Maggie McGonigle

Our next Rising Woman is another dear friend of mine, Maggie McGonigle. I met Maggie participating in a seminar at Landmark and the more I learned about her, the more I grew to love her. It’s true, she’s one of those people who are super easy to be around and quick to call a friend. The first time I heard her share about what she has been through in the last couple of years, I was in tears, moved by her vulnerability, courage and grace. Read on…

Who are you and what do you do for a living?

I am a very proud New Englander, a teacher & coach at heart, and a lover of life! Professionally,  I have a background in teaching ESL, but I’m currently in the process of interviewing for a completely new career. The position I have my eye on and most desire is as an assistant project manager in a very successful construction company.

***yay!! Just a little side note – Maggie got the job!! Of course she did 😉

Tell me about your family, if applicable.

I am the 3rd in a family of 6 kids, and I love my siblings!!! Though we live across the country from each other, we do stay in touch. They’re my favorite people to text and hear from. We don’t all talk often, but when I see their names, I practically jump for joy.

What have you overcome to get where you are today?

I’ve had to overcome a number of obstacles in life, all of which seem trivial compared to my husband Mark’s recent suicide. It altered my view of life in ways I never imagined were possible. It was traumatic, heartbreaking, maddening and completely mind boggling. It has taught me lessons I don’t think I’d ever have learned in any other circumstances, and the truth is that I’m grateful for what’s now available to me having seen how quickly life can be taken away. I have days when I don’t dare think about it or even want to remember Mark. I’ve tried pretending it didn’t happen and acting like everything is fine. Even answering this question has taken me quite a bit of time. I am resentful & bitter at times, and regret rears its ugly head now and then. There are plenty of times when I see no point in doing anything and am generally resigned about life. There are moments of gratitude and joy as I remember Mark; sometimes I can’t stop crying and don’t understand how someone would dare cut off life and all that is possible.

A friend who lost her husband a few years ago told me that I’ll never get over it, but I will get on with it. That seems to be the case. Grief is ongoing, and it looks a lot of different ways. Suicide is particularly challenging. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m grieving and that it’s okay to feel like a mess, that it’s okay to be moving forward in my life and miss Mark at the same time, that it’s okay to be happy. I take things a day at a time, and there is more to be discovered.

What has been your greatest struggle in life?

My biggest struggle has not been any particular circumstance. Rather, it’s been dealing with the disempowering things I tell and often believe about myself. One of my favorite quotes is: “If you want a real challenge, deal with yourself.” There’s nothing more challenging nor rewarding than to be powerful in the face of your own limiting beliefs.

Did you ever feel like giving up? When you felt like giving up, what did you do?

I have felt like giving up many times, and in many cases I really did give up, more than ever in the months after my husband’s suicide. Talking to people about it made a real difference, and at times simply talking to somebody about ANYTHING was enough to get me from one moment to the next. My desire to give up at times can be scary, overwhelming and shameful. Talking to somebody about it usually opens things up so I can start to see life in an empowering context.

What are some of the tools and resources you have used to work through and overcome those struggles? (books, counselors, workshops, programs, coaches, etc.)

The Landmark Forum, all subsequent programs I’ve taken at Landmark and the countless amount of coaching I’ve been given using this technology have ultimately been the biggest source of power for me. I’ve also been seeing a grief counselor since my husband’s suicide, and I love going every week. I’m a big fan of journaling as a way to get things out of my head when I need to clear some space. And I personally love to snuggle up in a blanket with a cup of hot tea and a good book.

What are your gifts and how did you discover them?

I think my biggest and most notable gifts are my personality, which is often described as that of a “people person,” and my ease in front of a large group of people. I’m discovering this right now as I write this! I’ve been told my whole life that I have a great personality, and I’ve always resisted it. But the truth is that I’m really great in front of a group of people, I’m fun and entertaining, and people typically enjoy being around me. I find a great sense of ease and being at home while in front of a group, and I’ve always believed that I was born to perform in some way.

Who in life do you rely on when you’re struggling? Who keeps you uplifted and on your path?

I have an incredibly supportive community of friends and leaders. When I need to be heard, I can call anybody from my Landmark community to hear me out. When I need to get grounded, I can talk to any of my siblings, or even a quick text reminds me of who I am and how loved I am.

Mostly, my sister Sarah P., my mumma, and my best friend Shaela are the first people I go to in any sort of struggle, and each for different things. Shaela is always there, through the good, the bad and the ugly. Her calm and ability to listen amazes me, and she has been my rock since losing my husband, who was one of her closest friends, too.

My sister Sarah P. is possibly the person I care most about in the world. I love her and the life she is leading. She, as with my older sister Jessi, is somebody I can always call if I need a laugh or a good cry. How I relate to my little sister is how I imagine parents relate to their children; it’s a balance between wanting to protect her and wanting her to soar at the same time.

And my mumma is the one I go to when all else fails. We are hugely committed to being there for each other, while also getting on each other’s nerves at times, probably more me getting annoyed than her. But we have a good understanding of each other and don’t let our differences impede our what’s important in our relationship.

Tell us about your tribe and the importance of having one.

My tribe is full of leaders, whether they know this about themselves or not. And it’s expansive. I have no shortage of people that make it up, but at its core are my roommates, plus our honorary roommates. We are four powerhouse women who are unrelenting with each other when it comes to each of us being empowered, free and self-expressed.

Our absolute favorite thing to do together is Sunday night meal prep, which mostly looks like one roommate cooking, the other roommate as her sous chef, our honorary roommate dressing us up & styling up our wardrobes, and me as the DJ making sure we have plenty of good tunes for singing & dancing. We’ve been known to invite other friends to join. There’s plenty of delicious food to sample, several glasses of wine, the softest cheese in the world, occasional tears, and plenty of good conversation. It’s my favorite night of the week, and on other nights we can often be found staying up late for a glass of wine & catching up on each other’s days in the kitchen.

It’s so important to have a group you can just be yourself and connect with. On a personal note, I don’t know what I’d do without my tribe. For a while after my husband died, and still at times, I struggled with Sundays because it was the day we always spent together. I’d dread it, and it felt like the longest day of the week because I didn’t know what to do with myself. What I’ve realized is that for me it’s a day for family, and I have that with my roommates.

What do you want other women to know who are feeling lost, and/or experiencing their own tragedy and/or struggles?

Hang in there. Sometimes you just need to get to the next moment, and everything can shift. What seems impossible might all of a sudden be possible. What doesn’t make sense one moment might be perfectly clear the next. Life is worth getting through the hardest moments, and it is those moments that best teach you who you really are and what you’re capable of. Embrace the mess.

What is some advice you would give to women who are healing?

Be kind to yourself. Life is a roller coaster, and it sometimes takes everything you’ve got (and then some) just to stay on the ride. You won’t always be great with others or handle things the way you really want to, and that’s okay. Be kind to yourself and give yourself space to be human.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I can’t wait to see this project in its completion!!!! Thanks for the stand you are for women and for all people.

Maggie, thank you for agreeing to be part of this project! I know that it really took something for you to put yourself out there like this. You truly make such a difference and I’m honored to share you with my community. I just love you!! xoxo

PS. Since posting Maggie’s story, she has published a blog, I’m so proud of her for sharing her journey as she navigates life as a widow. xoxo