I lost two sons in two months

My lovely boys had al­ways been in­sep­a­ra­ble… Michelle French, 49, Aber­tiller, Mon­mouthshire

Chat - - CONTENTS -

Watch­ing my lot race around the gar­den, I winced.

‘Care­ful!’ I laughed, in spite of my­self, as the boys rugby tack­led each other.

It was Au­gust 1998, and I was al­ready a mum of seven.

My part­ner An­drew and I hadn’t planned on hav­ing so many, but Tammy, then

10; David, 8; Stephen, 6;

Kirsty, 5; Leon, 4; James, 2, and Kevin, 1, came along one af­ter an­other.

There was never a mo­ment of peace, yet ours was a house full of fun.

Then, in De­cem­ber 2006, An­drew, 44, died of a heart at­tack. I was dev­as­tated.

But I mud­dled on through the grief and, as the children reached adult­hood, we grew closer than ever.

By 2016, David, then 26, had moved in with his girl­friend and was work­ing in a food fac­tory. He

He opened up now and then, but I could tell he was down

was al­ways pop­ping in.

‘Can you get me a job?’ James, then 20, asked him one night.

‘I’ll try,’ David promised. Soon enough, they were both on the pro­duc­tion line, pack­ing frozen meals.

But in July 2017, af­ter an ac­ci­dent on his bi­cy­cle, David needed surgery on his wrist.

Hav­ing time off work got him down. ‘Talk to me,’ I’d say.

He opened up ev­ery now and then, but I could tell he was down. It got worse in early 2019, when he split with his girl­friend. When he moved back into his old bed­room, I could tell he was up­set.

‘Cheer up,’ I smiled. I promised we’d spend the

I’d lost two sons in two months. Life would never be the same

week watch­ing our favourite shows, Su­per­nat­u­ral and Gil­more Girls.

That night – 6 Fe­bru­ary – David, then 28, Stephen, 26, James, 23, and I en­joyed a few drinks.

David was in good spir­its. He’ll be fine, I thought.

Then, at 1.30am, David went out.

‘I’m off to meet a girl,’ he grinned.

But then, 30 min­utes later, the phone rang. It was David’s ex-girl­friend’s mum.

David had sent his ex a text... Threat­en­ing to kill him­self.

My blood ran cold. ‘James!’ I called. ‘Go look for your brother.’

James stayed on the phone, and I lis­tened as he called David’s name. Then…

‘Mum,’ James whis­pered to me, voice shak­ing, ‘I’ve found him.’

David had hanged him­self…I was in com­plete shock, grief-stricken.

At Nevill Hall Hos­pi­tal, James and I had to iden­tify David’s body.

When An­drew died, my heart had bro­ken – now it shat­tered. I clung to James, the pain too much to bear for us both. The big brother he’d idolised was gone.

We said good­bye to David at St Michael’s church in Aber­tillery shortly af­ter.

All the kids were suf­fer­ing, but I wor­ried most about James. Find­ing David’s body haunted him.

‘Speak to some­one,’ I urged him, wor­ried.

‘I don’t need to,’ James told me, shrug­ging.

Over the next few weeks, he got a new job in an abat­toir and, be­fore he left ev­ery morn­ing, he’d make me a cof­fee and sit on my bed for a chat about David.

But, by April 2019, our grief was still raw.

One Fri­day, James came home from work and started a silly row with Stephen. He was cry­ing and an­gry, not him­self at all.

I had no idea how to help. So James went to a friend’s to cool off a bit.

But, the next day, two po­lice of­fi­cers knocked on my door.

‘There’s been an in­ci­dent in­volv­ing James,’ one said.

He’d been air­lifted to the Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal of Wales.

When I ar­rived, doc­tors told me he’d hanged him­self. Just like David.

‘He’s alive,’ the doc­tor said. But he was un­re­spon­sive and the doc­tors were test­ing for brain ac­tiv­ity. Noth­ing.

The following day, James was trans­ferred to the Royal Gwent Hos­pi­tal. Deep down, I knew he was gone.

Af­ter we’d met with spe­cial­ists, it was de­cided that James’ life sup­port would be switched off.

‘I can’t watch him die,’ I wept bro­kenly. So his sis­ters stayed by his side as he joined his big brother.

James was a donor, and his or­gans saved four lives, a small com­fort.

But I’d lost two sons to sui­cide in two months. Life would never be the same again.

Now, I wish with all my heart I’d made my boys open up to me – or any­one.

So if some­one you love is feel­ing down, please en­cour­age them to get help.

Talk­ing can save lives.

What­ever you’re go­ing through, you can call the Sa­mar­i­tans any time, from any phone, for free on 116 123.

My won­der­ful brood

James (left) and David – so full of fun

I just wish my boys had talked to me

Tammy was with James at the end

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