An Irish mother has opened up about the last time she saw her 15-year-old son alive and urged teenagers struggling with their mental health to consider the “life-altering” pain left behind after suicide.
Linda Allen (50) tragically lost her son Darragh Sherry to suicide in 2012 when he was just 15 and said the unanswered questions left behind after his death are one of the most difficult things to live with.
“My story began three and a half years ago when my son Darragh took his own life when he was 15. It’s been a completely life-changing experience and my life is measured now on before his passing and after he was gone,” said Linda who lives in Sallins, Co. Kildare.
“I spend so much time thinking about the last time I saw him alive. ‘I’ll see you in two minutes, Ma’ was the last thing he said to me. I’ve played his last moments over and over in my head and analysed them so much. One of the most difficult things living with suicide is the unanswered questions that will never, ever be answered. What was he thinking? Why did he do that? What was going on with him? How is my 15 year old gone?” she said.
Darragh Sherry was described by his mum as "the glue that held his crew together"
Described by his mum as the “glue that held his crew together, the joker and the music maker”, Darragh’s death came as a tragic shock to his community.
“Suicide is every parent’s worst nightmare and it is one that I never thought would affect Darragh. He was so open, I felt like we could talk about most things. He played the drums and was a bit of a joker, I just couldn’t understand," said Linda.
“There’s such an awful despair that comes with suicide. Some days without him, I just feel so inconsolable. Sometimes you’re wracked with questions that there is no benefit in asking yourself. Thinking about what would Darragh would be doing now if this hadn’t happened, or asking yourself what his children would have been like. Sometimes the memories are comforting but other times they slam dunk you into pain.
“I have the memory of finding him, which I am often able to navigate through, but sometimes it hits me as hard as the day we lost him,” said Linda.
Darragh pictured with his sister Ciara, who is now 22
Linda has an older daughter Ciara (22) and she said that losing her younger brother forced her to mature very quickly. The mum admitted that it is bitter sweet to see Darragh’s friends getting older and growing up because, while she is happy to see them excel, she is haunted by ‘what ifs’.
“Ciara’s way of coping was to move in with her boyfriend’s family. After Darragh left us, she couldn’t sleep in that house. Losing him made her mature very fast, like me she has songs that would trigger her, or stories. We recently came across some photos of Darragh taken by one of his friends that we hadn’t seen before and that was tough.
“It can be so difficult without him. For instance, one of Darragh’s close friends told me the other day he’s been accepted to the Guards and will be going to Templemore. I’m so happy for him, but it always makes me think about what mine would be doing, and there’s a wave of sadness with that," she said.
One year after Darragh’s death, Linda began to write a book about her experiences, as a means to navigate through her grief, but also to urge teenagers to consider the impact that suicide has on their families. The book, ‘See you in Two Minutes, Ma’, also offers comfort to people bereaved by suicide in Ireland and was launched by Bressie last May.
“A year after Darragh’s passing I began writing a book, which is a story of my life since we were hit with the tsunami of him going. I was completely overwhelmed with grief and I went from having two teenagers in the house to just one and after Ciara moved on I was living a very different life quite suddenly.
“Even if you’re living with something so heavy as I was, you can’t just stay beneath your duvet or just hit the pub. You have to find a way to live, and for me, my book gave me purpose.
“My life was forever altered the day Darragh died.
“Through my book and my talks, I have met so many people who are living with the aftermath of suicide. I have met daughters, uncles, fathers, sons, sisters, brothers, mothers, cousins, friends... all whose lives have been thrown into chaos.
Linda pictured with her son Darragh (15) who tragically took his own life in 2012
“Some people bury their pain in busy schedules but my book was a way to deal with my grief head on. I threw myself into it and although it was so challenging, it was a way to channel how I was feeling,” she said.
Earlier this month, Linda was recognised at the annual Hidden Hearing Hero awards, where she was honoured in the Triumph Over Adversity category. The mental health activist revealed that the experience was hugely humbling and allowed her to meet many people who inspired her.
“It was absolutely humbling to be given the award. The resilience of the people I met at the ceremony was incredible. I found it strange to be a part of because I really don’t feel like a hero a lot of the time. I feel like I’m just someone getting by day after day.”
“Anyone that is in such a place that they’re considering leaving and taking their own life... suicide has a huge ripple effect. After Darragh’s death I received a letter from a girl at his school who has special needs. She told me that so many of her classmates don’t really give her much time, but Darragh always stopped and had a chat with her.
“It made me think, how could he be gone? How could Darragh be gone? Losing somebody you love as much as we loved Darragh changed our lives forever.”
For more information on Linda’s book ‘'See You in Two Minutes, Ma’, visit www.lindaallen.ie
If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article, please www.samaritans.org or call the Samaritans helpline on 116 123 (ROI)