In 2014, I lost someone very close to me to suicide. In my mind, she was my second mother. Her and her husband actually went so far as to ‘fake’ adopt me at one point in our lives because we just belonged together. We were family. I now had 2 mothers, both whom I loved so intensely.
For the purposes of this story, I want to fully disclose that this is all being narrated from my personal perspective. There are many people that felt the loss of this individual and we all felt through it in our personal way. The following words and thoughts are mine and mine only. I can only share based on my experience and the feelings that came (and still come) upon me after living through this tragedy.
Bird is the name that I used to refer to my second mom. She was a huge part of my life. It was in October of 2014 that she successfully ended her own.
She had been a part of my life for my whole life. But the year leading up to that day is something I reflect back on quite clearly now. As I mentioned above it happened in October 2014. This time of year was always a difficult time for my family because seasonally it was a time when we had to close up our cottage. The cottage was our happiest space. It was our own little paradise and it was a space we all shared with each other and built memories in.
In 2014 you could feel it that this cottage season things were slightly different than they were in years previous. Throughout the season it got progressively worse. Bird did end up spending time in a mental health care facility in Guelph. She spent months there trying different programs and working with different processes. She was trying.
I can reflect on that time as a contentious one. You could feel it. You could sense that something was off, but it wasn’t something that we felt we could easily sit and talk about.
My mom was one of the trusted few that Bird would occasionally confide in. Although she would sometimes speak openly with my mom, I truthfully don’t know if she was really in a space where she could clearly communicate everything that she was experiencing.
We knew from her previous suicide attempt that she did hear voices in her head. She heard a lot of different discussions and had to endure arguments and fighting in the voices that were present. Sometimes the voices would tell her things about us. Sometimes the voices weren’t even identified as words.
There were multiple moments that you could see that Bird was lost in that other world. It was heartbreaking to sit there watching someone you love suffer like this, and to know that you can’t do anything to make it better for them.
You do everything the best that you can though. You just be there. You be there the moment she arrives and if she gets lost along the way. We were doing what we could and I know that my mom was doing even more. She would visit her, be fully there for her, plan lunches and outings, and so on. For those few hours they had together regularly, Bird was okay.
Leading up until the end of the summer of 2014, Bird’s stay at the mental health facility in Guelph was more permanent. We weren’t really clear on what was going on. I’m sure my mom shielded me from a lot. I only knew the ‘Cole’s Notes’ version, which was that they had taken her off of all of her meds and were starting fresh.
In October, it was my parent’s anniversary and they had Bird and her husband over for dinner. She actually seemed to be doing great here. She was really happy. I remember my mom calling to tell me that Bird was doing so well, that she was happy! This was great news for me to hear, but I have to be honest and voice that whenever I heard these positive reports I was always kind-of guarded with a thought of ‘Is she?’
Hindsight tells us that she was in this great space because she had made up her mind. She had made the decision to end her life and had a plan to do so. She saw the end and this brought her to a space where she was perhaps happy and relieved.
My mom has a great perspective about this event when she says, “She could have changed the date, but she would have never changed the outcome.” Meaning that Bird could have got out of this spell, but then it could have been the next one, or the next one. Knowing the intensity of the struggle that she was going through, you almost couldn’t fault her. Yes, you miss her like hell. Yes, you’re mad because there’s that little selfish part of you that’s upset and hurt. Yes, you’re upset and wish you could change it. But, deep down you know that she is no longer in such terrible anguish and that they’re at peace now. This takes you a long way.
I received a phone call from my mom that Bird was missing. The day after their dinner, Bird’s husband was over at my parents home helping repair some steps in the backyard. He spent the day there and when he went home Bird wasn’t there. He called out to my mom and asked if she had heard form her. He said, “She wasn’t answering her phone, wasn’t answering messages, and the phone is now off. Do you have any idea what she was doing?”
A couple hours went by and due to her mental health history, the situation was escalated that she could officially be reported missing. I found out the next morning. She was still missing. Police were looking. Family was gathering. Hoping for the best, fearing the worst and realizing my gut was already trying to brace myself for what was coming next.
I remember clearly the moment I found out. I will never forget it. I was selling an armoire on Facebook buy and sell. Someone had arrived to pick it up and I was on the sidewalk outside when I got the call. I fully broke down on the sidewalk. My neighbours came out to get me while others completed the transaction/loading of the armoire.
This period of time was such a whirlwind. Nothing seemed real yet everything was so intense and raw. The world was blurring by while my husband drove me to go join the family but I felt like I was standing still.
I had always hoped that they would just find that one magic little pill that would silence everything for Bird. I never gave up hope that she could be mentally healthy again. That eventually she could go back to well. But for her, this was her way out. She planned it out and she knew what she was doing. She did her research, made her plan and followed through with it. It worked.
There will be a part of her that is always with us in Turkey Point. I have pieces of her in my house – pieces of her clothing, our adoption papers, her cat, and other items she gave to me. I’m getting closer to being okay to let some of these things go, but it’s nice to have these little pieces of her with me.
We had her life celebration about a month after her death and at this time myself and my family were in a hole. We were struggling.
However, my boyfriend (now husband) was able to add some light to this time by making the decision to propose to me the following day. What was really special about this is that he went to ask Bird’s husband permission to do this. He wanted to be sure that it would be okay to bring some happiness and brightness into our life event. He already had my ‘yes’ but knowing he did that I felt that it brought Bird into our home for those moments.
Something I want to encourage others to consider if they’re coping through a similar situation to the one I’ve experienced is that it’s okay to just go away for some time. If you need to take a weekend to let yourself find some space to be happy, just do that. Pause the sadness and let yourself live your life. I really think that this is all they want you to do – to live your life and to be happy. I think that’s probably all that they really wanted to do too, and at times they definitely did. Sometimes you do need a break.
It’s slowly got better, and since then I’ve never been shy about talking about this experience. I think Bird would approve of that because it only creates comfort if someone else is experiencing something similar. The power of just knowing that they’re not alone. The power and comfort of knowing that there is someone else that understands.
Bird knew that she was hurting her family, and although no one would have ever purposely made her feel this way, she knew. They lived wondering if, and when. This is a terrible thing to be constantly wondering about. And although we all know it’s not true, in Bird’s mind I think she told herself that their lives would be better off without her in it. This is not the case at all, but I still can’t fault her for her choice.
Moving forward and looking at this tragedy, I feel that the best things you can do for someone struggling is to be there, to hold space, and to be present. That’s all we could do sometimes. We would just sit and listen. Just be. Sometimes Bird would never talk. Instead you could tell that ‘they’ were talking in her head for her, and so we would just sit there and let her be.
There were so many incomprehensible moments that I witnessed through Bird’s mental illness. There were times when she would come running out of the cottage telling me “You can’t tell anybody what you just heard and what you just saw.” I was like ‘What are you talking about?” And she would repeat, “You can’t tell anybody.”
I didn’t know what she was talking about, but then it started to come together. It took 10-20 seconds for me to clue in. Oh – she heard and saw something, and she thinks I did too. I didn’t though. What the voices were telling her was that I was a threat and that I was going to tell someone something.
She was caught in a place between listening to the voices because she couldn’t get away from them, but also wanting to protect the people she loved and cared about. In those moments, she would fully believe what ‘they’ were telling her because, why wouldn’t she. It’s just like thoughts in our own head… how do you know what is your own thought and what a made up thought that an unbalanced chemical is leading you to believe?
Unfortunately, with the role of Bird’s daughter being a public figure of sorts, everyone knew and the reality of everyone knowing forced us all to acknowledge the reality of what had just happened faster. We couldn’t hide what had happened while we came to terms with it. You have to go places eventually (groceries, bank, whatever).
Unfortunately, I found that a lot of people just seemed to be interested in the gossip of it. Knowing how, or if we knew it was happening, or what were the final dramatic moments… but all we really needed was for people to be supportive enough to let us know that it would be okay.
If I could share a message with others struggling through something similar to the loss I experienced 6 years ago, I would tell them to allow yourself the time you need. That there is no right or wrong way to think of the person you’ve lost right now, and that when you’re ready try to create the positive view that you can on the situation. Everyone is going to process this differently. It’s your own timeline. It’s okay to be mad, but don’t hold onto that because it will eat you alive.
As a community we shouldn’t be shaming these thoughts and actions. You read all the time, “They’re just putting the pain on the family when they end their life.” And yes, that pain is true, but that’s not their intent. Shaming them in those moments is diminishing who they were. Don’t hate. I guarantee that that was the last thing that they wanted in those moments – not more hatred in this world. That’s what they were escaping from. Whether it was in their own mind, or in their physical world.
Honour the memory of your loved one. Let go of the negativity to give room for the positivity. YOUR LIFE IS WORTH IT. THEIR LIFE IS WORTH IT. Carry them along as you march forward. They’re with you every step of the way. Show them everything you can accomplish and pull strength from knowing they love you wholeheartedly.
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