LOGAN – Chaylie K. Holmgren, 28, was laid to rest Saturday, May 27, in the Fielding Cemetery. She left three children, ages, 10, six and two years old.
Her mother, Mindi Hoggan, and her cousin, Lisa Mckinnely, not only wrote a tribute to someone they loved, but went to great lengths to discuss mental illness and the pain someone feels after a loved one takes their life.
Chaylie’s obituary on Cache Valley Daily has been among the top 5 viewed pages on the entire site over the last week.
“That is a lot of views for an obituary,” said Cache Valley Daily’s editor, Eric Frandsen.
The obituary went viral on social media as more and more people read and shared her story. Even NBC’s Today Show picked up on the obituary.
The eulogy spoke of a well-loved, put-together mom who was envied by many for her style, personality and appearance. But she somehow must have felt her efforts weren’t enough.
In an interview with an NBC Today Show writer Meghan Holohan, Hoggan was asked to share her thoughts on her loss and the call she feels to save others the pain of losing a family member.
“If there’s even one person that I can reach so that (their loved ones) don’t have to feel how I feel, then I’ve done my job,” Hoggan of Logan, told TODAY. “Mental health is nothing to be ashamed of. I don’t want people who are suffering to feel ashamed to ask for help.”
Chaylie did not seem to exhibit any signs of distress.
“We were close. We talked all the time, she lived a few doors down in the same condo complex,” she said. “There was no indication she was thinking of doing something like that.”
“No one knew the darkness she faced when alone or the impossible standards a perfectionist sets for oneself. Vehemently private, Chaylie didn’t discuss her demons within. We did not hear of or see her insurmountable and all-consuming pain,” the obituary said.
The young mother’s death left the family with emptiness and many unanswered questions. Chaylie’s family also feels a desperate longing to understand the rationale and insanity behind mental illness no one knew to be present, they wrote.
“Her death has marred us in significant, painful and permanent ways. Suicide is a complicated end and compounds with an array of feelings and stigma.”
Chaylie’s life and cause will not be forgotten. Hoggan has received phone calls from all over the country, even outside it.
“If talking about it, exposing it, shouting it from the rooftops, will help even one person find a way to talk about their pain, a difference can and must be made. To help others understand, we must reach out to family members, friends and strangers. Show kindness, an openness to talk and, more importantly, to listen, to see, to hear without judgement.
“If only to save one family from the pain and anguish of losing a loved one through bringing awareness to this tragic and senseless loss of life, then our beloved Chaylie’s death will not be in vain. See the signs, save a life, we cannot afford to lose another light.”
Reece Nielson, PhD, Clinical Director of The Family Place, read the obituary and expressed his sympathy to the family and for their grief.
“To the family that wrote Chaylie Holmgren’s obituary, I express my sorrow and condolences, as well as a resounding ‘amen,'” he said. “Maybe no words can comfort your grieving, but I thank you for putting to words your experience, and I believe many others will thank you as well.”
He said for any afflicted by suicide, the topic can be confusing and distressing.
“Questions about how to see it coming, how to stop it, and how to cope afterward largely go unanswered,” he said. “What we do know is this: For some of us, at some point or points in our lives, we experience an emotional pain and burden so intense and so heavy that it eclipses all hope and dims the light of our reasons to live.”
Nielson said we may suffer alone an agony so great that we believe, then conclude, that our own death is the best or only way to escape, and that the people in our lives will go on or be better without us.
“We are faced with a choice incomprehensible to those that have not experienced it: to die by suicide, or to survive,” said Nielson, who has 15 years of clinical experience helping people with different issues like suicidal tendencies. “Whether we live often becomes a question of whether someone or something happens to intervene, or whether we awaken and change our course before we arrive at the end.”
In his trained opinion and experience, he said the greatest gift we can give to a person battling suicide is to simply be kind.
“The trick is, you’ll probably never know who that is, so you’ll want to do this for everyone in your life, stranger or friend,” Nielsen said. “Smile, be gentle, listen, look in their eyes when appropriate, reflect to others good things we see in them. Avoid unkindness, being critical, mocking or gossiping about others, and when we mess up – and we all do – we can be quick to offer an apology.”
He said subtler, but as important, aids could be to spend quieter, slower time together, as often the emotional experience of the sufferer changes slowly, and only when in a kind of quiet space accompanied by a kind presence.
“One bittersweet irony is that many times the caring and charismatic among us are more vulnerable to suicide,” Nielsen said. “How can this be? Perhaps science will someday reveal factors that contribute to both, as science gradually gains ground on the subject, unveiling biological factors that provide meaning to what has seemed meaningless for so long.”
The clinician wrote: “To you now in the darkness, I say: Resist. That dark, heavy, unbearable weight: Resist it. Hang on, hope is coming. Many of us have been where you are, more than will likely ever speak out, more of us than you know. We know, at least to a degree, how you feel.
“We know your burden is heavy, and your pain is great. We want you to know we can never recover from the blow of a suicide, yours or anyone else’s – it is too great a loss. We ask only this: Give us one chance. One chance to help you. Pick up your phone, make a call, tell someone – we feel certain you won’t regret it.”
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help Chaylie’s young children.
For anyone contemplating suicide, text “Help” to 741-741 (a 24-hour crisis help line), call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.