Sinead O’Connor’s final post on social media before her death was a heartbreaking tribute to her son, Shane, who died last year by suicide aged 17.
O’Connor, a force of nature as famous for her activism as she was for her music, died at the age of 56, 18 months after her son. Her cause of death had not been disclosed at the time of writing.
On 17 July, she shared a post on Twitter paying tribute to Shane, and expressing her ongoing grief over his loss.
She wrote: “#lostmy17yrOldSonToSuicidein2022. Been living as undead night creature since. He was the love of my life, the lamp of my soul. We were one soul in two halves. He was the only person who ever loved me unconditionally. I am lost in the bardo without him [sic].”
Bardo, in Tibetan Buddhism, is a state of existence between death and rebirth.
O’Connor shared her son Shane with Irish folk musician and producer Donal Lunny. Shane died in January 2022, after escaping a hospital where he was on suicide watch.
Following Shane’s death, O’Connor fiercely criticised the Irish health service HSE, the child and family agency Tusla, and the Irish state overall. She later apologised for “lashing out” on social media.
She is survived by her three other children, Jake Reynolds, Roisin Waters and Yeshua Bonadio.
Just a few weeks before her tweet about Shane, the singer had announced new music plans, writing: “Hi all, recently moved back to London after 23 years absence. Very happy to be home.
“Soon finishing my album. Release early next year. Hopefully touring Australia and New Zealand toward end 2024. Europe, USA and other territories beginning early 2025.”
O’Connor shot to fame in 1990 with her piercing cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”. She released 10 studio albums over the course of her career, the second of which, 1990’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got sold more than seven million copies.
During a 1992 appearance on Saturday Night Live, following a performance of Bob Marley’s “War”, O’Connor held a photo of Pope John Paul II up to the camera and ripped it to pieces in protest of sexual abuse within the Church. The move led to protests around the world, with a bulldozer even being used to flatten a pile of her records in New York’s Times Square.
In her 2021 memoir Rememberings, O’Connor said of the incident: “Everyone wants a pop star, see? But I am a protest singer. I just had stuff to get off my chest. I had no desire for fame.”
If you are experiencing feelings of distress, or are struggling to cope, you can speak to the Samaritans, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.
If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.