Hazel Flanagan's story
Twenty two year old Hazel is a teacher from London. Almost four years ago, Hazel’s father took his own life, he was 55 years old. Hazel shares her memories of her dad, her experience of losing someone to suicide, and what she is doing to raise awareness of Samaritans’ service.
“My Dad was an amazing person - one of the most cheerful, creative, and caring people you could ever know.
“Some of my earliest memories of Dad are of him playing guitar and me and my brother bouncing along to his songs. He used to make and illustrate stories for us - my favourite was about a tiger cub that spilt lemonade all over the floor and ice-skated across the room on sponges to clean it up.
“Dad taught me and my brother to ride our bikes, and as we got older we went on holidays where we cycled as a family through the Bavarian Alps (one of his favourite places).
He loved to photograph everything, and we always had to be pointing or jumping or posing in some way. Dad protected us in every way possible.
“Dad’s death was very sudden and unexpected. He was under a lot of pressure at work and stopped sleeping properly. Although he must have been experiencing a lot of stress, he didn’t let us know how bad things were, he didn’t talk about it to anyone. I think he thought he was protecting us, and that things really would get better, forever the optimist he was. Very sadly though, in November 2010, Dad took his own life.
“When I found out that Dad had died I was in total shock and disbelief – I thought it couldn’t be true and there must have been some kind of mistake. It was very difficult for us all to come to terms with what had happened, we never would have thought that Dad would take his own life.
“For a long time it was very hard for us to think about the future, it felt like life could never be good again, that we would always feel crushed by what had happened.
I remember the first few weeks, waiting all day for it to be night, and all night for it to be day.
“People don’t always know what to say when they find out someone has taken their own life, it’s like a taboo subject and people worry they will say the wrong thing to you so they don’t say anything at all. We were lucky to have family and friends who were amazing, rallying around and helping us organise things during a very difficult time.
“I vividly remember the first day I felt really happy again. It was about a year and a half after we lost our Dad. I was sat on a bus with a friend, and suddenly this warm feeling flooded over me, I got so excited when I realised that I was really feeling happy, that it was possible, that I excitedly announced it to the entire bus! I felt like I could finally be sure that life really could be good again.
Mum, my brother and I are starting to feel like life is good again. I’m not sure saying life is ‘back to normal’ is the right way of describing it, more like we’re starting a new chapter of our lives. Rather than letting Dad’s death define him in our memories, it is getting easier to remember the fun we had with him, and laugh about what he would think of the things we are getting up to now. There are still days when we can feel low, but we know now that they won’t last forever, and they are fewer and further between.
People must know about Samaritans, and be aware that no matter what time of day or night, there is always someone to talk to. It is okay to pick up the phone and get help, I think if Dad had, he would probably still be here today.
Additionally, for those who are left behind after losing someone to suicide, be it a family member, a friend or a colleague, it can at times feel an isolating experience. Just knowing that there is always someone at the end of the phone who you can talk to is such a relief.
Hazel took part in RideLondon, raising vital funds so Samaritans can answer more calls from people who are struggling to cope.
You can help Hazel achieve her fundraising target by visiting her fundraising page at: https://www.justgiving.com/Hazel-Flanagan/