by Charlotte Moyler, suicide loss survivor and founder of Suicide Loss Survivor Group in Williamsburg, VA. Until now, she had not gone public with her story. Suicide often seems to come out of nowhere but in 90% of the cases there is an underlying mental health disorder and when we look back we can see clues we that didn’t register at the time.
We called her Pie, our little Magpie.
Born in January 1994 and adopted into our family when she was less that two days old. Maggie was an answered prayer and so much more! She was the daughter I longed for after 14 years of marriage. She was tiny and full of energy!
She taught her older brother Jake many things, but most importantly, how to love life. It is still so shocking that our little Pie took her very own life before she turned 18.
She was the cutest little thing, feisty and fun. At Clover Hill Elementary School, she created her own singing and dancing routine in the talent show. It was a show stopper! As I videoed her, I thought how blessed am I to be this child’s mother. I thought about the enjoyable adventures we had to look forward to.
Maggie started swimming before she turned two and offered to take her two year older brother down the Woodlake Swim and Racquet Club’s slide. Not to be overshadowed by his little sister; Jake quickly went down on his own, but never with as much freedom and confidence as Pie.
A fierce athlete our little Pie was
She played soccer from age four (always with a huge bow in her hair), starting diving at age 10 (and gaining very high scores) and played on an awarding winning golf team at Jamestown High School (one of three girls on the team).
Did I mention, Maggie was beautiful?
I still do not know, but I do know this.
I cannot go back and change what happened. In my dreams, Maggie is that cute little Pie and I am loving her and loving her with extra hugs and extra kisses and extra compliments. In my dreams, I am trying to keep her alive.
I am not dreaming now and I want to keep Maggie’s memory alive with my message today. Speak to your children about suicide. It is killing our youth and it can come out of nowhere. We never spoke of suicide in our home, because we never thought we needed to.
If only I knew then what I know now…
Maggie’s suicide fits into a small percentage of suicides
There were no warning signs. She did not have a mental illness. She did not have an addiction.
She was an adopted child, who had some abandonment issues, which she sought counseling for. Her counselor told me Maggie really “had it all together,” after several sessions.
Maggie also had neuro cardiogenic syncope and fainted her way through Swift Creek Middle School.
After proper diagnosis from Duke University Medical Hospital, Pie was given medication for this disorder. She was tough and plugged right through, but it was so very difficult to watch. I remember thinking, “Maggie is very much like me, strong, determined and will get through the tough stuff and be stronger for it.”
I had no clue what was ahead…
During this time, we had to move into a very tiny rental home after financially losing everything from a family business. Maggie was in sixth grade. My husband and I were working at every job we could find to support our family.
Maggie was fainting (prior to her diagnosis from Duke) fairly regularly. After a long day substitute teaching, I was plunging the kitchen sink (which was forever clogged up).
Maggie said “You do not have any problems; your life is so perfect.” I wanted to laugh out loud, as I was plunging, but instead I said “What makes you think so darling?” Maggie’s big brown eyes looked into my mine and answered “Could anyone have a closer relationship with God?”
Wow, I thought, I must be doing something right. Never would I have imagined that less than five years later, Maggie would have killed herself.
There were no real signs of the internal struggles that caused her to lose all hope. She was recovering from tonsil surgery, had experienced sadness over broken relationships and her local neurologist had continued to increase medications for Maggie’s fainting disorder.
The day Maggie died, I posted on her FB wall; “Today will be a great day!” I told her how proud I was of her returning to school after recovering just one week from having her tonsils removed.
She went to school that morning looking especially pretty. She had completed all of her outstanding school work, even the AP classes. Maggie was smiling brightly when she left for school that morning. Her senior pictures were taken that day. The proofs arrived in the mail weeks after her death.
That terrible, terrible day, Maggie told me that someone at school, that very day she died, told her she wished Maggie was dead. I asked Maggie if I knew this girl and Maggie said “no”.
My response to Maggie was that this girl must hold a great deal of anger and hurt inside to say such things to her. Now I wish I had grabbed Maggie and held her tight and told her that teenage girl was awful, just awful.
That remark did not kill Maggie, but if that girl had said something kind and positive, would Maggie be alive today? I will never know, but I do know that words can build us up and words can tear us down. Kindness matters! Kindness brings about hope.
The night Maggie lost all hope and did something that we still cannot comprehend, I was at church serving God’s people. I struggle with this.
Maggie left us with messages of how much she loved us–we were wonderful parents and that she was not “strong enough” for this world.
She said she would be in Heaven, looking down on us and always in our hearts.
She sent me a text minutes before taking her life “I love you.”
I did not see this until the next day. I never had the chance to text back “I love you.” I have to let that go and replace it with images of Maggie dancing, goofing off and jumping into Lake Erie over and over and over again.
People ask me how I am getting on with my life since Maggie’s suicide
I love this question and relish answering it.
I credit Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit by filling me when I was so low I could barely breathe. I would be nothing without my God! God placed just the right people, groups, counselors in my life, for a time such as this.
I thank God for preparing me for such an appalling storm by building up my faith (the best insurance you can ever have).
I am so incredibly grateful to my family and friends who were not too frightened to be around me, because I think I may have been too frightened to be around them, if the roles were reversed, after such a nightmare.
I love those who say Maggie’s name with love and not shame and trepidation
I love those who do not look away when they see me.
I love my fellow survivors, especially those who lift me up and do not pull me down. Those I can just sit with and they know my pain because they have suffered the same tragic, sudden and problematical loss. I love them so, but wish I never had to meet them!
Maggie should be graduating from college this month, with a degree in marine biology. All of her friends are graduating and it hurts not to see my Pie in a cap and gown. It has been close to five years since we lost her, but I feel her deeply in the big hole left in my heart.
I urge others to speak the word of suicide and not to use it in hushed tones, as if it is a word to totally avoid.
It is happening all around us and is happening more and more often, especially in our youth. I believe, with all of my heart, that Maggie would be alive today if only she felt comfortable expressing the dark and troubling thoughts that were plaguing her. I did not know and I am not ashamed.
I know now and I will use my broken heart in hopes that healing and renewal may be brought to others suffering in silence and without any hope.
I publicly praise God for meeting me in my pain and restoring me emotionally. I will not let Maggie’s death go in vain and will do what I can to bring beauty from such sorrow. We remember Maggie by the lovely, fun and free spirited manner in which she lived and not the tragic accident that ended her life.
Speak the word suicide; do not be afraid You may save a life you never knew you could lose. I did.
See the #griefheart for Maggie Moyler.