Belfast Telegraph

Caked in mud and just after scoring try for school, Jamie Dornan recalls day he learned of mother's terminal cancer

'I’ve never let my grief at such a pivotal age hold me back'

Jamie Dornan with his sister Jessica Dornan Lynas. Pic Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Jamie Dornan with his sister Jessica Dornan Lynas. Pic Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

Northern Ireland movie star Jamie Dornan has recalled the day his father told him of his mother's terminal cancer and how after her passing his grief was compounded when four friends died soon after in a car crash leaving him angry and depressed at just 16 years of age.

But the 37-year-old said he didn't allow the grief to hold him back at such a pivotal age.

"Grief can overcome and paralyse you if you let it," he said.

"There were days when I felt that the pain was piled on top of me .. I realised something out of my control had happened and I couldn’t change it. It made me twig that I had to make the most of the time I had because you never know what’s going to happen."

He says that as he gets older he thinks more about he and his sisters getting closer to 50, the age their mother passed away.

At the age of 14, the former model was caked in mud and feeling good after scoring a try in the final minutes of a school rugby game.

As he and his dad - the leading obstetrician Professor Jim Dornan - left the school he was given the news of how his mother's trip to the doctor's had been.

“Mum got through today OK, but she’s not going to make it,” young Jamie was told before he burst into tears.

Lorna Dornan had stage four pancreatic cancer and died 16 months later in July 1998.

Fifty Shades star Dornan was speaking to The Times along with his sister, the fashion designer Jess Dornan Lynas. She has set up Afterbook which aims to digitally celebrate the lives of loved ones and help people share and talk about grief.

"It is a great way of keeping people’s memories and stories alive," said Jamie.

"I think it’s an amazing way to honour our mum. Death and grief can be such an isolating experience so it helps so much to have a safe place where you can talk about how you feel. Remembering the good times, the funny times, is massive in your recovery.

"Hope is so important too. Your life doesn’t end when theirs does. You never really get over your grief, you just find a way to live with it and not let it overshadow everything."

Jamie said news of her cancer left him angry and asking his nurse mother and doctor father if anything could be done and offering any "random solutions".

"I still hoped they’d come up with a cure in the time Mum had left.

"My grief started before Mum was dead. I could have easily gone off the rails if it were not for my family. My older sisters, Jess and Liesa, and my dad were just phenomenal. Being the baby of the family, they lavished extra attention on me.

"I had the best group of friends — the support they gave at my worst was priceless. And the people who were around me then are still around me now."

I had to make the most of the time I had because you never know what’s going to happen.

Dornan had therapy at the age of 17, which he said was cathartic.

Jamie Dornan with the painting by Colin Davidson
Jamie Dornan with the painting by Colin Davidson
Actor Jamie Dornan with his sister Jessica Dornan Lynas and father Dr Jim Dornan at the launch of the NIPanC at the Mater Hospital in Belfast
Terrifying tale: Cillian and Jamie Dornan in Anthropoid
Change of scene: Jamie Dornan in The Siege of Jadotville
Gillian Anderson in The Fall
Jamie Dornan as Pat Quinlan
Jamie Dornan in Robin Hood.
Pictured: Jamie Dornan in Robin Hood
KARLOVY VARY, CZECH REPUBLIC - JULY 01: Actor Jamie Dornan attends world premiere of Anthropoid movie during the opening ceremony of the 51st Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF) on July 1, 2016 in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic. (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan
Jamie Dornan with O'Connor's staff Leona Dallas, Rebecca McGowan, Coleen Cahill and Jodie Mooney. Pic O'Connor's Bar Ballycastle
Jamie Dornan at the Game of Thrones farewell party in Belfast. Picture Colm O'Reilly
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 02: Actors Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson attend the premiere of Universal Pictures' "Fifty Shades Darker" at The Theatre at Ace Hotel on February 2, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Jamie Dornan has been voted a Northern Ireland legend.
Pictured Jamie Dornan as Pat Quinlan
Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan.
Anthropoid Jamie Dornan and Charlotte Le Bon
The Fall returned to our screens last night with Jamie Dornan reprising his role as serial killer Paul Spector
On the red carpet at the UK premiere of Fifty Shades in Leicester Square last night are Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson with director Sam Taylor-Johnson (left) and author EL James
Modelling with Gisele Bundchen
Attention fell on Jamie Dornan when he started dated actress Keira Knightley in 2003
Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan in The Fall
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson
Jamie Dornan in The Fall
Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey. Photo: Focus Features
Jamie Dornan poses for photos with fans as he attends the screening of The Siege of Jadotville at the Savoy Cinema in Dublin. PA
KINGSBARNS, AL - OCTOBER 05: Actor Jamie Dornan plays during a practice round at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at Kingsbarns Golf Links golf course on October 5, 2016 in St Andrews, Scotland. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
KINGSBARNS, AK - OCTOBER 05: Actor Jamie Dornan plays during a practice round at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at Kingsbarns Golf Links golf course on October 5, 2016 in St Andrews, Scotland. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Paul Spector played by Jamie Dornan.
HUNTING SEASON: Gillian Anderson as DSI Stella Gibson and Jamie Dornan as Paul Spector in The Fall
Big league: Jamie Dornan in the first series of The Fall, a role which helped him land the lead in 50 Shades opposite Dakota Johnson
Jamie Dornan as Paul Spector on the operating table
Sally Ann Spector (Bronagh Waugh), Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan).
Jamie Dornan with his dad Jim
Jamie Dornan attending at the opening ceremony of the 51st Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF) on July 1, 2016 in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic. (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)
DSI Stella Gibson (GILLIAN ANDERSON), Paul Spector (JAMIE DORNAN) in The Fall.
Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan take part in Q&A following the screening of BBC Two drama 'The Fall' to launch series three at BFI Southbank on September 7, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images)
Jamie Dornan on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
The Belfast Telegraph article about Jamie Dornan featured on the Stephen Colbert show.
Jamie Dornan on the Stephen Colbert show.
In May 2013 BBC drama The Fall hit our screens. Set in Belfast, Dornan played serial killer Paul Spector, opposite Gillian Anderson.
Jamie Dornan plays serial killer Paul Spector
Paul Spector, played by Jamie Dornan
In May 2013 BBC drama The Fall hit our screens. Set in Belfast, Dornan played serial killer Paul Spector.
Jamie Dornan as killer Paul Spector
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele in trailer for Fifty Shades Of Grey
Jamie Dornan says filming racy scenes with Dakota Johnson for Fifty Shades of Grey was not sexy.
Fifty Shades of Grey
Jamie Dornan has told The Observer Magazine that filming racy scenes for the film Fifty Shades of Grey with co-star Dakota Johnson was not sexy. Ian West/PA Wire.
Actor and Comedian Bill Murray hugs 50 Shades of Grey actor Jamie Dornan as they walk of the 12th tee during round one of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at Carnoustie
Northern Ireland model Jamie Dornan and Eva Mendes in their sultry new Calvin Klein advert
Jamie Dornan and Gisele Bundchen in an Aquascutum advert.
Jamie Dornan was in a band called Sons of Jim, with Dave Alexander. The band disbanded in 2008.
Jamie Dornan with Dakota Johnson in 50 Shades of Grey
(Dame Helen Mirren, Liam Neeson, Graham Norton, Jamie Dornan and Sigrid (Matt Crossick/PA)
Modelling in an advert for Calvin Klein Jeans
In the band Sons of Jim, with Dave Alexander at a Sports Relief event at Custom House Square in Belfast.
He modelled for Calvin Klein (with Kate Moss and Eva Mendes), Dior, Aquascutum and Armani, among many other brands.
Jamie Dornan, wife Amelia and Dulcie in 2014
Arriving for a screening of Martie Antoinette with Rose Byrne in New York
Playing Ed in the Hammer Horror production, Beyond the Rave
Jamie Dornan as Sheriff Graham from Once Upon A Time
As Sheriff Graham from Once Upon A Time
As Sheriff Graham from Once Upon A Time
Jamie Dornan as Paul Spector and Gillian Anderson as DSI Stella Gibson in the TV thriller The Fall
At a Calvin Klein event
In April 2013 Jamie Dornan married singer Amelia Warner in Somerset, England. They are now expecting a baby.
In April 2013 Jamie Dornan married singer Amelia Warner in Somerset, England. They are now expecting a baby.
Jamie Dornan chats to Sarah Travers, host of UTV's The Magazine, on his first visit to Belfast since marrying musician, Amelia Warner.
With Eva Mendes in an ad for Calvin Klein Jeans
With Eva Mendes in an ad for Calvin Klein Jeans
Jamie Dornan with The Fall co-star Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan in a photoshoot for Red magazine
Actor Jamie Dornan (L) poses with his wife Amelia Warner as they arrive to attend 'Fifty Shades Freed - 50 Nuances Plus Claires' Premiere at Salle Pleyel in Paris on February 6, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / PATRICK KOVARIKPATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele in the first cast photos from the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
Jamie Dornan, (right) in Fifty Shades Darker
Johnson and Dornan in Fifty Shades Freed
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele in the first cast photos from the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
Leading man: Jamie Dornan on The Graham Norton Show
Jamie Dornan plays Abe in New Worlds, on Channel 4
Jamie Dornan plays Abe in New Worlds, on Channel 4
Jamie Dornan and Ann Skelly in scene from Death And Nightingales

"Grief is not a one-size-fits-all situation. There is no right or wrong way to deal with it," he said.

"Some recover more quickly than others. Some turn to drink and drugs to numb their pain. There are so many factors affecting how people cope and what works eventually to help them move through it.

"Grief hit me in waves in the years after, when the weirdest thing would set it off. Like when the wife of my best friend was wearing a particular perfume that had been my mum’s favourite. I had to excuse myself for a private moment to compose myself."

The actor says he works to keep him mum part of his young family's life and his five-year-old daughter Dulcie draws picture of her granny Lorna all the time.

He added: "I don’t believe in God, so that takes out an aspect of grief that many people rely on. I’m very matter of fact with the girls about death, although I don’t want to confuse them or make them fearful. I think kids these days have a much better understanding of death — Dulcie asks me about it all the time. I’m glad that she’s asking me questions, even though I don’t know how to answer so many of them.

"The thing I struggle most with now is knowing that Mum was 50 when she died and us siblings are creeping towards that age — Liesa is 41, Jess has just turned 40 and I’m 37."

Jamie's friends, all fellow students from Methodist College, Belfast, died when their car was in a head-on collision on the Fintown to Glenties road in Donegal as they made their way to a holiday home in Portnoo.

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