Debby Curreen held nothing back when she launched her collection of 37 poems, The Long Cold Nights of June, at Te Ahu in Kaitaia last week.

And her poems, and her description of the emotions that followed the suicide of her brother George 13 years and 1 day earlier, made a real connection with many in her audience.

Ms Curreen said no one had ever imagined that George would take his own life. He had been the "tough guy" of the family, and when the police knocked on the door she couldn't imagine why they were there. Perhaps, she thought, they were lost.

Even when she formally identified her brother's body she tried to tell the police they were mistaken. Then she began to scream.


"We need people to see what it is like when someone takes their own life," she said on Friday.

"There is no celebration of the person's life after suicide. People need to see what it does to everyone who is left behind ... Whatever makes them think that (suicide) is alright? A good idea?"

In her grief and despair Ms Curreen "wrote and wrote and wrote," stories, letters to her brother, her father and God.

She also began walking George's dogs, most enjoyably on Taipa Beach, walking, praying and writing poems in her head as she did so.

Last week she spoke of death and denial, of progressing from anger and despair to hope and acceptance, a special type of grieving process that followed suicide.

It had taken weeks after George's death for her to find the strength to take her children to the school bus and to kindergarten, she said. It had all seemed too hard.

Some of the poems she composed on the beach are in her book, and the few she read on Friday clearly resonated with those who listened. She was thanked by some for expressing her emotions so eloquently, and praised by others for her courage.

The Long Cold Nights of June is available from the author,, and at the Little Kitchen Cafe in Mangonui, for $20.