Shock read: They both did the un­think­able

Dionne Crop­per, 52, has been through ev­ery mother’s worst night­mare – twice…

Woman's Own - - CONTENTS -

Chat­ting away to my sons Damien and Do­minik, I tell them about my day. How beau­ti­fully sunny and mild it’s been re­cently, how their lit­tle sis­ter is do­ing at school, how I could re­ally do with a hol­i­day. But they never re­ply, they just smile and stare. You see, all I have left of my sons are pho­tos and mem­o­ries.

With just three years be­tween them, Damien and Do­minik were best friends as well as brothers. As young boys, I’d al­ways find them run­ning around the gar­den with a foot­ball. Damien was 10 and Do­minik seven when their sis­ter Lau­ren was born. They as­sumed the roles of pro­tec­tive big brothers, al­ways check­ing on her and giv­ing her cud­dles.

A sin­gle mum, I re­lied on them to help me around the house, mak­ing their beds and do­ing the wash­ing-up. They were good boys, but of course they had their mo­ments. I’ll never for­get when I found naughty mag­a­zines un­der their beds!

Gold-star pupils

Both boys ex­celled at school and were hugely pop­u­lar – they were hardly ever home and al­ways out with friends. By 16, Do­minik was des­per­ate for in­de­pen­dence and man­aged to get his own flat by us­ing money from odd jobs – and I helped him make it homely. He soon found a job at a su­per­mar­ket, where his brother once worked.

It was a proud mo­ment see­ing my boys mak­ing their own way and when Do­minik told me about a girl, An­nie*, who he was see­ing, I could see that she was spe­cial. It came as no sur­prise when he pro­posed af­ter eight months.

A few weeks later Do­minik told me he was think­ing of mov­ing out of his flat and buy­ing a new-build house with An­nie. I was so pleased for him, as was Damien. The boys were still close and of­ten spent time play­ing video games to­gether.

Big de­cline

But around June 2008, I saw Do­minik af­ter work and he looked dread­ful, like he’d been cry­ing. ‘An­nie and I are over,’ he whis­pered. I didn’t want to ask too much as he looked dis­traught. I tried to be there for him, but I strug­gled as I was heav­ily preg­nant, and it fell to Damien to pick his brother up. He tried his best, vis­it­ing Do­minik and try­ing to cheer him up. But a week on and Do­minik was still mis­er­able, he was un­shaven and un­washed, which wasn’t like him. Then he stopped go­ing to work, so he lost his job.

‘You need to snap out of this,’ I warned him. But in­stead, Do­minik be­came even more de­pressed and started drink­ing. In Au­gust 2008 I gave birth to my daugh­ter Mor­gan. By now,

‘do­minik be­came de­pressed and started drink­ing’

Lau­ren was 15 and loved be­ing a big sis­ter and, like be­fore, the boys rev­elled in the joys of hav­ing a baby to dote on.

But of course I was still wor­ried about Do­minik. I tried to en­cour­age him to get help, get med­i­ca­tion or ther­apy, but he didn’t lis­ten. Which is why when Mor­gan was seven months, I phoned Do­minik and told him I was tak­ing him for break­fast.

We chat­ted and he con­fided in me about the dark turn his life had taken. ‘You can get through this, it’s just a rough spell,’ I re­as­sured him. He seemed a bit more up­beat by the time we left and to make sure he was look­ing af­ter him­self, I took him shop­ping for food. ‘Go home, have a bath and a shave and you’ll feel bet­ter.’ I told him. ‘I will, thanks Mum,’ he replied.

The next week, I met Do­minik at his grandad Peter's house. He’d ironed his clothes, was clean shaven and had that sweet, gen­tle smile again.

My son was fi­nally back. ‘Give Damien that £20 I owe him,’ he said, be­fore hand­ing me the cash and dart­ing off.

Two days later, on Sun­day 5 April 2009, as I came home from shop­ping with Lau­ren, my part­ner Richard, then 31, was wav­ing his arms out­side our house. His eyes were red and puffy and he looked like he was shak­ing. ‘It’s Do­minik,’ he said, ‘He’s killed him­self.’ I think the whole vil­lage must have heard me scream, but I couldn’t con­trol it. I was hys­ter­i­cal and while Lau­ren and Richard held me, I felt the numb­ness set in.

When the Trans­port Po­lice vis­ited that day, they told us they’d found Do­minik’s body on the rail­way line at 1.30am. When they’d looked in his flat, the shop­ping I’d bought him the week be­fore was still bagged on the floor. He hadn’t turned a cor­ner when I saw him, he was say­ing his good­byes. He must have made his mind up about end­ing his life. He was only 23.

Cruel pat­tern

Hun­dreds came to Do­minik’s funeral and as a choir sang Amaz­ing Grace, sobs seemed to echo through the church. Lau­ren, then 16, was dev­as­tated but I wor­ried the most about Damien, 26. He’d lost his lit­tle brother and best friend and I knew he was strug­gling. He’d never been a drinker, but he was down­ing al­co­hol.

I recog­nised the pat­tern, the lack of clean­li­ness, the self-dep­re­ca­tion. I was wor­ried he’d do some­thing aw­ful like his brother, so I told him to get help but again it fell on deaf ears.

Over the next few years, while the pain of los­ing Do­minik never got eas­ier, I some­how learnt to live with it, but the same couldn’t be said for Damien. His drink­ing got worse and his re­la­tion­ship with his girl­friend, Aimee*, was on and off. He even­tu­ally lost his job and I was ter­ri­fied for him. ‘I can’t lose you too,’ I begged him. He in­sisted he was fine. ‘I wouldn't be stupid enough to do what Do­minik did,’ he said, stony-faced.

On 25 Fe­bru­ary 2015, Richard left for work at 6am while I stayed at home with Mor­gan. But within an hour, Richard was back and his eyes looked puffy. The look on his face was eerily fa­mil­iar and some­how, I just knew what he was go­ing to say. ‘It’s Damien,’ he said, as tears were stream­ing down my face. Richard worked with Aimee’s dad who told him Damien’s body had been found the night be­fore at the ex­act same spot that Do­minik’s had. He’d killed him­self to be with his brother. I col­lapsed. I’d lost my two beau­ti­ful boys, how could this be hap­pen­ing to me?

I couldn’t see Damien's body – he was just iden­ti­fied by his fin­ger­prints. As the hor­ror of what had un­folded hit me, I had a men­tal break­down and was later di­ag­nosed with PTSD.

But while it would have been easy to let the grief de­stroy me, I had Lau­ren, then 22, and Mor­gan, seven, to think about.

So, I fo­cused my en­ergy into fundrais­ing for the men­tal-health char­ity Mind. I truly be­lieve that if my boys had been given the help they needed, they’d still be alive. In­stead, all I have are mem­o­ries of their kind, gen­tle na­tures, how they’d al­ways greet me with a hug and how they al­ways teased their baby sis­ter Lau­ren, but thought the world of her. When I see their smil­ing faces from their pic­tures, those are the things I think about. At least, in my mem­o­ries, my boys are al­ways smil­ing.

‘he’d killed him­self to be with his brother’

Sa­mar­i­tans of­fers a safe place to talk. Call their free helpline on 116 123, or go to sa­mar­i­tans.org for more in­for­ma­tion.

Dionne was a proud mother of her lov­ing boys

The brothers as teens, with younger sis­ter Lau­ren and their mum

Do­minik, left, and his older brother, Damien

Damien with Lau­ren, Dionne (left) and lit­tle sis, Mor­gan (front)

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