MY LIFE AS as I knew it changed forever on the 10 August 2009. I was in Lourdes, France on a pilgrimage with my elderly mum, my sisters and other family members.
On that morning we were visiting a tiny village called Bartrès. After mass, we were strolling back towards the buses laughing and joking and in very high spirits, happy and content and carefree. What happened in the next few moments will haunt me forever.
My sister June answered her phone, and immediately I knew whoever was speaking to her had upset her. Not for one moment did I imagine the impact that phone call would have on my life. She looked straight at me and her words were, “Paul said Debbie is dead”.
I dropped to the ground. Every horrendous emotion ripped through me: devastation, heartbreak, sadness, the impact was unbelievable. I felt I couldn’t breathe, I thought I was going to die. My darling, beautiful, only daughter Debbie was gone and I never even got to say goodbye, or hold her one more time.
My beautiful daughter
No, I thought, it couldn’t be right. Someone got it all wrong. I tried to speak to my husband Paul but we were inconsolable. My two sisters and I travelled back to the hotel in a car. When we arrived I then had to tell my beloved mum that our Debbie had died. My mum adored her as she was their first granddaughter and they looked after her when I went back to work after she was born.
My mum was heartbroken, and as the realisation began to sink in all I wanted to do was get home. Debbie had taken my young niece Lauren for a mini-break to London, and they had arrived back to Cork the night before after having a great weekend away together.
They headed off to bed after texting me goodnight. The following morning Lauren woke to find Deb at the end of the bed. Having tried to revive her and gotten no response, Lauren went and got my son David.
Immediately, Dave knew she was gone. He telephoned his dad and the emergency services and then that life-changing call to tell me what no parent ever wants to hear.
Debbie died of Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy – SUDEP. At 16, Debbie had her first epileptic fit and for ten years she was on medication and managed it very well. A few weeks previous to her death, her consultant started to wean her off her meds. She died one month later at the age of 26.
Realising she is gone
Today, six years on, my life is so much different and so much has changed because Debbie is gone. There isn’t an hour of any day that I don’t think of her or long to see and hold her, but yes, life must carry on and I too must go on living.
I have a loving husband and a great son and an amazing extended family and they too mourn and miss her so much. All the love I had for Deb is now for everyone else.
After Debbie died, I went looking for people who were also bereaved parents and found Anam Cara. It was perfect.
Paul and I went to our first meeting three months after Debbie passed. In Ireland every year 2,100 families experience the death of a son or daughter. For some families the death has been expected because of illness while for others it’s sudden through accidents, suicide or substance abuse.
At Anam Cara we focus on the similarities of our loss rather than the differences, and have found a level of support and understanding that others cannot offer. What unites us all is that we are all bereaved parents.Source: Anam Cara/YouTube
Anam Cara is an all-Ireland organisation founded by bereaved parents. It provides a range of online and face-to-face services, with local groups meeting monthly across the four provinces. Anam Cara is today launching a seven-booklet Information Pack for bereaved parents which can be read or downloaded here. To request hard copies or find out more about Anam Cara services please call 01 404 5378 or 085 2888 888, or email email@example.com.
Anam Cara has also just produced a series of information videos in which bereaved parents speak on different themes such as ‘Sudden and Traumatic Death’ or ‘The Grieving Family’.