Coping with living

Coping with living
Jeannie (not her real name) was devastated when her sister, Belle, took her own life around Mother's Day in 2013 - 26 ears after her brother did the same thing.

To lose a loved one to suicide is heartbreaking.

And just as Jeannie (not her real name) thought she was slowly healing from the loss of her brother, she suffered a second blow when her sister took her own life.

In 1987, Jeannie's deaf-mute brother Paul, the only son and the third of five children, ended his life on the morning of Mother's Day.

In 2013, the second of four girls, Belle, committed suicide - also around Mother's Day.

Jeannie, 57, did not join the dots till later in the day. "I thought, 'Oh gosh, it's Mother's Day weekend, just like when Paul died."

The mother of two grown-up children is a volunteer counsellor at a support group for widows, which she joined after losing her husband to cancer in 1994. Despite her painful experiences, she remains jovial and affable.

But her lively demeanour faded and her voice softened as she recalled the black marks in her life.

Growing up together in a three-room Housing Board flat, Jeannie and her four younger siblings shared a bedroom.

Paul was "happy-go-lucky" and was adored by everyone in the family, she said. "I always remember the fun we had with him, how much we loved him. We learnt sign language to communicate with him."

But Paul, a factory worker, was often unhappy as he was unable to communicate or express himself clearly to others. When he was 24 years old, he attempted suicide for the first time but a tree broke his fall and he survived.


Things seemed to get better after that. The family moved to a new flat and Paul considered entering priesthood in the Catholic church.

But he was troubled at work. He had been reprimanded and was not given a chance to explain himself, causing him to feel frustrated and turn violent against his supervisor. As a result, he was sent to the then Woodbridge Hospital, now named Institute of Mental Health.

A few months after the incident, Paul committed suicide. He was 26.

His death left his family members shaken. They never discussed his suicide and how it affected them, choosing to move on individually.

Belle took her own life 26 years after Paul's death. She was 54.

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