A teenager, whose sister and mum died within six months of each other, has shared how she uses social media to cope with her grief – sharing her story one year on from the deaths.
When Sequana O’Brien tragically lost her mum, Maeve, aged 49, in May last year, due to a long battle with late-stage gastric cancer, she was left devastated.
Then, six months later, her sister, Realtin, aged 22, sadly passed away.
To make matters worse, as a result of the “torturous” grief, Sequana’s dad, Fintan, 53, started suffering from “cluster headaches” – with the 17-year-old left as the primary carer.
Meanwhile, money was tight as Fintan, who also suffers from fibromyalgia, claims the family had to survive on Disability Allowance and Sequana’s child benefits.
In a bid to speak about the “toughest thing” she’s ever had to go through, the teenager has turned to social media to open up with her 80,000 followers.
Inspired by her dad, who is an artist, she uses make-up as a creative outlet.
“My mam was caring, bubbly and the most supportive mother I could have asked for,” Sequana, from Westmeath, Ireland, told NeedToKnow.co.uk.
“I’ll never have to wonder if she’s proud of me because she made it so known while she was still here.
“She wasn’t just my mother; I always had a best friend in her too, and I’m so privileged to have had that.
“My sister and I were very close when we were younger.
“We loved her unconditionally, just as we know she loved us.
“[Although] it’s hard to keep motivation for the most basic things through the heartbreak, I never struggle with makeup.
“It’s the one thing that still takes me into a world of my own.”
Unfortunately, Fintan’s health issues have added another layer of stress to the family’s day-to-day lives as they work together to find solutions.
This, on top of the grief of losing their beloved family members, has been a tough journey.
Sequana said: “My dad’s chronic pain has been ongoing since he was 26, but after my mum and sister’s passing, things only got worse.
“Medically, [the headaches] are rated a 9.7 on the pain scale and he’s been unable to sleep, so the deprivation from that triggers them off.
“As we’re so tight for money, it’s been hard trying to get any other help, and also fund our lives now my mum and sister are gone.”
Through the pain, Sequana has found an outlet to help her cope with daily struggles – through makeup.
She said: “Realtin used to do my makeup as a child and I was always amazed when she’d do a full face on me.
“My family has always been supportive of my passion and for my 13th birthday, my mum sent me to a two-day makeup bootcamp.
“My dad always gets excited to see my creations as he’s an artist himself.
“He comments on all of my posts and even helps me create content from time to time.
“It’s really helped us bond at a time when we’ve needed each other most.”
Sequana has been passionate about make-up since she was just 11 years old – having created an account to show off her skills as a per-teen – but since her mum and sister’s passing, she has immersed herself into the hobby fully.
Aged just 15, Premier Face Painting Ireland hired the teen to be on their Dublin team and trained her.
Since then, she has worked with brands across the country and has even been contacted by celebrities, like influencer and YouTube star, James Charles.
While she is excited about the success, for Sequana, the make-up passion goes much deeper by letting her express how she feels as a way of coping with her recent losses.
Sequana said: “I never planned for my makeup account to be such a massive part of my life when I first created it.
“Once I finish school, I plan to go to art college and continue to grow my makeup skills and social media.
“I also hope to go on working on movie sets with my creative looks one day.
“I’m still grieving the loss of my mum and sister, but I know they’ll be looking down proud of all I have achieved – and it’s all thanks to their support.”
While Fintan’s neurological condition currently seems to be under control, he’s suffering a daily battle with his fibromyalgia and arthritis, where he is in desperate need of a hip replacement.
However, he’s keeping positive and says it’s all thanks to Sequana, who he says he’d be “lost” without.
The dad is also immensely proud of her social media success and make-up art.
He added: “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my daughter helping me out massively.
“She got appointments when no one else could that helped save my life and advocated for me when I wasn’t able to, just like her mum would have done.
“I am totally devastated with all that’s gone on the past few years and I’m working on a daily basis to cope with the tragedy and loss we’ve had to experience.
“There is no treatment for chronic pain disorders and painkillers don’t work, so pain management day-to-day is what it’s all about.
“I think Sequana is an amazing artist and I don’t know how she’s managed to stay applying herself to her work this past year, but her creations are her escape and I’m very proud.
“I would be lost without her and I love her to bits.”