Music Therapy

Something that has helped me immensely in my grief journey has been praise music. I have been feeling the need to share some of the songs that have helped me along the way. I don’t know why, but maybe it’s for you! Each of these songs has served as my theme song at some point. The first song is an older one but I heard it on my way to therapy that first week and thought it really fit Carrie – I substitute “Carrie was more” when I sing it: “You are More” by Tenth Avenue North. It gets me every time. The next song that I needed to hear many times daily was “The Sweetest Gift” by The Piano Guys. One of Carrie’s friends shared this Christmas song with me right after Thanksgiving.  Grab some tissues before turning that on or reading the story behind the song. I then latched on to Mercy Me’s “Even If” and btw, I can really belt that one out! To draw nearer to God and rely on His strength during tough times is very empowering. Next, Matthew West’s “Do Something” became my song. That is really motivational and I love it! “Fear is a Liar” by Zach Williams is speaking to me now but it’s so sad. I wish Carrie had heard that song and understood it. Other songs that have touched me during this time are:

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (the old hymn or Chris Tomlin’s version),
Matthew West’s “Strong Enough,”
Jonny Diaz’s “Breathe,”
Danny Gokey’s “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again,”

MercyMe’s “Greater,”
Casting Crowns’ “Thrive,”

Matthew West’s “Grace Wins,” and
MercyMe’s “I Can Only Imagine.” I often wonder what Carrie is seeing and feeling in Heaven these days. (I hope you saw the movie too – really good).  

I’m probably forgetting some other excellent songs that spoke to me, but I hope these might help someone. “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” Psalm 95:1.  #ForeverMyChild ❤️ 🎈#stopsuicide #800273TALK #CarryingOnForCarrie #musictherapy #myHopeisinHim

About this Page

This page was created to share memories of Carrie and James and uplifting quotes and music, provide resources for those struggling with mental health concerns, and showcase opportunities to raise awareness for suicide prevention and mental healthcare.

Mine is a sad story, but hopefully one that will help and encourage those with mental health concerns to seek help. In Carrie’s letter to me, she used the phrase “sleepy baby needs to sleep forever”. When I googled that (with quotes) right after her death, it gave me 1 result – The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800-273-TALK. There is no doubt in my mind that Carrie knew that I would do that and what result I would get. I believe this was her way of asking me to help others, even if she had lost Hope. One of my friends set up the Carrie Cotter Memorial Fund at the Austin Community Foundation (and all expenses are covered) so 100% of donations to this fund go to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This is one of the ways I feel called to help others. If you are so moved, please visit Each year, on World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10), I tell Carrie’s story, release balloons, light a candle, and solicit donations to her memorial fund.

The mental health system failed Carrie. 3 different hospitals turned her away, even while I was begging them to help her, telling me that they saw no reason to keep her. They didn’t feel that she was a threat to herself or others. They didn’t understand how smart Carrie was and how she knew how to give them the “right” answers. So much of mental health treatment being successful depends on the cooperation of the person needing help. However the person needing help often doesn’t want help due to the stigma associated with mental illness or they don’t believe they need help. We need to change this. Another thing that Carrying On does is support the efforts of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Active Minds, and other organizations that are raising awareness about mental healthcare in order to reduce the stigma and make it easier for those seeking help to get it.

Finally, Carrying On supports the efforts of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Carrie’s older brother, James, organized an Out of the Darkness walk at Baylor University in April 2018, to commemorate what would have been Carrie’s 18th birthday. We had 149 walkers in that walk, and I want to share 2 stories with you. One young woman who attended the Baylor walk is a suicide attempt survivor. She tried to take her own life in November 2017 and was taken to the hospital by a friend and is now getting help. She came from the Houston area and walked and wore her green beads (signifying a personal struggle or attempt). I really hope she felt loved and encouraged by the walk and knows that others are there for her. Another man traveled from the Dallas area with his wife and young daughter, just 18 days after his brother died by suicide because he “had to do something.” The Baylor walk was there for this man who was just at the beginning of his grief and I hope it helped him. I have heard countless stories at all the walks we have attended. I will continue to raise awareness for suicide prevention by having a Carrying On team for our local Out of the Darkness walk, and I will support those who walk for Carrie and James in other Out of the Darkness walks across the country. Let me know if you are walking! For me, the most important part of these walks is creating a sense of community, raising awareness, and inspiring HOPE in those who are struggling.

Carrie’s story: On 10/26/17 my life changed forever. At 10:40am, I received the worst call a parent could receive and learned that my beautiful, intelligent daughter had taken her own life, after years of being tortured by her brilliant mind. Carrie left a very (long!) well-written, detailed, and passionate letter with specific instructions and 9 “things to note”. Carrie was the middle child, but came out of the womb insisting that she was the first born and in charge. Carrie was described as “personality-plus” by the first psychologist who saw her at age 5. She was charismatic, energetic, and precocious. Carrie was what is known as twice exceptional. By definition, she had a genius level IQ and her ways of just knowing things amazed and baffled me. She could figure things out in seconds and she never forgot a single thing.

She also struggled with mental illness her whole life, more profoundly during her last 6 years. She fought ADHD, depression, and anxiety with therapy, many different prescription medications, and an inpatient stay at a psychiatric facility. There were indicators of something bigger going on, but not fully diagnosed yet. She worked with numerous therapists, psychiatrists, ER doctors, and hospitalists. She also self-medicated with substance abuse and cutting. She wrote that she was tired of trying different medications to feel better, so she just pretended that the last one worked…and then she got tired of pretending.

She was tormented by her brilliant mind her whole life.

But you would never know any of that.

She would never show any weakness or vulnerability and was very charming and outgoing. She knew how to look “fine” and worked hard to appear so. She loved and she felt loved. She had many plans for the future, including graduating college at 19 and returning to Kenya to help free teen girls from being sold into marriage. Carrie was majoring in psychology at the University of Arkansas at the time of her death and wanted to work with soldiers and veterans who suffered from PTSD.

In Romans 7, Paul wrote of his own mental struggle: “I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate… For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do.” (verses 15, 18-19). Carrie wrote of this same battle going on within her mind. I wish I understood this when she was alive. So many professionals told me that Carrie only had ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder; NOT depression, anxiety, or anything else. No one would help me help her. I felt defeated and thought a semester of military school might help her make better choices. She began there in January 2015 and she chose to continue her education at the military academy until her high school graduation in December 2016 (at which time she was 16 and had 35 college hours that transferred to the University of Arkansas).

If you are still reading this, I’m sure you can tell that I was no English major. I am a CPA by training, always been a math person; right/wrong, black/white, logical steps lead to predictable outcomes, etc. I am an ISTJ and an Enneagram 1w9. I have poor writing skills and no training in people skills, but I can listen to you. To my young adult friends on here, especially Carrie’s friends, y’all know that Carrie was extremely smart, but she made a bad decision, the wrong decision, and I will grieve her loss every minute of every day for the rest of my life. Learn from her mistake and seek help if you need it. Reach out to family and friends, call the Lifeline (you don’t have to be suicidal to call or text 988), or call me. I am here for you.

This is a very small part of Carrie’s story. Please share this page – creating awareness leads to reducing the stigma associated with mental illness. I’m hoping that by telling Carrie’s story that it will help others and then their families will be spared this kind of pain. Someone told me that if others saw that mental illness could affect someone as young and beautiful and smart as Carrie, that, in and of itself, would reduce the stigma.

The short version of James’ story (and there’s not much of a story to tell): Grief over the loss of his sister led to alcohol abuse, which led to anxiety and depression, which led to a prescription medication (Nov 2018), which led to 5 more meds (prescribed in Feb and Mar 2019) to combat the side effects of the first medication (even when I asked the doctor to wean him off of the first medication and treat him without medication. We only learned of the additional medications after his death.) plus gaslighting by the psychiatrist, led to a complete personality change, which led to agitation and panic, which led to erratic, impulsive, out-of-character behavior, which led to suicide. Absolutely makes NO sense to ANYone who really knew James. James was a confident, smart, easy-going, personable young man who LOVED life (until he started taking medication). He was a leader in many different aspects of his life and was loved by everyone.

I always said his greatest gift to our family was his ability to always make the best of any situation. In the spring of 2018, when talking about Carrie’s decision, his response to my statement that suicide is never an option was, “come on, mom. I think way too highly of myself to ever do that.” THAT was James. If you decide you need medication for your mental health, please do so under the close watch of a reputable doctor and if you have ANY suicidal thoughts, call your doctor and wean off them immediately. I firmly believe that if James had never taken the first pill, he would still be with us.

Some posts on this page will be on days when I feel strong and able to encourage others; other posts will be on days when I have trouble getting out of bed in the morning because my neverending pain has sidelined me. There are 2 constants: 1, I rely on God’s sttrength to help me through each day and 2, I miss my kids with every ounce of my being; that never goes away. I hope to convey to the world that suicide is NEVER the answer. You are loved. Please Don’t lose Hope, Keep the Faith, Love One Another, Pursue Peace, Look for Joy.

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