Me, my Dad and the Chevy

I was 20 years old when my dad, Tom, died by suicide. He was born in Monaghan and immigrated to the United States in his early 20’s.  A few years later, in San Francisco, he met and married my mum, Muriel, who immigrated from Clare.  They had three daughters, Rita, Diane and me, Arlene, the little girl in the picture kissing her dad goodbye before he drove to work in the Chevy.

It was a Big American car, a 1951 Styleline De Lux Chevy, and we LOVED to go for a spin with Dad in the Chevy.  So many memories…. trips to see the California Redwoods, a jaunt to the beach, getting dropped off at a birthday party or even the simple pleasure of going to the shops. It was my connection to Dad.

When he died, my mum had passed five years before him, so it was me, my sisters, and the Chevy.  We couldn’t bear the thought of selling it. My eldest sister Rita and her husband, Paul, decided to look after it. And a few years later, when I was 24, I moved from San Francisco to Ireland for a Master’s degree at Trinity College. Not long after that, Rita and Paul were moving across the States, and they couldn’t take the Chevy with them.

Still not ready to let go of this connection to Dad, Rita phoned our Uncle Hughie, Dad’s brother who lived in Monaghan and loved to tinker with old things, and the next thing we knew, the Chevy was being shipped to Ireland. My Uncle began to get under the hood, repair the interior and re-painted the Chevy to the original red.

Shortly after I finished my Master’s, I met a special guy called Brían and there was no going back to San Francisco for me. Ireland was now becoming my home. After seven years together, we married on the 5th of July 2002 in Dublin, and my Uncle Hughie drove me to the church in the Chevy. 

And for the past 30 years, my Uncle Hughie has taken care of the Chevy, but in his 80’s now, he’s not as able to tinker with it as he used to, so in 2023 he gave it to me.

Telling this story now, I see it isn’t just about the Chevy, it’s about my grief journey and my continuous bond with him.  And those words were not in my vocabulary then. Back then, my dad didn’t die by suicide he ‘committed suicide’. There was shame and the stigma, and no one knew what to say, so we all said nothing. I thought I had made it through the ‘5 stages of grief’ and reached acceptance, but I know now that grief is not linear and I’m not over my Dad’s suicide. It still pains me, but after all this time, I’ve slowly learned to make room for my grief and to keep a connection with my Dad and the Chevy. It has become more peaceful and positive, and my memories and connection with him continue to grow.

I think that little girl has always been a little frightened by what might happen to her as the daughter of a father who died by suicide. Today, I know I can grow around my grief, and that there is hope and healing after suicide.

The story of me, my dad and the Chevy will continue.

Arlene x

We Can Help

If you would like to come along to a HUGG Group just complete the form here 'join a group’ or call us on 01 513 4048 (monitored answering machine) or email for more information.
Join a HUGG Group

Sign up to our newsletter

Sign up to receive updates on HUGG such as news updates, notifications of support group meetings, additional appropriate resources, and other relevant content.
© Healing Untold Grief Groups, All rights reserved.
CHY No. 22421. Registered Charity No. 20204480. Company Registration No. 640420.
Top linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram