It’s been so long since I’ve seen you. And yet sometimes it seems like no time at all. It was Thursday, March 31 last year when I last saw you, your face lighting up with that beautiful smile as we met you off the Dallas flight in Miami on our way home to Bermuda.
You looked and sounded so relaxed and happy as you told us about your trip to visit your beloved Grannie and Pop-Pop for Grannie’s birthday. You were thirsty so I bought you a Coke Zero and gave you a chocolate Easter bunny I’d bought you in Telluride. Your brother Toby was there too, on his way back from a school trip, and as usual gave you one of his special big hugs.
After we landed in Bermuda we shared a cab from the airport. We dropped you off at your apartment with a kiss and more hugs and you said you’d to let me know if you would be coming round on Sunday for dinner. I sent you a text on the Saturday to remind you but you didn’t reply. I figured you were busy at work and made a mental note to call you the next day. Except by then, of course, the unimaginable had happened and you had already left us without a goodbye or an explanation.
A year has now passed and I am no wiser about why you took your life. I don’t believe you meant to hurt anyone; I just wish you had known how much you were – and still are – loved by so many. You could not have known that in ending your life you would take so much from ours.
For the last 12 months we have faced and got through all the first milestones – what would have been your 26th birthday, Father’s Day, Christmas, all our birthdays – and we will, in our ways, get through April 3 as well but this feels the hardest. I find myself replaying those last few weeks, days and hours as though I can somehow stop the movie and save you.
But as devastating as it is to no longer have you with us, I want you to know that the family and your friends have come a long way from the raw emotions of a year ago when it seemed impossible that our broken hearts could keep beating. Some days we’re more “okay” than others, but the edges of the hole that will always be in our hearts are gradually softening.
Yes, we have been changed forever by the experience and it has brought many of us intense physical and mental pain, but none of us have shied away from facing it. In Bermuda, America and England, family members have been open about sharing their feelings and experience, not because we’re “brave” or “strong” but because we hope that we can, in some small way, help break down the stigma that still surrounds suicide and mental health.
We have talked, written articles, walked to raise money for suicide prevention and awareness, had tattoos done, got involved with bereavement work and programmes that help children cope with problems in their lives.
We have come to understand that people take their lives for complex and often unknown reasons. We will never know what made you take yours but you have made us sharply aware that right now someone, somewhere is thinking about doing the same thing and, like us, their loved ones will be left to wonder what happened and how to pick up the pieces. As a family, as a community, and as a society, we need to keep talking, listening and learning. No one should be afraid or ashamed of asking for help.
Jess, if you were here today, I would take you in my arms, hold you tight and reassure you that however deep and dark the depths of your despair may seem, there is always hope, there is always help. And, above all, love. There will always be love.
Miss you, beautiful.