Joanne Mitchell

Jackie Mitchell-1 My daughter Jackie was such a sweet beautiful child with dark hair and bright green eyes. She had a smile that could light up any room and she was sensitive and loving. Unfortunately, the light was taken from those beautiful eyes. 

She was diagnosed in high school with anxiety and panic disorder. She struggled many years, trying to get it under control, with medication or her own self-will. She tried so hard to be independent but was never able to get to where she wanted to be in her life. One day the pain was more than she could bear and she took her own life. 

The next days and months that followed were a blur. The pain was more than I could imagine anyone enduring. I wondered “Is this how she felt at the end?” It made me realize that we have to appreciate our family and friends every day.

My days and nights during those first days felt like a dream, no, a nightmare. I had to try to understand “Why?” I read books on anxiety & depression. I read medical books about suicide and books by suicide survivors. I read anything I could find having to do with angels or after-life experiences. I was desperate to understand why a girl that seemed to have everything going for her, saw leaving this world as the only answer.

Initially, I didn’t want to talk to anyone about my pain. It just seemed too private but eventually my doctor suggested I speak to a family counselor. After starting to open up to a stranger, I realized that a closed group might be worth a try too. At this point, I was on medication for depression and on sick leave from my job. I had heard about Bereaved Families of Ontario so I gave them a call. Even on the phone they sounded so understanding and I felt reassured that the groups would be very private and non-judgmental. 

My husband and I attended a 10 week program group for “Families of victims of suicide”. I still had reservations about speaking about my pain in front of a group of strangers but after listening to everyone struggle to tell their stories and guided by leaders that had lost family members also, I realized that there were other people going through the same kind of pain that I was. We learned from each other and I took the ideas that felt right for me and used those things in my life to help me get through the more difficult days. 

I haven’t found all the answers I was looking for but I have found ways to honour my daughter by raising money for Mental Health groups and the strength to help others that are struggling with loss. Over the last 5 years, since I lost Jackie, I’ve had a lot of support from family, friends, and Bereaved Families of Ontario. The pain is still there and I’m sure it always will be but I take one day at a time and tell my family I love them every chance I get.

Joanne Mitchell

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