Thursday 21 September 2017

'I look at her and it breaks my heart she hasn't got her dad' - Mum on the pain of losing her partner to suicide

Stephen Byrne with partner Sarah and baby Ava
Stephen Byrne with partner Sarah and baby Ava

Laura Lynott

Stephen Byrne (20), from Ballymun, took his life last year after his family said he had tried but failed to gain help.

His beloved daughter, Ava, now three years old and the image of her dad, had turned two on the day his body was found on January 21, 2016.

As she visits his grave with her mum, Sarah Kerin (21), little Ava asks to "bring flowers to daddy's garden".

Sarah, who had been childhood sweethearts with Stephen, says Ava is too young to explain what happened to her father.

Stephen Byrne with partner Sarah and baby Ava
Stephen Byrne with partner Sarah and baby Ava

She isn't sure just yet what age will be right for her to be told why he is gone.

"I don't know how I'm dealing with it if I'm honest," Sarah said.

"I look at her all the time and think what would she do without me. One parent is gone, what would it be like without me. I don't grieve for myself, I grieve for her.

"I look at her and it breaks my heart that she hasn't got Stephen anymore."

Sarah said that, recently, Ava looked up and said "Steo", her father's nickname, and a short time later found a white feather - a mark that the dad is still watching over his child, the mother believes.

"Ava said 'Steo' and I didn't even know she knew his nickname," Sarah said.

"A while later in the bathroom, she said it again, laughing. Then Ava asked: 'Where is daddy? Will you ring him?'

"I broke down, I didn't know what to do. She was out the back expecting that I could ring him, so I said: 'Daddy is Mr Moon. He comes out every night.'

"She went out to the back garden to see and found a white feather. She still just asks for her dad at random times."

Sarah said, as Ava grows up, she worries that she will feel left out when she sees other fathers picking up their children from school.

The mother feels "jealous of couples" with children, who are off to the city's many parks to enjoy the early summer weather together.

"That used to be us. Even if me and Stephen fell out, we'd still go out to the zoo or park with Ava," Sarah said.

"We'd still carry on as normal for her. Everything was for her. Stephen adored Ava. He said she was the most beautiful girl he had seen.

"He took her to the ducks all the time and he was a brilliant, devoted father.

"I feel sad that Stephen won't see Ava go to school, he won't be there for her Communion, for her wedding day or when he should have become a granddad.

"His mam, Patricia, has a heart of gold and all his family are such a great support, but sadly nothing can replace Stephen being Ava's dad. She's the mirror image of him and she's a little character but so loving too, just like Stephen was."

Sarah and Patricia joined others on the Darkness Into Light walk at the weekend in Ballymun to commemorate all those who have died by suicide.

For anyone affected by the issues raises in this article, contact Pieta House on 1800 247 247 or the Samaritans on 116 123

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