*TRIGGER WARNING-SENSITIVE CONTENT
The Raw Ache Inside My Soul
My niece, Jennifer Shepherd, died by suicide on August 13, 2012. She was 32 years young and in the prime of her life. It has been nine long and painful years since I last saw her beautiful face, heard her bubbly voice, and was able to wrap my arms around her. If only I could see her one more time, I would hold her tighter and not let her go…but sadly, even though I loved her with all my heart, I had no idea of her pain. She was silently suffering.
I remember the last time I spoke to Jenny. I was having lunch with our friend Sandy Jacobson, Vice President at Richardson Executive Search in Edmonton. Sandy was looking for a motorcycle. I thought Jenny might be selling hers, so I called her. Sandy and I chatted briefly with Jenny. At the end of the conversation, as we always did, I told her I loved her. She responded with, “Really?”, “Of course,” I said. Her response was a bit odd, but I didn’t think any more of it.
Jenny was my oldest niece, my loudest cheerleader, and one of my best friends. When I moved to Edmonton in 2004, we caught up on all the time geographical distance took away from us. We were blessed to have had many adventures together, and for this, I am grateful.
I was working with The King’s University in Edmonton about to walk into a meeting when my sister-in-law, Sandra, called me on my cell. “Kathy, Jennifer’s dead.”
At first, those words didn’t resonate with me. I remember feeling nauseous, weak, and in disbelief. I was in shock, emotionally, physically, and mentally spent.
My knees began to buckle. I lost my body’s strength. I could no longer stand and dropped to the floor.
For Family and Friends, Suicide Kicks the Shit Out of Your Soul
In a state of complete rawness, the news made me feel as if my soul was being ripped apart from my body; it hurt to breathe. I cried more than a million tears. I was one of the closest people to Jenny, so how did I not know she was hurting so deeply? I blamed myself, and I was consumed with guilt for not being there in her moment of need. I was not able to save her. They say time heals all wounds. I believe time gives us the ability to cope with the wounds to continue to go on.
To say that I miss her greatly cannot begin to express the depth and emptiness I still feel today.
Our family and Jenny’s friends have been impacted tremendously. We are all suicide survivors because we lost an amazing woman with a gift to make us laugh. Jenny died by suicide. I don’t believe she wanted to end her life; I believe she cried out for help and found no one was there, or at least I think that may have been what she thought. Now, I know that she was in a great deal of pain and suffering in silence. It became too overwhelming for her.*This issue of The Cat’s Meow is dedicated to the memory of our Jenny and to all the people who died by suicide, those who attempted suicide, and the survivors of suicide. May this discussion piece bring awareness, healing, and resources for those who need it.
One of Jenny’s favorite paintings by Luciano De Crescenzo, “We are, each of us, angels with only one wing, and we can only fly embracing each other.” Jenny, on behalf of everyone who loved you and knew you, until we meet again, you will always and forever remain in our hearts! As my niece Vanessa Mooney would say to me before we ended our phone conversations when she was little, “I love you more, infinity and beyond.” This, too, is for my Jenny as I speak for all of us who will continue to love Jenny throughout time, infinity, and beyond.
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