'To Daddy, I really, really miss you' - A message for her daddy from a broken-hearted girl
A little girl is still struggling with her grief four years after her father took his own life, writes Claire Mc Cormack
Last Friday, a little girl from Meath arrived home with a special 'Happy Father's Day' card that she'd made in school.
She wrote: "To Daddy, I really, really miss you. So does mummy and [sister] you were the best Daddy ever".
It's been four years since her father took his own life; she was just three at the time. Her baby sister was two.
Some might think that by the age of seven she'd have started to process the trauma of losing a parent.
But the truth is her young heart is just beginning to break. When she showed the card to her mother, Lorraine, a lump quickly formed in her throat.
"I was filled with overwhelming sadness. She shouldn't have to deal with this. All she wants is to be Daddy's girl," Lorraine told the Sunday Independent.
The little girl asked her mother if they could bring it to "his special place". Her father, Steve, was cremated but the family has a small plot at the local church where his two daughters place angels and messages.
Despite the passing of the years, Lorraine says her eldest daughter's grief has come to the fore recently.
"She suffers daily, she struggles so bad with the grief. His suffering is over but hers is just beginning four years later. She was like his shadow, she went everywhere with him," she said.
Lorraine sent the card to Console Ireland, the national suicide charity, to highlight the long-term grief endured by those left behind.
"A few weeks ago her friends at school were asking how her Daddy died, because they were talking about Father's Day and she had a complete meltdown, asking how did he die?," said her mother.
"She ripped up a family photo saying he wasn't here and she didn't want him in the photograph and then she would be sad. Every day there is something," she said.
After Steve took his own life, in the family home, Lorraine explained what had happened as best as she could.
"I said 'do you remember our fish Bob that died and didn't come back, well I'm afraid that's what has happened to Dad. That was her understanding of it at three," she said.
In the run up to Father's Day, Lorraine had to sit the seven-year-old down again.
"I said you know the way some people have broken bones, well, with Dad there was something in his head that was broken. So, I still haven't told her.
"I can't explain it to her the way she wants because she is too young to know that he took his life. I'm afraid she'll think 'was I not good enough?'" she said.
Although Lorraine knows the "dreaded conversation" is fast approaching, the potential impact on her daughter terrifies the mother of four. (Lorraine has two teenage sons from a previous marriage.)
"It's a massive worry and it's very frustrating. I didn't sign up to be part of a suicide. I feel stigmatised by it and I feel that my daughters are suffering and they will continue to suffer throughout the years when they find out what happened," she said.
"We're left with the scars, I want anyone out there who is thinking about taking their own life to just maybe take another second or an hour to think about it before they take that route. Just look for a bit of help," she said.
Although Lorraine says her late partner was "extremely funny" and "very well-liked", in hindsight she can see the signs of a hidden depression.
"He was made redundant from work but got a new job in America. He was due to start in June but I don't think he wanted to leave his family. He killed himself in April," she said.
She believes his sense of manhood was damaged by the financial crash.
"I don't think he felt that he was the man of the house. When the country went arse up, it stripped him of that dominant male role. He didn't feel good enough for us," she said.
Although she had no idea he was struggling so much, she believes if he'd opened up she could have helped.
"I know if he'd spoken to me he'd still be here, he loved me and the children with all his heart and I definitely think talking would have helped. There is so much professional help out there," she said.
After returning home on that awful day to find her partner of eight years dead, Lorraine says she fell into the squalor of "wine and closed doors".
"I thought I was doomed for a long time but I got out and I talked and told the truth of how I was feeling and it got me where I am now, and I'm much stronger," said Lorraine, who is in a new relationship and enjoying life.
However, her main focus is guiding her girls through the years ahead.
Her eldest daughter speaks to a counsellor every Saturday.
Paul Kelly, CEO of Console, said: "While the majority of Irish people will celebrate their father's life this Sunday, many thousands will be remembering a parent lost to suicide. Many of these people find it hard to talk about their loss, silenced by stigma, yet their father remains an important figure in their life," he said.