Emotional Shock In Newsagent

As I write, I may as well have been physically kicked in the stomach because that’s how I feel.  Happily dropping cushion covers at the dry cleaners following the arrival of new carpet and bit of a Spring clean, I went into the newsagent this morning and saw the headline: “A “BRILLIANT” 18-year old grammar schoolgirl hanged herself in a park was “clearly failed” by mental health services . . .”

She wasn’t just any 18-year old, but D’s best friend who hung herself in April 2010.  Never have I felt so impotent as the moment I had to break the news to her that M had been found.  Head of 6th Form had rung to speak to me saying “It’s the worst possible outcome, I’m afraid”.  I felt sick then, too.

When I’d picked D up from school she’d told me M was missing and Police had called her from class and sent her and some friends to look in local parks for M, as she liked to revise  by the lake.  Thank heavens THE park was 2-miles from school and out of range on foot.  D and I stopped to walk our dogs on the way home and D was frantically leaving messages for her friend as I’d suggested M stay with us, sharing D’s room, if she’d had an upset at home.  That was 4.30pm.  At 5.00pm, the call came from school.  She’d been found by an elderly lady’s dog in a shrubbery at 11.30am that morning – so why were the Police still sending these kids around the locality in the afternoon?  How many missing 18-yr old red heads were there?  How many suicides that day?  Obviously no joined-up thinking.

D was in a shocked numbness and we feared she’d never come to terms with it.  It was a month before her A-levels and all work ceased; she just couldn’t function.  We’re so proud of her anyway, but that is enhanced by the way she found the strength to complete those exams, relying on raw ability rather than revision.  M’s departure still leaves a huge space.  Some friends crumbled completely and repeated the whole year.

M’s parents are still struggling.  The three siblings are struggling.  There has been no closure and we visited as they had literally just returned from a meeting at the Coroner’s office last August when they’d ploughed through a 400-page report going into specific details they’d rather not revisit.  The last time we went, D wanted to take some flowers for M’s family, to mark M’s birthday and, if I’m honest, it was a relief that only the eldest son was in.  [Note to self: What does that say about me?]  D left them with the brother who was delighted to see her and she keeps in contact with M’s Mum.

Witnessing and absorbing the pain of others on this scale is humbling and the ability of the human soul to find the strength to carry on, to function when every cell screams out in pain, is nothing short of miraculous.  I’m so pleased that, at last, M’s family are moving towards closure.

M’s loss is SUCH a waste.  At her funeral, a lad who travelled with her in a group to Romania said if they couldn’t see M, she’d be outside with the street children, platting their hair, completely unaffected by cleanliness issues.  So touched was she by their plight, she gave away her clothes before her return home and decided to study environmental chemistry, returning one day to make a difference.  A brilliant scholar, she secured a place at York to do just this.

She and D planned to go to the beach that Summer and M was trying to persuade her to travel to Chile cherry picking for 6 months.  M’s father said at her funeral: “She had everything before her but, sadly, it wasn’t enough to make her want to stay”.  I thought my heart was breaking.  It has come out at the Inquest that the prescribed acne medication (which clearly worked as I never witnessed any) she’d been taking for a while can have the side effect of causing severe depression.

I’m shocked at the depth of my reaction to that headline this morning.  Sometimes, in coping, we bury emotions rather than face them – it seems I have.  I’m angry, too, that some dates and facts quoted in the paper are wrong – I know that, I was there, so to speak.

A deep gratitude has replaced my initial shock – gratitude for the happiness and friendship M and D shared, for the closure now being given to M’s family and for the love of my own family.

One final point adds to the tragedy for M’s parents.  M is buried with her sister, another daughter having been lost to illness as a child.  This family is now like metal tempered in a flame – stong and resilient, supportive and being held together by love.  Perhaps you’d join me in sending them healing thoughts and a prayer that they may find happiness again?  And M, now an angel I’m sure, may your light shine even more brightly, sharing all the colours of the rainbow, just like your fun dress sense did down here.  God bless.

  • Janet,

    A very moving account indeed. I cannot begin to imagine what everyone in the family must have felt, is still feeling.

    Words fail me quite honestly. I feel for the family and everyone who was touched by this young life.

  • Jan

    Words fail me to. Healing thoughts and prayers are willingly sent. I’m also including all who are touched by tragedy in their lifes.

    To all rainbow angels shining their light over the Earth – blessed beings of light, each and every one.

  • Janet

    Another illustration that the papers have so much to answer for, especially in stories which are so deeply personal. When one is close to a news story is when you realise how little they know and how badly they report it. Makes a mockery of reading the papers and considering oneself either well-read or well-informed. I have given it up long since.

    I remember you telling me all about this at the time. We cannot imagine what life will be like after we lose someone, until we do. That it should happen to your daughter when still a teenager seems very unfair. That the family should lose not one child but a second seems impossibly hard to bear. Glad their love is superglue.

    Love to you all

    Judith x

  • Liz

    Ive no words of comfort to offer. But as someone whose own family was affected by the suicide of a loved one I send them and those around them much love.

  • Janet,
    What a powerful account of one of life’s lessons. It is a fragile thing what we call ‘life’. How you told this story is testament to the love that this girl had in her life; both when she was here and where she is now. Thank you for sharing her story, Love to all who were blessed by her.

  • Janet, what an emotional story. Tears flowing whilst I read it because… immediately I was reminded of my niece’s experience last year (I think). The teenager who went missing at a nightclub in Swindon, found murdered about a week later, was the best friend of my niece’s boyfriend. The kids (I say kids, but all in their early 20’s) were brilliant in searching for her, keeping hope alive all that week and then devastated and crushed when the poor wee lass’s body was found. I think it’s important that life sends us moments to feel strongly again, to grieve, be angry, be sad. The body lets go and we remember. Another angel in heaven. Thank you for sharing, so honestly. best, Sally

  • What a tragic story Janet. I made the mistake of reading it in my local cafe yesterday & had to gulp down tears. It it terrible when young people die but especially hard in these circumstances. It reminded me of losing my brother in a tragic accident when he was only 17 & I 18. I was just barely starting out and A levels ahead of me. I know my mother never quite recovered from the experience. As hard as it was it made me stronger in the long run. It is a total cliche to say that time heals, it helps. At the time silly thing irked me, I saw people cross the road .. I could see they didn’t know what to say. It is painful. This family are lucky that they have a lot of love between them, it will help to get them through. Angels all around us. Your daughter is lucky to have your support. Thank you for sharing x x

  • Amanda, I’m sorry you have first-hand experience of tragic loss, and the inability of people to deal with loss. It’s a shame because it’s the very fact that they DO care that stops them reaching out for fear of adding to the burden. How one copes with losing a child is beyond me and I quite understand how your Mum never fully came to terms with it. But, as you say, there are angels all around us, silently assisting and loving us as we go about our daily life. Thanks for sharing, Amanda. Janet x

  • Words are inadequate for how sad this is – it is so hard to deal with the loss of a loved one at any time, and seems especially unbearable when it is one so young. I guess that all we can do in such situations is pick ourselves up and do our best to carry on, and to remember to allow the grieving, and to cherish the memories. That and to reach out to others in the hope of preventing such tragedies. Depression is an insiduous dis-ease, and it is often not externally obvious just what is going on inside. Often those who suffer with it are good at keeping up the external pretence of being OK – I know I was a past master at it!
    Thank you for sharing your story, my thoughts are with to you, and all who have had to deal with such loss x