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