The longest year

Posted: April 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

Dear Jessica,

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.


It’s the questions that haunt you.

Long after the initial shock has subsided, and the funeral flowers have faded, the unanswered and unanswerable questions that a suicide leaves in its wake echo over and over again in your head no matter how hard you try to shut them out.

Why didn’t she call us?
Why didn’t she ask for help?
How did we not know?
What was she thinking?
How could she do this to the people she loved?
How could she do this to us?
Why? Why? Why?

If, as someone described it, suicide is “grief with the volume turned up” then the suicide of a child cranks it up to 11 and beyond. The sudden death of any loved one hits you with a sledgehammer to the stomach that makes you weak at the knees and sucks the air from your lungs; the intense shock of a suicide shakes you to the core, paralysing you with fear and anxiety as you feel your whole world give way beneath your feet. Disbelief quickly dissolves into anguished, primal howls of despair and floods of tears that you think will never end.

And almost immediately, you start asking the questions, seeking answers to the unexplainable, desperately looking for something or someone to blame. Something to be the focus of all your anger, frustration and raw anguish. Anything but having to accept the unacceptable: that your child alone did this to herself. There is no cancer or other hideous terminal disease to blame. No drunk driver, no gunman, no freak airplane crash. At some point you have to accept the cold, harsh reality that your child deliberately took her own life.

You start to question whether you really knew your child at all and even whether love – the deep unconditional love that only a parent knows – can ever be enough when it couldn’t protect them when they needed it most. You search in vain back and forth through your lives in search of anything – family history, a bad childhood experience, an unintended slight, substance abuse – that will somehow explain how this could possibly have happened.

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Image  —  Posted: June 9, 2016 in Uncategorized
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Low: Life after Bowie

Posted: January 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

For previous generations it might have been seeing Elvis or The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. For many of my generation, growing up in the early 1970s, our musical epiphany was on Thursday, July 6, 1972 – the night David Bowie sang Starman on Top Of The Pops and changed rock music forever.

It was, given the huge audience and influence that TOTP had in those pre-cable, pre-internet, pre-gender fluid days, a jaw-dropping performance. With his spiky orange hair, space-age clobber and androgynous appearance, Bowie looked and sounded like no pop star had ever done before. Shocked Middle England (TOTP was a weekly, almost religious prime-time family ritual back then) had certainly seen nothing like it. I remember my father saying he was “not sure if he was a boy or a girl” (a prescient observation that I like to think Bowie swiped a few years later for Rebel Rebel). For a 14-year-old, it all seemed thrillingly subversive.

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