When charity manager Fiona Weir lost her husband to suicide she pledged her life to stop others doing the same. But on the eve of winning an award for her work, she got a call to say her youngest son had died the same way.
“We were about to be recognised for helping save others. But I couldn’t even save my own son.”
Six years later – on the anniversary of Simon’s death – Fiona remembers her boy and shares her journey to rebuild life and find new love after losing loved ones to suicide.
Days before his death in 2017, Simon Weir was set to “live his dream”. The 28-year-old welder from Dyce had just secured a job in Dubai.
“He was so excited,” said Fiona, who manages mental health and suicide prevention charity Shirley’s Space in Crimond.
“He was bouncing off the walls telling me about this amazing house and job. I was secretly thinking how much I would miss him.”
Just days later a friend called Fiona concerned about something she read online.
“She said ‘Fiona, have you seen what’s been said about Simon on Facebook?’
“I immediately went on and looked. An ex-girlfriend posted something awful. It wasn’t true but I knew if he read it he wouldn’t be here much longer. I knew the impact it would have.”
‘He couldn’t ask me for help’
Although she had a “sinking feeling” the worst could happen, at the same time she couldn’t believe history would repeat itself.
“When Simon’s dad took his own life we all felt the impact of that. You lose a bit of yourself when a loved one dies by suicide. But what I couldn’t get my head around was that Simon regularly phoned me up all hours of the day or night asking me to talk to friends who were struggling.
“I guess he could reach out for help, for others, but I was too close to help him.”
‘He said suicide in his sleep’
Fiona’s husband Wullie died in 2010 aged 48. The Peterhead Prison officer felt responsible for an issue at work and became more and more concerned about it.
“Wullie never suffered poor mental health but this work problem really got to him. A few days before he died I questioned him because he mentioned suicide in his sleep. He assured me he was fine.
“A couple of days later he said he was going out for the papers. I knew something was wrong. It was me who found him.
“It was pride that got to Wullie. It just shows that any of us can get into crisis. That’s why knowing where to turn is vitally important.”
In the wake of that bereavement Fiona, now 56, threw herself into helping others. She volunteered at Choose Life.
There, she was part of a team launching a suicide prevention app that’s now had more than 70,000 downloads. The impact was a significant fall in Aberdeenshire’s suicide rates.
It was the app that led us to be nominated for an award,” she said. “It was bittersweet to find out we had won while I was grieving for my son.”
She now works for Shirley’s Space, established four years ago in memory of Peterhead nursery teacher Shirley McCombie.
Heartbreaking phone call
Fiona remembers that Halloween period around her son’s death vividly.
“It was a terrible night. The weather was awful. I called my other son Jonathan to come and get me.
“I had sent Simon’s friend round to check on him. The lights were on, he could hear his phone but there was no response.
“I’ll never forget getting the call from the police en-route. They said Fiona, it’s a corpse you’re coming to, Simon’s not with us any more.
“I just screamed.
“But looking back Simon was a lot like his dad. His reputation was being questioned and pride got to him.”
Simon passed away on October 31 but was found the next day on November 1.
‘It could have been me’
In the aftermath of losing her child Fiona confesses to being “in a very dark place” herself.
“I had a plan. I did. Thankfully I didn’t go through with it. I kept thinking about those I would leave behind and instead I fought back.
“There is a road to happiness again. I’m grateful I didn’t choose to end my life because I have a good life today. There is hope.”
Now, while families in our region celebrate Halloween, it’s a stark reminder for Fiona of sadness.
“It is hard. The shops start selling Halloween stuff from the end of summer. So it’s a reminder whenever I see it of the anniversary approaching.
“The truth is every birthday is hard. Every Christmas is hard. It’s not that we don’t think of them every day, we do. But on those days you think of what you did on that last birthday, or that last Christmas.”
But Fiona will soon have a different anniversary to mark.
On November 10 she’s getting married to her partner Ray Rucroft.
Also a prison officer, Fiona and Wullie were good friends with Ray and his wife Margaret. Not long after Simon passed away Margaret died too. The pair found themselves united in grief.
“We would meet for lunches and check in on one another. I’m not sure how the romance started but I’m so glad it did. I know if Wullie could choose someone for me to marry it would be Ray.
“It’s so lovely to have something nice to think about,” she said. “And Simon will be part of our big day.”
As well as “memory items” being taken to the ceremony, a kilt outfit that Fiona bought for her son will be worn by the partner of one of her bridesmaids.
“Aye, that will be emotional,” said Fiona, who is originally from Airdrie in Lanarkshire. “I know he’ll be with us in spirit.”