Shining her light

I am 44 and I survived Suicide

My name is Liza Oliva. I am a suicide survivor. In 2010, I lost my middle child, Destinee to suicide, she was 16. I was one of those people that said that can never happen to me, but it did. My daughter, Destinee had been diagnosed with Epilepsy a few months prior to her death. When she was 14 I took her in for a visit and they did their normal testing. However, they couldn’t pinpoint what was going on. A year passed by and her symptoms started to get worse. I was in the process of finishing up school and kept promising to make her an appointment. Some more time passed and she could be sitting at a table and without hesitation she could knock over an entire table of food at dinner it happened several times. Finally in late 2009, I started to look for another doctor to get a second opinion. In early 2010, she was treated by a neurologist and we were told she had Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy. Destinee was given a bottle of medicine and sent home. Little did I know in a few short weeks, my world would come crumbling down.

Destinee was your active 16 year old child who loved music, loved to sing and loved life. For six weeks we were told to increase the medicine weekly until I started noticing changes. Every week for six weeks I called this doctor to inform her of the changes I noticed anything from a nose bleed to pacing in the halls at night. Finally, the last week before she died, I was at her pediatrician for her siblings when I told him what was going on. He looked up her medication in the PDR (Physicians Desk Reference) and told me everything she was going through was a side effect of the medication. He told me to call the neurologist right away and discuss with her. I went around and around for three days with the nurse and I finally told her I didn’t want to speak with her anymore and refused to speak with anyone but the doctor. Finally on May 12, the doctor called me and said we had a follow up in July if she was still having problems we would discuss then but that they wouldn’t take her off the meds just yet. She said not to increase the meds anymore until Destinee built her tolerance. I agreed, I should have known better. Destinee asked if she could stop the meds but I was scared so I told her to wait a little while longer.

Five days later, my daughter was dead. I woke up one morning to find my child’s lifeless body hanging in a closet. Nothing in the world could have prepared me for what came next. Life was so hard broken relationships, losing jobs, being homeless but all I could do was pray. I literally moved about ten times during the first few years, I couldn’t hold a job to save my life. I knew God wouldn’t leave me like this. A year or so later, my brother decided to start a small dance group with some local kids. He told me over and over that there was a need for kids in the community and that so many were struggling. During the first two years, I refused it was so hard to see kids laughing and living life as I missed mine.

One day I went into the studio and there was a young girl crying. I was so mad in my grief, I asked him why she was crying he said to me she said no one would miss her if she was gone. I will never forget that day. I didn’t have the words for her so I sat with her and we both cried. For about thirty minutes we sat and held each other and cried. This was my breaking point. I knew I had to do something so that I could try to help stop the stigma and stop one family from feeling what I feel daily. It is an indescribable pain that I don’t wish on my worst enemy.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth age 15-24.1 Approximately one out of every 15 high school students reports attempting suicide each year. It has been stated that more middle schoolers are dying by suicide than car accidents. Simply Destinee is committed to breaking the stigma behind this topic through awareness and prevention.

From that point on, Simply Destinee was created. Simply Destinee is a not for profit, self funded youth organization that promotes Suicide Awareness and Prevention as well as Anti-Bullying in memory of Destinee Oliva. We use music as an outlet for self expression and enforce concepts like self acceptance, self confidence, pride and community. The kids come in free of charge and practice 3-4 times a week. They perform at all local events and partner with other organizations to do various events all year round. We have birthday cake monthly for whoever has a birthday to celebrate life because that is what it is all about. We tell them regularly that life is short and no one is promised tomorrow so to live everyday like its your last.

Shortly after losing my daughter in May 2010, I lost my mother in May 2014 as well. I realize now more than ever that life throws challenges at us all the time but it’s how we deal with them that defines us. My brother and I have taken this tragedy and turned it into a triumph. Simply Destinee started with 6 kids and now has over 100 kids at any given time and continues to expand to implement kid friendly programs and educational programs for the students and parents to understand and recognize bullying and suicide. Awareness starts with us. The biggest problem with suicide is the stigma. No one wants to talk about it, I promised to do everything I can to help break that stigma even if it means sharing my story to start the discussion. We are losing way to many kids and one kid lost is one too many.


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