A Derry woman who grew up thinking her mother was her sister has astonishingly broken her silence and told her mother's family who she really is. Monica O'Donnell from Hazelbank found out when she 14 that the woman she thought was her mother was actually her granny. But for more than 50 years she kept her family's secret - never even revealing to her real mother, Annie, that she knew her secret. She watched as her mother married and had her own family - never once giving a clue about her true identity. But six weeks ago, more than five decades of suppressed emotion and pain finally came to the surface when Monica finally told her mother's other family that she was not their aunt, but their sister! "I grew up thinking my granny and grand-dad were my parents," Monica said. "Sarah and Paddy were wonderful parents to me. But when I was 14 I learned that my sister Annie was actually my mum and my other sisters were my aunts. That was how it was in those days." Monica never told anyone she knew the truth - not even her mum, Annie. However in 1964 as Monica stood in her wedding dress ready to go to the church to marry her husband Christy, Annie visited the family home, silently slipped up the stairs, put her arms round Monica and whispered, "I'm your mother." "I told Annie I already knew and we looked at each other," explained Monica. "It was a strange time because Annie was my mother and had to come down and sign my marriage papers." As life continued Monica had her own family with Christy and her mother Annie married and had her own family. Monica believes Annie never told her husband that she was her mother - and Monica kept the family secret buried. But she says one of the hardest times was when Annie passed away more than a decade ago. "Everyone was consoling Annie's children but no one knew who I was. My heart was nipping. I broke my heart that day at the graveside as I revealed the truth to a priest," she said. "I was always part of the family but no one knew how big a part." Six weeks ago Monica made the brave decision to finally break her silence. "I just couldn't hold it in anymore. I took Annie's daughter to one side and told her that I wasn't her aunt, I was her sister. "I'll never forget it because she hugged me and said 'I'm so glad.' Then I told Annie's son, Michael, and he hugged me." Monica's new family says they are delighted to have been told the truth, and her own family say they can't believe the change in her. "My brother said if I hadn't told them, then I could have died without ever revealing the truth," said Monica. "I'm so glad about it now. My newly found family sent me flowers with the message, 'Love from all your brothers and sisters.' I can't tell you what that means to me." Monica's husband, Christy, secretly arranged for all her family to come together for the first time to celebrate Monica's birthday. And Monica finally has the family picture she always wanted. Derry Journal

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