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.