Since we relocated from Acton to Gloucester, MA in 2012, our daughter has made us aware of an alarming number of suicides in our former community shared through social media. The events triggered a major article in the Boston Globe about the families coping with their losses. I had already begun work on I Am More as the news came in waves, and it became important to me to create a reminder that each person who dies by suicide was so much more than that one event. Arielle, a fellow artist, grew up in my current community of Cape Ann, and her mother, Anne, generously shares with us who she was to her family:
My hand reaches out to touch you but closes empty.
Our Arielle rocked it out mermaid style. She was the glittery reflections of light that sparkle on the water. Beautiful inside and out, she radiated love. She was devilishly funny, pure of heart, a caretaker of furry creatures, most especially horses, dogs, and cats. She was that adorable puppy, cuddly, and soft, with sharp little baby teeth, that could pierce your skin unexpectedly. She was a searcher. She looked for the meaning of life in the visual arts and often found it in creating and exploring. She believed that visual expression resides in us all. She was greatly pained by the injustices of this world. Unjust treatment of people, especially the poor, cut and burned her skin. She could not figure out how to fix it. How do we fix it?
We keep going on. We speak up.
Arielle was born into the Urbach Pieterse family on April 25th 1991, making them a clan of four. Wolfi now had a baby sister. He was her first friend and her best friend. She didn’t even need to talk because he talked for her. He was her protector. She was surrounded with love that shielded her from harm. Those were the days…the days of feeling like forever. Just the four of us, tucked into our Honda, named Ruby Blue frolicking in the autumn mist, adventuring on the sea coast, always in search of cool playgrounds to stop at along way. As she grew Arielle found her voice and made it clear what she wanted to do. She set off on her solo adventures. While she blazed a vibrant path, the texture of uncertainty and anxiety rubbed into the edges of her mind. She fought hard for many years, suffering alone not wanting to burden others. She felt shame because she was not able to fix the broken sadness in her head.
She died her earthly death in July of 2018. She was tired and didn’t know how to do it anymore. She was in the process of seeking help. She was ready, her hand had finally reached out to the medical community, but, the necessary connections were not made fast enough. She died from an illness in her brain that we call suicide. Even though she looked strong and was making all kinds of plans for the future. She just stopped right there.
If she would be able to come and talk to you right now, I know she would say in her strong sassy voice GIRLLLLL…
Don’t be embarrassed that you are sad, feeling unworthy, or are dealing with disordered eating. She would hug you up with a warm safe squeeze and tell you to just breathe. She would want those of us that are able to, to use our voice to shout with a fearless roar from the mountain tops with all the power of a dragon’s fire: Mental illness needs to stop being stigmatized! We need to have a cultural change that brings with it understanding and accessibility for those that are seeking help.
Arielle we love you so so much.
Daddy loves his kitten
Wolfi named you Gee
Yaya is mama’s baby girl. Our lovely little angel.
Snuggled into our heart forever.
Your goodness warmed the earth and your memory glows.
If you need help and want to talk to someone, call:
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
For the Crisis Text Line, text “Listen” to 741-741
For the Samaritans, Call or Text (877)870-4673
For immediate crisis evaluation call the Emergency Services Program / Mobile Crisis Intervention at 1-877-382-1609 & enter your zip code; you will get the phone number of the closest ESP/MCI that serves you.
If you are in immediate danger, please call 911
This month the NAN Project, an initiative to increase understanding, support, and treatment of depression in young people, founded in memory of Nancy Cavanaugh, will begin working with Gloucester High School students and staff in conjunction with the display of I Am More portraits currently at the school. They have already established a program of peer mentoring at Acton-Boxborough High School and many other Massachusetts schools. In August, Acton Memorial Library will host the I Am More Portraits.