I lost two sons in two months
My lovely boys had always been inseparable… Michelle French, 49, Abertiller, Monmouthshire
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