Debbie with Julie then age 19
Love and Grief Never Dies.
(By Debbie Whelan)
When I lost my daughter Julie to suicide in August 2015, my whole world as I knew it fell apart. From that day forward my role as a mother changed in every shape and form .The emptiness I felt was unbearable, how could I live my life with Julie no longer there with my other two children . It seemed so surreal. We were no longer a family of five, four was our new number, four place settings at the dinner table, four sitting watching TV together; when going to family events I felt an emptiness in my gut, the void in my life could not be filled by anything else other than Julie being with me or me being with her.
As a parent I realise I have a responsibility—- to myself, to survive in order to help my other children; while writing this the fear of losing my remaining two children to suicide is never far from my mind and this many times brings moments of trepidation.
Throughout my grief journey I try my best to always keep Julie’s memory alive, but there are many days that I can’t indulge in my own grief, when my children or husband need my support I feel the need to listen and help in any way possible. The bond that glues us together now as a family is stronger than ever, we have grown closer and more understanding and mindful of each other’s feelings.
When my daughter took her own life, I labelled myself as an unfit mother, as I couldn’t keep her alive. Six years on I am much kinder and more understanding of my feelings. I now know I was and am a good mother to my children.
What helped me through the first 2 years of grief, I don’t know. Looking back now at times it was family, the odd understanding friend and maybe it was Julie. My love for her was so strong it became overwhelming. I wanted to leave this world. One night in my darkest hour she came to me in the form of a beautiful light. Let no one tell me that was not my Julie reaching out to help me to fulfil my role in this world. My husband Sean witnessed this. Such a crazy story, who would believe only the friends I met in the support group at FOSL who listened and shared similar beautiful stories about connections with their loved ones.
They understood my pain and listened to me, and I am forever grateful that they are a big part of my life.
In my early days of grief getting up in the morning was a chore, doing the smallest of tasks, like showering to me was like climbing a mountain.
I had such a strong need to connect with Julie. I began little rituals such as lighting candles in her memory. It was something I looked forward to doing each day and it gave me a sense of connection and peace. Drinking plenty of water was vital because I was so dehydrated from crying and I wasn’t looking after myself in the early days of my loss. Walking with my husband Sean helped me release some of the anxiety that was crippling me, and also helped me connect with nature which made me feel alive and noticing things that I never noticed before.
Six years on from my loss, I still have days when I like to lock the world outside and think about the wonderful 26 years I had with Julie. I still light my candles, play her favourite music and picture her dancing or swaying to songs; I feel love and sometimes for that moment my heart feels whole again. Precious memories are a blessing and I cherish them.
Friends of Suicide Loss is a safe haven for me, where we support one another with empathy and compassion. And it’s a privilege for me to speak to you and to hear your stories.