“For my mum’s 90th birthday, I want to let her know that I am ok” says Sarah.
The morning of 9th of June I woke up cranky. You know the mornings… maybe you don’t. No particular reason, just cranky. I looked at my diary and saw that I had an interview scheduled with Sarah that morning. Sarah is contact STORM had made through some work we did on the Isla of Man. The conversation changed my day completely. I hope it will change yours.
Sarah lost her two sons through an accidental overdose of recreational drugs; the pair of young men were on a weekend away to watch football and music concerts like many other young men and women do every weekend. However, neither of Sarah’s sons returned. The shocking news of their death sent Sarah into some very dark places.
The grief that Sarah experienced was harrowing, so much so that she considered taking her life. “I went to bed, didn’t eat and questioned what’s the point? When can I join them?” she remembers. These responses are quite common in people where grief is complicated. I think you may agree that grief is complicated at the best of times, but the sudden death of both children adds a layer of complexity that is unimaginable to me.
Suicidal thoughts were a feature of Sarah’s grief for a while. “I had a notion in my head that if it all got too much I could just kill myself. It felt like a safety net… a planned route out… I can end it all”. This was coupled with lots of crying, anxiety about talking to people and a sense of the pointlessness in life. During the toughest times there were small comforts that she found; “A big fat novel to take you away… walks, lots of long walks” she recalls “ and the spirit of caring and humanity”.
It is estimated that approximately 20% of people have experienced thoughts of suicide during their lifetime. That’s one in five people! Thoughts of suicide are common but many people live through these. “Grief doesn’t go away,” says Sarah “but you do learn to conquer it. It takes a while,” She says describing what she refers to as her “battle”. Her final decision was that “this is not going to kill me. There are lots of reasons to carry on, so many people care” Sarah says, “You bring yourself back. I find strength for other people.” At this point I am welling up myself as she talks, my crankiness pre-phone call dwarfed by the story I am hearing and the strength and warmth of the person at the end of the phone.
Sarah now talks about dominating her grief and using the memories of her sons to motivate her. “My boys loved me because I am a positive person and I have a sense of humour. They would not want me to be a destroyed person. That would be the last thing they want.” Her voice is a little shaky at this point. “I want them to be proud of me, make the best of life”.
Sarah has survived the loss of both her children, she has survived thoughts of ending it all and now enjoys life. She describes still being close to tears very regularly and the grief is still there, but she has conquered it.
Towards the end of our conversation, I asked Sarah, what she wanted the key message of the article to be. She thought about it for a while. Her response was “Hey, I am OK”, making reference to STORM’s social change campaign - #HeyAreYouOK?
Sarah also wanted to dedicate the story to her mum, who turns 90 in August. So happy birthday to the mum of one very strong and inspiring woman who is OK!
Written by Bianca Hegde (STORM Team)
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