she worked hard to develop and see through to completion. For Fiona though it was also about ensuring that the memory of Gloria McCole would never be forgotten after her sudden death at the hands of her partner 25 years ago, and which also acted as the source of inspiration for the start of the DWDVS service. Fiona’ s death now gives us two inspirational woman to honour throughout our work, as well as hopefully ensuring that no woman needs to have her life put at risk through domestic violence.
Settling back into work after such a dramatic event is always difficult. Like many periods of grief it is the little things that are constant reminders that someone you care about has left, such as the ornaments, photos and reminders of events that you shared together. Seeing Fiona’s signature or receiving an email still sent in her name can be tearful and stressful for those that worked closely with her.
But like all things in life time does move on, slowly at first and tearfully, but eventually the memories of the good times settle on our hearts and we can remember without as much pain. We are still waiting for that time but we know that for the sake of the women and children in our care, as well as for the memory of what Fiona stood for, it is a step that we need to take.
- Dr. Marie Hainsworth, Chairperson of Donegal Women’s Domestic Violence Service.