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.



  • Claire Scanlan says:

    You expressed so honestly and identifiable the experience felt, as a result of suicide loss.
    You are an inspiration Deborah.
    Lots of Love to you and your family always.

  • Lynda Duff says:

    Beautifully written. Glad you can find some kind of peace.

  • Mary says:

    Debbie really touched reading your story and the bond you shared with your beautiful daughter❤ sometimes we make pieces of ourselves to make family happy and forget about ourselves
    Feel like you have a good balance now or do your best to, thank you for passing on your knowledge and still give to us in F.O.S.L. you have a lovely way about you and picked that up the very first day I met you ,your strenght now shines though and yes I believe Julie showed you that when you connected 🦋❤X

  • Jane Spong says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, I can relate to how you are feeling. It helps to know that I’m not abnormal in the way I feel and it’s not that easy to “get on with it” as one person told me. Thank you again . Sending love and hugs xx

  • Mary Jane says:

    So well written and appreciated.

  • Glen says:

    Every word true and solid from start to finish

  • Jenny Scanlon says:

    Appreciated and so healing.

  • Vera says:

    Thank you for your story Debbie. A great benefit to us all.

  • Deborah says:

    Thank you all for your kind words.I hope you find hope and strength from my story..
    My family are now widespread and worldwide because of Friends Of Suicide are all my Family and I am forever grateful Julie brought you into my life .Over the past 6 years Terry and Vera helped me regain my trust in Life, For this I am eternally grateful 💜

  • Patricia byrne says:

    Hi debbie wat an amazing story i feel like i was the one that wrote this story 21/1/16 i lost my 20year old son stepher to suicide he was the 3th youngest of 10 children that day i will never forget for the rest of my life and to this day i fear for my other 9 children and also my grandchildren if they even get a cold or a caught i fear i will loos them no mater how hard i try to put it at the back of my mind it always ther 💚

    • Deborah says:

      Dear Patricia,
      Sorry to hear about the loss of your son Stephen to suicide .Losing a child is unbearable, and the pain is something we learn to live with.Sending you hugs and warm wishes💜

      • Patricia morgan says:

        Deborah thank you same to you its a realy differint kind of pain your daughter is beautiful and thank you for sharing your story up ontill i read your story i taught i was the only one who lives with that fear of sibling suicide 🌹💚

    • Deborah says:


  • Annette says:

    Debbie your love for your daughter Julie shines out in your words. Thank you for sharing your story. Sending love to you and your family. Thanks for your support and FOSL which I am so grateful for. All best wishes 💚💜🌸🌺

  • Hannah Whelan says:

    I am very proud to say that my own Mam wrote this beautiful story of the month. She is in every way my biggest inspiration and has always pushed me to be my absolute best. She is the best mother in the whole world and has gone above and beyond to help me and my brother and we are in every way so lucky that she is our mother. She has the kindest heart and is always willing to help others and I know She did everything in her power to help my sister Julie in her darkest times. My mam is the strongest woman I know and not a day goes by where I don’t think about how lucky I am to have her in my life ❤️🥰

  • Maureen Slough says:

    Debbie, very beautifully written.
    Although I didn’t lose a daughter so much of what you’ve written resonates with me. Julie’s heavenly visit to you, to let you know she’s loves you and will always be with you. Also to give you the strength to go on and keep fighting. ❤️❤️❤️❤️I’ve been so touched by your story today 💯💯💯

  • Aisling Lyons says:

    Debbie I am only getting to read your story now. I can confirm you are a wonderful mother and are blessed to have such wonderful children who admire and respect you. I am just sorry I never got to meet Julie. Thanks for sharing your story. The feeling is mutual about meeting and knowing other FOSL members who have become our extended family. The support we can give each other is special and the connection we feel from our loved ones who have passed is precious. Sending you lots of love 🧡❤💙💕

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