On a dark Tuesday night in June 2006, Debby Curreen’s youngest brother took his own life. Driving to his favourite beach, he parked his car and left this earth. Such was the anguish of this event in her life, Debby Curreen, the author of The Long Cold Nights of June, healed her pain through writing.
“I was notified by the police the following day and I had to go with them to make the formal identification of my little brother, whose body was now laying cold and silent at the local undertaker,” says Debby.
“That day, in an instant, my life cracked and I fell into a pit full of never-before imagined pain, and a frightening darkness of anguish and confusion. The grief overwhelmed me, and my journey back to a life that was now forever altered, seemed unending.
In talking to God, her brother, her dogs and herself, and struggling to make sense of suicide and a life that no longer had her beautiful brother in it, she would go home exhausted and sleep, then write her thoughts out.
The Long Cold Nights of June is the result of her heart being poured out in a remarkable poetry book.
“At times I feared I would never again see the light of another happy day,” she said, “but my hopes in God, and of course the fierce love I held for my family, became my sole purpose for living. It was at this time that I began to write again as I daily walked my brother’s two beautiful boxer dogs, who were now mine, along the roadside by our home.
“Gradually life began to settle down and time slowly healed my shattered heart and broken mind. Many dear friends pulled and pushed me through the darkest times of my life with their love and unceasing belief in me. I will be eternally grateful for them all.”
Debby agrees that grief is messy and unpredictable to manage. There is no right way to grieve and no magical timeframe where you suddenly emerge from a dark tunnel into bright and happy day.
“When a loved one dies through suicide,” she says, “it is unlike any other grief and is in fact, trauma. You have nightmares, you cry continually; sleep is elusive and your substance/s abuse becomes infinitely harder to control. I remember going from being a non-smoker to a chain-smoker overnight.
“My memory of those first six months is a time of continual chain-smoking and drinking coffee to stave off unpredictable bouts of crying and near screaming. At night I would drink enough wine or beer to fall asleep, only to wake in the middle of the night crying or gasping from the frightening nightmares that would wake me up.”
Debby’s hope in sharing her poems of grief, pain, denial, bargaining and hope is that people who have lost loved ones to suicide may be able to relate to her words and that they will help in some way to heal.
“Eventually, thank God, we do find acceptance and we do move on, but we never forget and we never stop missing our loved ones,” she continues. “All of these stages of grief fade with time and life slowly returns to a different ‘normal’, but a peaceful one where you can accept your darling’s fated decision to say goodbye on their terms.”