The moment that changed everything did not seem out of the ordinary at the time. I picked up a number of voicemails when I got to work that Thursday morning in November, one from Claire, my 25 year old daughter. I discovered later that the message was left about 4 AM. It was disjointed, and I could not make out all the words. Her tone was normal, even lighthearted, and she asked me to come and pick up her cat. It was not unusual for Claire to leave me inscrutable messages, so I put the voicemail aside to deal with after the morning office rush.
Some time after leaving that message Claire died by suicide in her Montreal apartment. Her death was a shockwave that flattened all of us: family and friends, everyone who knew and loved her. How could we not have known what she was planning, though she never threatened suicide? How could we not have known that her life had become intolerable, that her eating disorder, once under control, had flared up again? In hindsight there were many clear signs that we had missed. The what ifs haunt us still, nearly six years on.
From the start, Claire was precocious, creative, funny and good at reading people. Claire was an avid reader, a fine writer, a music lover and a talented actor. She was also emotionally volatile, and had long dealt with mental health demons including bulimia. She was a bright light in our world, compassionate and caring. How could she, who we loved so deeply and was such a positive force in the world, suddenly and finally be gone?
In the aftermath of the shock wave my first decision was whether to carry on or to join Claire. Once I decided to carry on I knew I needed a lot of help just to get up off the ground and walk again. My family and friends were a wonderful support but many of them were dealing with their own grief and we all needed to reach out for other support.
Only 4 months after Claire’s death I discovered BFO. I went to a support and share night and then to a closed group for others dealing with the loss of a child. It was intensely sad to hear the stories of other bereaved parents. Knowing though that others had lived through that loss and hearing how they survived was very important to me. Later, I attended the loss by suicide group and found it helpful in an entirely different way.
BFO facilitators are helpful mentors who show the more recently bereaved hope for a meaningful life while living with what at first is an unbearable loss. I will be forever grateful for BFO and the remarkable people I have met through its programs.