Saturday 22 October 2016

Finding some hope in the midst of even the most unbearable sadness

As the Government launches its suicide prevention strategy today, Linda Allen reflects on how her world turned upside down when her 15-year-old son Darragh took his own life over a year ago. Here the mother of two writes movingly about her devastating loss and how she rediscovered light and hope

Linda Allen

Published 24/06/2015 | 02:30

Linda Allen and her son Darragh, who was 15 when he took his own life. Darragh was 'the life and soul of the party, the glue that held 'his crew' together, the laughter, the joker, the music maker, the risk taker'
Linda Allen and her son Darragh, who was 15 when he took his own life. Darragh was 'the life and soul of the party, the glue that held 'his crew' together, the laughter, the joker, the music maker, the risk taker'

See you in two minutes, Ma.

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The words echoed in the hallway as the front door closed and re-opened in a burst, followed by a trundling of long legs up the stairs and down as quickly. All over in a blur and this time the silence left uninterrupted.

Me standing in the kitchen ironing some innocuous piece of clothing in a mundane way on an ordinary Saturday evening, in an ordinary house in a cul de sac with a green area where children kick ball and have tea parties with plastic tea sets, and he and 'his crew' set up a tent to camp out, where they tumble wrestle with each other and take selfies, plan battles on Xbox, dance, sing, shout, share a smoke behind a wall.

Here in this ordinary life, the unthinkable happened. My life was transformed forever that evening as that was the last time I saw him alive.

That scene plays in my mind over and over, etched forever in my memory as I examine those last moments with forensic determination, looking for a clue, an indication, a something...

There has got to be a something that could have, that would have, changed the outcome. What did I miss? But like a scratch on an old vinyl record, the needle returns to the same thought processes, the outcome remains unchanged, he's no longer here, he left us by his own hand, his own choice.

My mind is screaming so many words but the truth is unwavering. He's 15 years old, he is supposed to be here. But he's gone. All over in a blur.

And so my life stopped and began again as the mother of a suicide victim.

Those words sit uncomfortably in the air. What was he a victim of? Love? Teenage angst? Troubled? Depressed? Are these the words associated with him now and forever more as some sense of this event can be attained and his absence means there is no defence. People can make up their own minds about what ailed him.

But he was the life and soul of the party, the glue that held 'his crew' together, the laughter, the joker, the music maker, the risk taker. He bustled in and out of the door, always accompanied by mates.

He danced around the kitchen, opening and shutting the cupboard doors looking for food that stared back at him from laden shelves as he declared there was nothing to eat. Boisterous in his enthusiasm for music and socialising, loving his friends in a deeply loyal way, things were never quiet in his wake.

Mature in so many ways as his body grew and changed overnight into a manly composition, hairy legs in training shorts. Shadow over his lip.

Such a paradox of emotions emanated from him, such a typical teenager. Boundaries were made to be reverberated against and tested and he did give that a good innings.

And so when two minutes didn't return him home, I thought not too much of it at first. But as the cold winter evening drew in, he was still not contactable, unusual in his silence. A silence that was to remain unbroken; save for a whisper on the wind, a song arriving in my mind or a memory so real it jolts my being.

The need to plan and arrange his funeral arises and we are with no blueprint in place. Choosing to live outside the confines of the church, although an informed choice, we had at no time given to planning or arranging a funeral, least of all of our teenage son. The local priest calls in to offer support but our belief system does not find solace in the traditional church teachings and so we decline. This balancing the needs of our circumstances, as a divorced couple, in a small traditional town, at such a traumatic time is a significant piece of the picture.

By some miracle and with the broad support offered by friends and the community, we created a poignant, remarkable, personal ritual in the community centre, where his friends and family spoke, sang and shared memories.

And then me, his mother, is left asking the unanswerable questions over again into a vacuum where no answer offered by my mind, heavy laden with guilt and shame, can suffice or appease. How could I not pre-empt his act? What was distracting me so? How could I have failed so miserably at the most important job in the world? Protecting my son even from himself? How can I support his sister in navigating the outcome of this act of his?

And yet in the midst of all this pressure, stress, disbelief and trauma, simultaneously there is a deep feeling under the surface, one that permeates through the mind ramblings, one that fills me with light as if to fan the flame of love and drives me forward. One that keeps me looking in the direction of something greater than the frailty of the human mind and body. One that sees the beauty in nature as a source of nourishment and healing.

One that brings me to watch the ocean waves breaking on the shore without pause, that reminds me to smile through tears and to feel and grow in love in the face of this adversity. One that feels the power of music as it provides a vehicle for the expression of feelings and emotions and how it becomes a place that me, his mother, and his friends can meet and share the impact of his loss from our differing age demographic.

Their beautiful rendition of 'Tombshell' by Mumford & Sons, in our sitting room, a poignant piece of songwriting that could have been scripted just for this circumstance.

And all the while he smiles at us from the framed photo above the mantle, frozen in a moment behind that frame.

Not gone but transformed. Like our lives now.

This first piece appeared on this week and is reproduced with permission.

Irish Independent

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