Belfast Telegraph

Woman who lost both of her beloved sisters to suicide within two months pens powerful open letter telling the pain her family faces every day

‘Shauna was my gifted, thoughtful baby sister and Michelle was always there for me whenever I needed her. I’ll never forgive you for taking them away from me, but I am determined their deaths won’t be in vain’ says Emma Reilly (31) a nurse from Fermanagh

Dear suicide, you are possibly the one thing that I never really gave much consideration to when I was growing up. Why would I? I enjoyed a blissful childhood, surrounded by two loving parents and two unique but equally loving sisters. Whilst we had our squabbles, our fallouts and our screaming matches — as sisters do — we grew up to become best friends. We lived together, socialised with the same friends and despite the difference in years, we shared similar interests. As a threesome we relied on each other and always had each other’s best welfare at heart. Then you came along!

I suppose looking back you seeped unknowingly into our lives way before we even knew you existed, like a slow growing cancer that lies dormant for so long that you have to watch and wait to see not if but when it’s going to cause damage. Unlike cancer cells, though, there are no blood tests, no CT or PET scans, no regular consultations with specialists to enable us to know how vengeful you really are or when you are going show your face. There is also no treatment. Once you strike, the chances of survival are minimal.

You hide and you are very good at it. So good in fact that people are afraid to mention your name. They are terrified of you, of the devastation you bring and the total helplessness of the wave of destruction you leave in your wake. You not only destroy the person, but their families — the sorrowful parents, the grieving siblings, partners, friends and even entire communities. With that you destroy relationships, strong solid relationships based on true love.

Relationships which have seen their troubles but have overcome them. But you, you test them to the core and sometimes, in fact a lot of the time, you win. Your rippling effect is never-ending. Is it not enough that you cruelly take one life, but you make so many other people suffer as well?

Before you attack you torture the poor soul, you make them believe that life, their life and that of others would be so much better if they were no longer in it. Sometimes you test them to see if they are capable of doing what you want them to do. And when they don’t succeed? You give them hell!

You make them feel unworthy of compassion, of love, of a single ounce of human kindness because unbeknown to the poor individual, you have poisoned their mind and your existence has firmly been established.

Thankfully I don’t know you personally and quite frankly I hope and pray that I never ever will. Yet, you have ruined my life and you will continue to affect me every single day. The hardest part of all? You haven’t given me any choice!

First you took Shauna, my stunning, caring, gifted and thoughtful baby sister. She had the ability to light up any room just by being in it, her laugh was so hearty it was contagious.

She had the capability to make people feel at ease, no matter who they were or where they came from. Her gifts were so personalised that they continue to be some of the most precious items I own and probably ever will. Shauna had a devilment in her that you couldn’t help but love. She loved all things pink and glittery and she dyed the dog’s hair to match her own, she even co-ordinated their outfits so they matched on Christmas Day!

Something only Shauna would get away with — the rest of us? Well we would just look mad! Crazy even, but that was Shauna. Our Shauna. The baby girl who so much wanted to become a biomedical scientist and had both the brains and ability to do it. She had the potential to be so successful and with her kind and gentle ways she could have gone anywhere. The world really was at her feet — until you entered her world.

You hid in the background like a secret ally, pretending that you could offer support when the sticks where down. You allowed elements of self-doubt, normal at times I imagine, to linger, but unlike an ally you had a secret objective. Instead of offering support you poisoned her mind. Like the devil in disguise you destroyed my baby sister, our Angel, our baby girl! She didn’t believe she was amazing, kind, generous and beautiful. She listened to you and she died. You Suicide, you won the battle and you shattered our lives into tiny little pieces.

I will never forget the phone call that would change my life forever. Aged just 23 on the 17/12/16 Shauna Kate Reilly died through suicide. I actually believe that no one who heard the news that night could comprehend the enormity of your presence.

We had heard of you, of course, but we never imagined that our family would be affected; much like any terminal diagnosis, you never really believe it can happen to you until it does. In the days that followed, the police officers, coroner phone calls, funeral arrangements, every single detail was defined by you.

In true Shauna style she made the front page of the local paper, known as ‘the bubbliest girl you could meet’ — at least in that respect Shauna had the last word. We asked for those at her funeral to wear the brightest and boldest colours they had, a celebration of a life now lost but a recognition of a life much loved, and loved she was. We didn’t call her an angel for no reason — although at times she could be anything but! But now she was Heaven’s angel and somehow we had to learn to exist without her presence.

I don’t think you ever let those who have been bereaved through suicide to really live again. Exist yes, really live like they did before? Never. You didn’t even give us a chance to try to cope without Shauna. Secretly in the background like an invasive terminal cancer you were working your evil on my older sister, Michelle, and just seven weeks later you took her too. Aged just 33 on the 10/2/17 Michelle died through suicide, you plunged our family into a whole new painful and horrible world, one where we didn’t want to be and one where we couldn’t escape.

I never knew what life was like without Michelle, she was my older sister, always there no matter when and where I needed her. We grew up together, went to school together, learned to ride our bikes and simultaneously fall off them together! My friends were Michelle’s friends. We shared houses, holidays, memories — lots of memories together. She was the only one who knew what we really got up to as children. We had so many unwritten rules we knew what each other was thinking before we even spoke. Michelle was absolutely stunning, a younger version of Mum but just as beautiful. Kind, thoughtful and gentle, she was amazing. Equally she was very unassuming and quietly went about her days. She asked little from anyone but gave a lot. She was far too intelligent for her own good and she drove many people mad by not pursuing a career she would have been amazing at. But that was our Michelle, all she wanted was to be happy, have a family and watch her children grow up surrounded by her own parents and sisters. A simple but plentiful life and a life that you selfishly took for your own selfish reasons!

It kills me that every day I wake up and have to face another without Shauna and Michelle.

Today we should be planning Michelle’s hen party — she was engaged to be married in March this year. Instead, I am researching verses for the paper for Michelle’s first anniversary. Shauna’s has already passed, as has our first Christmas.

Overnight I have become an only child and it isn’t a place I ever wanted or imagined. You have robbed me not only of my memories from childhood but my future, of weddings, nieces, nephews, christenings, communions.

Every family event that I will never have. And when Mum and Dad are gone, there will just be me, no siblings to lean on, just me and it terrifies me. The hardest part to accept? You make me feel like I could have prevented it. I could have read the signs, I could have intervened earlier or I could have sought professional help. But that’s just you, Suicide, you don’t stop — you are relentless. Even now, a year later, you interrupt our lives daily. Not only mine and Mum and Dad’s, but our friends and our extended families.

There have been more families affected and I am sure you are working your cruel way into another poor unfortunate family but let me tell you this, Suicide — you may have won this battle, but you have definitely not won the war.

It is my mission to prevent you from causing more heartache. I will find a way to stop you ruining lives.

My sister’s deaths will not be in vain! Your prevention is paramount to our society, to our families and to our future.

I will never forgive you and I hope I never encounter you again.


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