One Mother’s Story

Following the deaths of two students at a local high school recently, Evergreen Hospice was asked to facilitate a forum for parents at the school. Staff and volunteers presented information on the grief journey and Annette Davidson shared the following memoir.

“I lost my 17 year old daughter Krista to suicide, in December of 1998.

In the year prior to Krista’s death, she lost four teenage friends in accidents in a very short period of time. In addition she experienced her first family loss — the death of her grandmother. Then

her friend Roger committed suicide. Krista was a very caring and concerned individual and found all of these losses devastating and overwhelming.

On many sleepless nights we would lay and talk about why someone would commit suicide and hurt so many of their friends and family. She told me Roger always seemed so happy and tried to make sure everyone was always happy. Together we used to talk and try to figure out many of her unanswered questions.

Sudden loss leaves teenagers without strategies to cope. Krista had problems concentrating and sleeping. She had mood swings. She was always so tired, angry, sad, overwhelmed and vulnerable. She was an honour student, and as her marks slipped. The harder she tried, the more frustrated she got.

Six months before she died, she started seeing a psychologist with whom she had a good rapport. It was determined that she was suffering from depression and would require medication as well as counselling. By the end of November 1998 she was no better. She was very fragile, so her doctor admitted her to the hospital in order to balance her medications.

She had been in the hospital for one week, and I had come to visit as I always did. Krista and I walked together. She went to the doctor’s office and at 1:30 in the afternoon I drove to work. At 4pm she hung herself in her room at the hospital. She was in intensive care for three weeks until she passed away on December 15th, 1998. Many of her friends joined us at the hospital. They prayed, supported each other and supported our family over those three weeks.

Krista’s death was devastating to all of our family and friends, especially her teenage friends.

Krista was very close with her two brothers, Terry, 22, and Cory, 20. Her death shattered their worlds and our family.

We coped by always trying to be there for each other. We took each day hour by hour at first – just trying to get through the day. Our friends and neighbours were so caring and thoughtful. We were very fortunate to have support services, like Evergreen Hospice, with caring people to help and support us as a family and individually. A support group from Bereaved Families for mothers who have lost a child also helped.

Terry’s friends stuck by him, kept in close contact, and were able to communicate well with him. Krista’s friends also stayed in contact and visited often. Terry finally had to take time off of work as a cabinetmaker because he could not safely operate the saws and equipment because he could not concentrate.

Cory lives, works and goes to school in downtown Toronto, which made it harder. We communicated daily and he went to a suicide survivors help group where they matched him with a trained person who also lost a sibling. The 10 sessions with two trained workers were helpful. He would exhaust himself with school and work so that he could get to sleep at night.

This past January our family went on vacation together. We had family time and quiet time. We feel this helped us a lot. It gave Terry and Cory special time together and I feel it has made them closer. My husband Jim and I are just enjoying our time with them and our time together.

We are back at work and we are coping. It is better than it was this time last year. We all have a way to go yet.

What is not helpful is when someone tells you that it is a year now and you should get on with your life. Grieving has no time limits and you must allow yourself to heal at your own individual pace. Everyone grieves differently.

No one ever completely recovers from the loss of someone they deeply love. To ‘recover’ means you can face and bear the loss, but you are permanently changed as a result of this experience. Your heart will always remember them and ache due to the loss.

Parents, please have patience with your teenagers. The teenage years are the most difficult time to cope with death. We don’t realize how serious losing a friend or loved one is to them.

They grieve and mourn and need lots of support. They need to be with their peers. They play such an important role in supporting them.

Try to keep the lines of communication open. Talk to your teens, and if they won’t talk to you, try to find them someone else they feel they can talk with — like a social worker, guidance counsellor or a support group. The help is out there for teenagers. Please make sure the help you get is from people who are trained to work with teenagers and are knowledgeable about the grief process.

I have been a parent trying to help and understand Krista in her grief. Now I am a mom who has lost a daughter and I have been through all the stages of grief. I understand now how hard it is. I only lost one daughter. How hard it must have been for Krista to lose so many people in her life.”