Cherish Houle's family wants everyone to understand the pain of her last days. That's why they put it in her painfully honest obituary.
As WDAY News reports, 12-year-old Cherish of Bismarck, North Dakota had been going through a difficult time.
Cherish was in foster care and was being bullied at school. She had recently changed her name to “Chance,” and was having a issues with her family. Her aunt, Summer Nelson, told WDAY:
“[Cherish] messaged randomly and we talked for hours but then recently she just kind of drifted and we didn't stop talking but she like kind of pushed people away.”
According to the Pioneer Press, Cherish's loved ones want people to know the damage bullying can cause and the pain of seeing a loved one commit suicide. That's why the seventh grader's obituary isn't only about her love of music or drawing. It's also about abuse and anguish that drove Cherish to commit suicide.
Cherish's obituary in the Bismarck Tribune described how she was undergoing “intense pain” and bullying at school during the last six months of her life. Unfortunately, Cherish's support systems failed her. Her obituary stated:
Those who loved Cherish didn’t know how unbearable the pain she was experiencing had become for her. The support and love she was able to receive from those around her wasn’t enough to heal the scars of the relentless bullying she had already suffered. Cherish didn’t harm others or turn to drugs and alcohol to deal with her pain, she took her life on March 31, 2018.
The obituary continued to describe the way in which Cherish's family was confronted by the horrible reality of bullying:
The word bullying doesn’t begin to encompass the ugliness and pain it causes. The ugly truth of bullying is someone who loved Cherish had to open the bedroom door and see what they saw on Saturday, March 31. The ugly truth of bullying is those who loved Cherish can’t close their eyes at night because they can’t get the image out of their head. The ugly truth of bullying is doing CPR for 4 minutes and 26 seconds. It’s listening to a 911 operator tell you to go faster and push harder. It’s knowing that you didn’t open the door early enough for it to matter anyway. It’s that Cherish isn’t here anymore.
Nelson told WDAY that she hadn't heard from Cherish in a few days. Now, like the rest of Cherish's family, she is asking herself, “Why?”
In the obituary, Cherish's loved ones ask parents to discuss bullying with their children and not shy away from the “hard questions”:
Are they being bullied? Are they the bully? Have they witnessed bullying and it broke their heart, but they were glad they weren’t the target today? Did they not know what to do and walked away? Or joined in the laughter because they didn’t want to attract the attention of other bullies in the crowd. We are asking you to teach your children that our words are our most powerful resource and we need to be careful to use that precious resource to positively affect people. Teach your children what to do if someone they know is talking about suicide. Teach them who to call for help.
According to StopBullying.gov, approximately 28 percent of students in grades six through 12 have experienced bullying, and nine percent have experienced cyberbullying. About 70.6 percent say they have witnessed bullying at their school, which is where most bullying takes place. However, only 20 to 30 percent of those bullied report it to an adult.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that suicide is the second leading cause of death for children between ages 10 and 18. According to the CDC, in 2013, 17 percent of students grade nine through 12 had thought about committing suicide in the previous year and eight percent of high school students had attempted suicide one or more times in the past 12 months.
The CDC states that while bullying and suicide are related, and bullying could be considered a risk factor for suicide, we do not know whether bullying causes suicide-related behavior. It is worth noting that most young people involved in bullying do not engage in suicide-related behavior.
Summer Nelson wants to make it clear that bullying wasn't the only problem in Cherish's life. She told WDAY:
“It wasn't just bullying, but there was home problems to and growing up it was a tough situation. If I would've gotten a hold of her and told her that her dad's going to be home soon within the end of this month, I think it would've probably changed her mind and everything on this outcome.”
Nelson said that she'll remember her niece for her smile and the way she always made people laugh. As the family wrote in Cherish's obituary:
Cherish was a beautiful soul who no longer has to suffer pain and rejection here on Earth.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.