If only they knew….


September 15th 2015

I woke up in The Galway Bay Hotel at 7.45am and switched my alarm off. Sounds nice doesn’t it….

My phone rang a couple of moments later and my life was changed forever…..
My aunts name flashed up on my phone

‘Hello’ I said.

‘Michelle are you with anybody’ my aunt said.

‘No I’m down in Galway, is my mam ok’ I said.

‘Your mams fine…. oh Michelle’ Anne said.

‘What Anne, whats wrong??’

‘It’s Derek, Michelle, he’s hanged himself’

‘Is he ok, is he still alive?’

‘No sweetheart I’m so sorry, he’s gone honey’

My whole heart literally shattered in pieces. I remember nothing more that was said after that, I crumbled to the floor, shaking like a leaf and howled. How I didn’t wake the whole hotel I do not know, I literally lay in a ball on the floor howling. I wouldn’t even call it crying because there were no tears. I was just screaming!!

Then I remembered my work colleague was in the next room. I managed to get myself off the floor and banged her door down. I don’t even know what I said to her but she took me into her arms and just hugged me. Then I needed to be sick. I heard her on the phone to somebody and it was then I decided I needed to go. I needed to get into our car and just go. I had to ring my family first. My Mam was in Spain with her partner, my Dad was on the way to Spain with his wife and I couldn’t bring myself to pick up the phone and call either of them. I rang my husband. God only knows how he understood what i said but he took control and told me it was going to be ok and they would get me home. I asked him to contact my Mam and my other brother Robert. I didn’t even think of how he would manage to make them phone calls. I howled again. I kept repeating my baby brother is dead!! I called my best friend and sobbed down the phone, she couldn’t even understand what I was saying and when she finally got me, she sobbed too. She said she was coming to get me.

Something came over me then and I somehow managed to compose myself enough to get dressed, pack my bag and myself and my work colleague got into the car. I insisted I was ok and wanted to drive. I just needed to get home. I needed to be with Derek right away and tell him it was going to be ok. I rang my husband again and told him under no circumstances was Derek to be left alone, that he needed one of us there with him at all times. He told me the medics, fire brigade and undertakers were already there. I didn’t care. I told him Derek didn’t want to be alone.

The rest of that day is a blur, but it’s a morning that will never ever leave me, and something that replays in my mind over and over and over many times a week.

On that day, my baby brother Derek, who was just 24 years young, decided he couldn’t take anymore of this life, and made the decision to end his life.

The few days that followed were the most horrendous days I have ever had in my entire life. My Dad arriving home, my Mam arriving home, going to meet with the funeral home, organising the funeral, having to pick out a coffin, a coffin. Coffin shopping. It made me sick to my stomach, I had to leave the room. Picking prayers and readings for his funeral, booking somewhere for the afters, arranging flowers, songs, picking out the plot for his resting place. I don’t know now how we all managed to do those things. If I had to do it over I honestly do not think I could cope.


The worst was waiting to see my baby brother when he was brought home for his wake. Wake!!! Funny name!! It’s all just so surreal now, like something you would see from a film. Here he was. Getting taken out of a hearse in a coffin. Myself, my brother Robert and our Mam and Dad had to hold each other up. It was horrendous. I can’t even breath when I think about that moment. He was brought in and laid out in his bedroom. When i seen his beautiful face. He looked so peaceful. Like he was smiling. So handsome. His hair was so lovely too. He loved his hair. I was so afraid to touch him. It honestly just looked like he was sleeping. The funeral director helped me to touch his face and to give him a kiss, and then something came over me. I couldnt stop kissing him, rubbing his hair. He wasn’t to be left in that room alone. Somebody needed to be with him at all times and I told everybody the same. There were crowds of people in my mams for them days, family & friends from afar and they were all so unbelievably amazing to us all. We would not have coped without them all around. But I didn’t care who was there, I spent most of my time by Derek’s side. Rubbing his hands, his hair, kissing his face, playing him music & singing to him. I was in a daze and only felt ok when i was beside him. It hadn’t sank in that he was gone.


I am writing this post firstly to raise awareness, secondly to make anybody with suicidal thoughts aware of what is left behind, and lastly, to let you all know about the amazing work done at Pieta House

Derek had turned 24 just 24 days before he took his own life.

He had suffered with depression for quite sometime, alongside drug addictions. This successful attempt had not been Derek’s first attempt to take his own life. In April 2015 he made an attempt, and thankfully then, he was not successful. He was disturbed, and advised by a doctor that was called to attend the hospital to speak with a psychiatric specialist. We all took him to the hospital that night and were sat in the A&E department for a few hours. He was finally called in and seen to by the ‘specialists’ and was in and out quicker than I had time to get a coffee. There was ‘nothing wrong with him’ they said. They couldn’t help him there. He was referred to his local GP/ Psychiatric care with a referral letter in his hands. I was in shock. My whole family were in shock. He was sent away after making an attempt to take his own life with a letter in his hand.

The following morning I contacted the unit he had been referred to to see when he could go in, and they said they had received the referral and gave me an appointment for him on the phone. It was for 2 months time!!!! 2 months, are you actually kidding me I asked. I kicked up a bit of a fuss on the phone and told them exactly what i thought. I couldn’t understand it. We tried and tried to get professional help for Derek at that time but all we ended up getting any sort of help from was counselors. That’s all that was available. We didn’t know where to turn to as a family, all we could do was encourage Derek to go for counselling which is what we done. He went for a one session and that was it. Help for people with Mental Health issues in this country is not readily available, in fact the mental health system in Ireland is an absolute disgrace, and Derek is proof of that. Our professionals sent him home and told us all there was nothing wrong with him… really?? Well then why is he 6ft under now. Derek could have been saved with the right professional help and I firmly believe this. He didn’t want to die. He had mental health problems, and with the right treatment and care he could still be with us today. We are just one of many families let down by the lack of support for people with Mental Health Issues.


On average 500 people per year take their own life in Ireland. Approx 400 of this number are men. A study of young Irish men aged 18-34 years revealed that 78% knew someone who had died by suicide, 42% knew more than one person, and 17% had a close friend who completed suicide.  Those figures are just crazy!!!

If only they knew what they were leaving behind…… let me tell you what its like being one of many people left behind, affected and totally devastated by my brother taking his own life.

I cry, a lot. Mostly when I am alone. My own mind is now probably my worst enemy. I sometimes question my own sanity and pray that my mind will just STOP, stop making me think of things that I can’t bare to think about. Like last night, I lay in bed trying so hard to get some sleep but my heart was beating so hard I could feel it in my back, and my mind was playing out the moment Derek took his own life, it was as if I was there with him at the time and I was replaying a memory, I could see him gasping for his last breath. I just want it to STOP sometimes. Why is it so powerful, that it can play out something you have never seen or experienced. That’s what I mean when I say its my worst enemy at times.

I try very very hard to put on a brave face when i am having a bad day. The bad days are the worst. I’m angry, I question everything, why Derek? He was harmless, he had a heart of gold and he was probably one of the most affectionate and loving men I know. He always told us he loved us. He always rang my mam when he had a few drinks on him just to tell her he ‘loves the bones’ of her. He was so funny too, always knew how to make us laugh from the time he was able to talk.


I had my rows with him through the years, gave him a hard time for some of the choices he was making in life and about his drug use, but only because i cared and wanted the best for him. It does still make me feel guilty now. I always gave him a hard time for having his friends in my mams when she wasn’t there, and its funny the way things go, because as I mentioned earlier, my mam was away when Derek died, but the last time I seen him, which was the Saturday night (he died on the Tuesday morning) I was going out for a few drinks and wanted a few before I headed out and my mam said to me that there was some vodka in her apartment I could take, so I text Dez and said I would be over to get some vodka and he said no bother. When I got over he had a few of his friends and their girlfriends there and they were all having a few drinks and watching the footy, and for once I didn’t bark orders for them to leave, I sat with them for a bit having the chats and me and dez had a few laughs together. I went in to get the Vodka and it was some brand that’s like 40% vol and dez said ‘Ya know thats 40% chelle’ and my cousin Alan who was there with dez said ‘not anymore its not’ and they all burst out laughing. The feckers were after drinking most of it and topped it back up with water. We had a laugh and I left them with the watered down vodka and told them to have a good night. Dez gave me a hug and said thanks chelle. I knew he was thanking me for not giving out to him for having crowds there and also for watering down my vodka haha!

That was the last time I heard his lovely laugh and the last hug I got from him. That’s a memory that I think of a lot and when I say I would give my two legs to do exactly the same thing I done that last time i seen him I would. I would say i’d give my arms too but I want to keep them so I can hug him and never let go.

My heart is broken. My heart is broken not only for me, but for my family too. My Mam and Dad.

How can parents bury their own child. How are they coping? When I think of how they must feel my heart feels like its shattering into a million pieces. They are the strongest people I know and they are there for me and my brother Robert and encourage us both to talk about our feelings and ask how we are doing every day as do we with them, but how do they do it when their own hearts are broken. I worry about them both every single day.

My brother Robert. Hes the biggest heart of gold and is the worlds number 1 worrier. He worries about everybody and always wants to be sure that we are all ok even though his heart has been ripped out. He adored Derek and done everything he could to protect him. He was always there for Derek no matter what and they were as close as brothers can be and spoke crap about crap everyday on whats app. Rob still goes to send Derek links on articles to read about football or whatever because they done it everyday. He is a broken man now but still makes sure everybody else is ok before himself. Hes also probably better than any counselor out there for getting you to discuss your feelings. He is one of a kind and I love him very much. It hurts me seeing him hurting so much too.


Hes kept busy with his 3 year old torment of a daughter, Emma. Torment in the sweetest way is what I mean 😉 My only Niece. Dereks only Niece. Boy did he adore he adore her!


Shes the funniest, craziest little wagon there is and she says everything now and he will never get to see all of that. She will never remember the love that Derek had for her or the bond that they had. She loves her uncle Derek and talks about him all the time. At Christmas when my mam got upset at dinner time she said, is Nanna upset because shes missing my uncle Derek. Shes a clever little cookie. She sings an Adele song that’s only new out and I cry every time i hear the song now because it makes me think of her and Derek and how he didn’t get to see how amazing she was at singing that song. Shes actually a shocking singer really but its funny and she entertains us all and that’s what I mean by amazing.

They are just some of the things that go through my head. Some of the pain I feel, and some of the sorrow that I carry around with me most days. Don’t get me wrong. I have good days, mostly, but this last week has been a really bad few days for me and I’m trying to pull myself back out of them. I have an amazing family and friends around me that always pull me out of it so I know I will get through it.

My mam has taken her heartbreak and put it into something that is there help prevent any other family from going through exactly what she has, what her whole family have and she is now on the Committee for Darkness into Light Fairyhouse,




Pieta House, the Centre for the Prevention of Self-Harm or Suicide, opened its doors in January 2006 and is the first charity of its kind in Ireland. Pieta House offers a specialised treatment programme for people who have suicidal ideation or who participate in self-harming behaviors. In particular, this centre will target the people who have already attempted to take their lives, the forgotten people. This service is free of charge, but donations are welcome. The specialized treatment programme offers a comprehensive service aimed at individuals and their families who are affected by:

· Multiple suicidal attempts
· Suicidal ideation
· Continuous self-harming behaviors

Pieta House make an important distinction regarding people who engage in self-harm and those who attempt to take their own lives.



Darkness into Light

With several hundred people joining Pieta House for their first event in Dublin’s Phoenix Park eight years ago, to thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people across over 80 locations and four continents in May of last year, Darkness Into Light in aid of Pieta House, the centre for the prevention of suicide and self-harm, has grown beyond all expectations.

‘In 2009, the Phoenix Park saw the first of the yellow t-shirt clad people assembling at an unthinkable hour. There were about 400 people that fateful morning, all huddled together in the blackness and the cold, standing behind the starting line. Who would have guessed that seven years on, the little event we call Darkness Into Light would be the symbol of hope, the celebration of life that it is today?

With close to 110,000 participants last year, how could it get any bigger? But it has, and now Darkness Into Light is celebrated in excess of 110 venues in Ireland and much further afield. In addition, we are thrilled to once again have our sponsor Electric Ireland, the leading energy supplier in the country on board to this year’s event is the best yet.

Register for your place in Darkness into Light 2016 from today HERE
It takes place on 7th May 2016 starting at 4.30am.

Early bird registration is available from now until the 28th of March and is just €20 per person to take part. After the 28th March it will be €25 per person. All registration fees go directly to Pieta House. Remember this year for the first year EVER you can select Fairyhouse as your chosen venue. It is the DIL Fairyhouse Committee that my mam is part of as we live in Ashbourne.

If you cant take part of the walk itself, please think about donating anyway. I have set up a fundraiser to raise money for Pieta House myself. Although i wont be here for the Darkness into Light event,  my brother Robert and myself along with lots of our cousins have still registered and will be doing the walk in Italy. Every single penny donated on the below link will also go straight to Pieta House.

Think about how Darkness Into Light is the flagship fundraising and awareness event for Pieta House, and without your support, they could not have helped so many people in suicidal distress and engaging in self-harm over the last nine years.

Pieta House has nearly 180 staff and they have welcomed in excess of 22,000 people struggling in the shadows into their nine centres up and down the country since they first opened our doors a decade ago.

If every one of my followers finds it in their hearts to donate just €1 each, that will be almost €20,000 raised for a charity that is extremely close to my heart.


If you or anybody you know is having thoughts of suicide or self-harm please get in touch with Pieta House HERE

When somebody talks about taking their own life, that’s taken courage to tell that, and it needs to be taken seriously.

Think about what you are leaving behind. Try and understand that you are so loved and everyone in your life will do anything to save you. Life is very precious, don’t take it away from yourself.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, and for anybody that has signed up to take part in Darkness into Light or Donated to Pieta House through my link. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. It means very very much to me that we could help save another family from this heartache we feel, and also save many more precious lives.

For you Dez. I love and miss you every second. Thank you for the strength you give me, for the good days, and keep looking over us all. I feel you with me sometimes. Rest in Paradise my love xxxx

Thank you again

Michelle x



86 thoughts on “If only they knew….

  1. My heart is breaking reading this story as two my sister suffers with depression

    To see the heart ache and pain she is in every day breaks my heart not knowing when or if I’ll ever get a phone call to say she took her own life is heart breaking

    When I’m talking to her when I look at her face I know she’d not really there

    She tried to take her life so many times

    She has five mist beautiful kids and yet she can’t seem to focus on them tried to get help so many times and nothing is helping her there has to be something some body can do

    All they do us give her tablet after tablet
    To wake up go asleep and to barely function. So this story had really broke my heart. I came across this story.

    Because I was looking to see why u don’t snap chat any more live ur snaps ur so funny.. hope to hear from ur snaps again. Sharon.


  2. Very nice bloke, even more a beautiful family!! Stay strong… easy for me to say but pain over time will ease, Important to talk!! Important to listen!! More important to be there for each other….

    Rip derek


  3. I’m truly sorry Michelle for your devastating loss. On reading your story it was like I had written it myself. So many emotions I could relate to. I don’t honestly know if you were better off being away on that devastating morning. My dad and I found my brother hanging in garden shed on 14 Nov 2012 and every day I can still see his face as clear as if it was yesterday. I don’t have to shut my eyes to see it, and yes bedtime is the worst time. I can still hear the roars of anguish from my dad that just seemed to go on forever. I was numb and I stayed in shed with him stroking his face and asking him why, I phoned my daughter and my husband and they told me I had to call 999 and they took over then contacting other family members. Like you, I felt I couldn’t leave Patrick, like your brother, he was a very gentle and kind person and everybody loved him and he loved everybody. Unfortunately for Patrick the only person he could not love was himself. He attempted suicide the August before he died. He was in St Pat’s for 6 weeks, but it wasn’t for long enough, he didn’t want to leave, he didn’t feel ready and 6 weeks later he was dead. Don’t beat yourself up Michelle about all the family being away because my dad, Mam and I were there that fateful morning and yet nobody saw Patrick slip out to the shed. He was supposed to have gone to have his blood checked and we were unaware anything was amiss until the nurse phoned to ask where he was. At 11.15 am when I checked, the key wasn’t in door of shed but when call came at 12.15 I looked again and key was in door and that’s when our lives were turned upside down. My Mam died less than a year later and my dad died a devastated and broken man last November. You’re so right when you talk of the devastation left behind. It’s truly harrowing. I’m in counselling since December trying to sort out the mess in my head. I used to get angry with Patrick but then I’d feel selfish because I knew the inner torment he was suffering and it never went away for him. I’m pretty sure though Michelle that your beloved brother and mine have found the peace of mind that they so desperately craved. He’s your very special guardian now. Take care and be kind to yourself.


  4. So sorry to hear about this. Depression is a dease.. My step.daughter boyfriend hung him self just after Christmas day. He left behind 3 children 1 aged 4 the other aged 1 and the baby 7 month old its totolly destroyed family friends. Its who you leave behind that has to deal with things. It makes you question your own mind . you blame yourself . my daughter dad and friend found him and had to cut him down..they will never be the same again every time they close there eyes they see him…its such a shame and No’s what’s going of inside someone mind.. I just hope there in a better place now. X


  5. Your brother was truly loved by you. It takes a superhuman like you to try and help others even though your heart is broken. Thank you for being so brave. God bless you and your family


  6. Such a sad story Michelle. One i know only too well. My husband took his own life in 2002. I was left with 4 children aged 8, 5, 2 and 8 weeks old. He had SAD depression. Back then there was no help. They put him on anti depressents, which made him drowsy and hallucinate. He tried to take his life, a week before he actually did, on our 2 year old’s birthday. He was released from hospital, even though he had been at death’s door and sent home to wait on a Psychiatrist’s appointment. It arrived the day of his funeral. They done nothing for him. My girls are teenagers now but its starting to haunt them about their dad. Why? Is the main question. I was once told that once someone commits to kill themself, nothing, not even themselves can change that thought pattern. I cried
    reading your story because i’ve felt that raw pain. Like your heart has been ripped out of your chest. I don’t think anyone really realises about the family and friends that are left behind. But we suffer too. Throwing yourself into a good cause such as pieta house helps keep your mind occupied for a time. Its the alone times that hurt the most. Keep your chin up and stay strong Michelle. Xx


  7. Michelle ur words stired so many memories of heartache and pain that don’t ever truly go away u just learn to cope and live with them. My brother took his own life in September 2009 and like u that morning phone is still as clear as if it were yesterday. Ur brother would be so proud of everything u do with pieta house and raising awareness of this terrible disease. I’m here if ud ever like to talk. Take care. X


  8. A truly beautiful and thought provoking piece. I applaud your family’s bravery and having suffered a close family bereavement my thoughts are with you all. As I say to my own daughter (aged four) the people who have left us appear in the stars at night time, all you have to do is luck up and i have no doubt Dez will be looking down at you all smiling back at you all as only he can. I respect your courage and can only imagine how hard it was for you to write this beautiful piece.


  9. So sorry for your loss Michelle. I’m sure Derek would be proud of you and the work you’re doing to raise awareness and find help for those who need it and their families. I cried my eyes out reading your post and I can’t imagine the heartache suffered by you and your family in losing him. I too have a 24 year old brother who suffers from mental health issues and drug addiction. It breaks our hearts that he suffers with this and refuses to admit he has a problem. So hard to get him help when he doesn’t want it. Thank you for your post, it’s made me realise I can’t give up on him.


  10. Hi Michelle,
    Your story has touched me to comment so I wanted you to know…..
    How lovely the way you have told your story in such devastating circumstances, and to show talking / being there can help others who may be in the same situation. I hope you and your family find peace one day and Im pretty sure writing, talking, expressing how you feel must really help you with the process of “healing” if thats possible, Very Best Wishes for you and your familys future Ruth x


  11. Michelle, I was just reading through the Independent online early in the morning and read the piece about Derek and it impacted me so much, I cried. I have a young son and a wife, and it inspired me to look at them and hold them and appreciate how precious they are. I know it’s no consolation to you, but thank you.
    I hope you can find some path to peace. Rest in peace Derek


  12. You ask me how I’m doing
    And I say that I’m ok
    That I’m living in the moment
    And getting through the day
    Should I tell you that I can’t breathe
    That I don’t know where I belong
    That the sadness never ends &
    That I’m so tired of being strong?
    That there is this pain inside me
    That’s never far away
    And finding strength in little things
    Is what gets me through the day
    A daughters laugh, a sunny sky
    They can make the spirit light
    But it’s tainted with this darkness
    I must fight with all my might.
    Good days will come, I know this truth
    Some days more than others
    There is good to see and joy to feel
    When you can come out from beneath the covers
    Grief can wear down the strongest soul
    When there is no rhyme not reason
    But fight you must, you can’t give in
    You’ll get through another season
    Of birthdays, memories, random dates
    That now come back to haunt you
    Those dates where joy once lived, and laughter soared
    Are now just a sad reminder
    The nagging questions, those guilty thoughts
    All commingled with the pain
    And yet the one you want to find the truth from
    You will never see again.
    But tomorrow is another day
    And maybe there’ll be light
    And with luck I’ll leave a happy Mark
    Before day turns into night.


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