Comedian Aisling Bea speaks poignantly about how tragedies, such as her father's suicide, are multifaceted.

The 34-year-old appeared on The Griefcast podcast, speaking eloquently about her father - who took his own life when she was just a toddler.

The actress had previously written about coping with grief in a striking article for The Guardian.

Bea, who explained that she still receives letters from people commending her for speaking out, questioned why we still regard suicide as such an unspeakable taboo.

The Kildare woman admitted she “didn’t expect the overwhelming response” to the article and still finds the public’s reaction touching.

Many of those who have reached out to her are older women, whose mothers had taken their own lives in the 1940s and 1950s. Bea is still incredulous about the way Irish society deals with the issue of suicide.

"People still say commit suicide - you can only commit a crime," she said. "So even the language around it [implies] it’s a crime. There was a time in Irish history, where you were punished for attempting suicide by hanging. That’s Ireland for you folks! In such a Catholic country it’s a mortal sin to take your own life. That guilt permeates society."

“My dad died when I was three, and until I was 13 I remembered him being in the house,” she recalled on the podcast. “I didn’t feel that he went anywhere. My mum said anytime I heard a car go by, I would go to the door and expect it to be him.”

View this post on Instagram

This look for the #GQAwards was very easy to pull off - all I needed was one professional hair dresser @naradkutowaroo one professional makeup artist @justinejenkins one professional stylist @imdeemoran one dress hand made by London designer @adazanditoncouture one giant red carpet, one professional photographer with lighting, one great friend on tit watch in case anything fell out & one giant bunch of people in the background excited that a Hemsworth was behind me. (that said one good thing was me lipstick by @burtsbeesuk “Tulip Tide” Their lipsticks are not weighted so the tubes are recyclable. Lots of brands put weights in their lipstick tubes to make them feel more luxurious, but it means the tubes cannot then be recycled. COOL FACT BRO.

A post shared by Aisling Bea (@weemissbea) on

Bea, whose sister is the renowned costume designer Sinead O’Sullivan and mother is the retired horse jockey Helen O'Sullivan, surmised that she has become a perfect combination of both her mother and father’s families.

“I think I’m a combination, perfectly, of two people. My father’s side of the family are all poets and maybe quite depressive in their manner, whereas my mother’s side of the family all have a zest for life," Bea maintained.

“Even though my father took his own life, my mother’s energy and will to live… she doesn’t hold on to grudges, I’ve never seen anything like it," she noted. 

As for her own experience trying to process these emotions and face forward, Bea eventually found a way to see beyond the anger that clouded her formative years.

“Until I was in my 20s, I was so grudgey. I was angry at my father. I only found out that he took his own life when I was about 13. My mother thought it was about time to tell us. There just aren’t enough people talking about suicide - because it’s just so hard to understand - nobody knows what to say to someone.”

"Sometimes with grief, we can walk around like our scars are bigger than other peoples,'" Bea said. "I felt like he had abandoned the family. I associated my grief more with girls whose fathers had fecked off."

One day, Bea listened to a sermon by a progressive American pastor ("a cool pastor with tattoos," she joked) who instructed people dealing with grief to list the positives of what had happened to them.

"It feels weird to take a positive away from a tragedy - but literally something changed in me, after 27 years," she said of the defining exercise.

"For me, doing that [list] helped me...it was more of a release. I was angry, I was angry on behalf of my mother - who was 33 with two baby kids. This was all about forgiveness, the biggest thing that happened for me was to forgive my father."

Among the points she could write on her list of affirmatives were "growing up since the age of three with a natural empathy," being allowed to be in charge, and having the opportunity to become the funniest in her family. 

The comic star likens the moment of making and reviewing this list to suddenly finding she had a third lung, and finally being able to breathe again - better and easier than ever before.

To listen to Bea's powerful conversation with podcast host Cariad Lloyd, listen here

Read More: Aisling Bea On Speaking Up and Speaking Out

Read More: Irish Comedian Aisling Bea Is Set To Star With Paul Rudd

If you are affected by issues raised in this article, please contact:
Samaritans 116 123 ([email protected])
Pieta House 1800 247 247 ([email protected])