Without Warning: Abbie’s Story

As told by her mother Becky Simmons

Abbie was my youngest. She was born in September of 1997. My husband and I had two older kids. In fact, her sister was 11 years older than her, and her brother was eight and a half years older. I always say, from day one she was a daddy’s girl. I think I came in second. All her life, she loved to hunt. She loved to fish. She loved to go camping with her dad. They would spend hours just driving around.

At the age of 19, she was in college. She went to college to be a nurse.

She came home one day and told her dad, Ronnie, and me “I don’t want to pay rent.” She had wanted to live in an apartment. She didn’t want to live with us. And then she wanted to get her own house. So Ronnie helped her and she bought a trailer house here in town (Jamestown, N.D.) at 19 and finished college and everything else. She was just very, very focused. She was going to do it.

Some people might assume that anyone contemplating suicide would be struggling with an obvious or serious mental health issue, such as severe depression. In fact, many people who commit suicide don’t have a known mental illness, and there usually isn’t just one determining factor that prompts someone to take their own life. The circumstances that result in suicide are usually complex and may involve one or more life challenges, such as chronic pain, substance abuse or other serious health issues, financial strain, legal problems, trauma or relationship troubles.

Southern Hills Hospital & Medical Center


I think, that was just really a big attribute for her and got her through everything. But also, she had such a kind heart. She worked at a grocery store when she was in high school and a man called me one day. He was an elderly man, and he called me and said, “I just wanted to let you know that Abbie was working today” He said “I want to pay her back. Well, she wouldn’t take the money back.” And she came home and I remember asking her I said “Abbie, why’d you do that? You can’t afford to pay for people’s groceries.” And she just said “Mom, he reminds me of my grandpa. I can’t let him not get his groceries.”

Like I said, she was a nurse. She worked at the school where I worked and she met a young girl, Kyah, who was four.  Kyah was a young girl that came to our school and she had been beaten to death by her mother. She died on the way to the hospital like four or five times. Anyway, Abbie and your partner fell in love with Kyah, absolutely fell in love with her.

She was 20 when she announced to her dad and I that she wanted to pursue adopting Kyah.

Kyah was, I would say she was almost in a vegetative state. She had just got to her school. She had suffered such a traumatic brain injury she couldn’t talk. She couldn’t walk. She’s very much a special needs child. Anyway, Abbie and her partner decided they were going to adopt her. And they fought and fought for it, but were able to adopt her. The year Abbie graduated from college, Mother’s Day weekend, they brought her home and six months later they adopted her. They officially adopted her December 28, 2020.


Ronnie was never alive to see Abbie adopt her. Our Ronnie died in 2019 of complications from diabetes. So I lost my husband. We’d been married 35 years. And that was really extremely hard on Abbie.

Abbie was a junior in college at the time he died. And, you know, I thought she was doing okay. Her and I talked a lot about it. And she seemed like she was doing okay. And then COVID hit.

You know, I look at things that Abbie didn’t get to do. She didn’t get to graduate from college. They had the drive thru graduation. Being nurses, they have a really big ceremony called a pinning ceremony. She didn’t get to do that. The nurses here in town, take a mission trip over to Africa, Abbie had done so much planning for that, that was cancelled.

She lost a lot of stuff she couldn’t do in her senior year, and I think she kind of held it in along with her dad passing away. I mean, I would say her dad was by far her best friend. She didn’t talk a whole lot about it. I think in my mind, with me grieving, I don’t think I always spent the time talking to her about it either, even though she would bring it up. I don’t think I probably was there as much as I could have been.

But when they brought Kyah home in May, I think that really helped Abbie out over the summer. We saw a girl go from a vegetative state to starting to talk. She can walk a little bit with assistance. She can’t talk like you and I, but she can say a few words. Abbie seemed to just blossom being a mother. She absolutely loved it.


But at the same time, she had some devastation in that she took her nursing boards and she didn’t pass. And I remember her calling me at school at work that day. And she told me she said, you know, “Mom, I’m such a failure. I can’t do anything, right. I can’t believe I didn’t pass my nursing boards. I might as well give up.” And I remember I was kind of afraid of things at that time. That would have been in like June. But a nursing school professor got in touch with her and told her “You know, Abbie, so many nurses don’t pass the first time. You’re a wonderful nurse.” And the second time she passed. And then again, it was like, suddenly life was good again. And then in about November, her and her partner, Shyia, started having some problems. I think being first time parents, having a special needs child didn’t help the process. And I think they forgot each other, you know, so they started having some difficulties in the relationship.

And Abbie called me one day and she goes, “Mom, I think I’ve lost Shyia forever.” They had been together for six years. They met very young and they were planning on getting married. And I remember saying to her, “Oh, Abbie,” I said, “I feel really bad for you. But you know, people break up every day.” In fact, her brother is a single parent to two young kids, you know, he and his partner didn’t stay together. And I said, “You can do it, Abbie.” And she goes, “Yeah, I know. I’m just lucky I’ve got such a supportive family.” But she said, “You know, I just wanted Kyah to have a family. And she’s like “Now Shyia, and I probably won’t last.” Then between September and the adoption being finalized, they started getting back together. So when Kyah was adopted, when the adoption was finalized, they were together and it seemed like Abbie blossomed. She became the nurse for me, plus work and stuff. She worked at Triumph and the Anne Carlsen Center in Jamestown.


I had hip surgery in between January and March. She was over here every day. She took me to all my therapies. She made sure I got the stuff I needed. The doctor told me to take all this kind of stuff. So I think she was so busy that I didn’t see anything with her. I didn’t see any depression. She seemed like she was doing okay. She and Shyia had kind of separated again, so I knew that was happening. But she was over here every day. We talked every single day. You know, she brought Kyah over to see me almost every day. I mean, it was just, it was good.

She had Kyah in Girl Scout so she was out selling cookies. She took her to the college and sold cookies. They talked about how happy she was. And I didn’t see anything.

Then Sunday, it must have been Feb. 28, she called me on the phone and she goes, “Hey, Mom, let’s go for a drive.” Which is not my thing; that was her and her dad’s, but you know, I can go for a drive. So we went for a drive. And I remember her telling me she said “Mom, do you ever miss Dad?” like that. And I said, “Oh, Abbie every single day I miss him.” And she goes, “Yeah, me too.” And that was Sunday.

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The Mayor Clinic


Monday, we spent all day together. She was happy go lucky over here. Kyah was in school. So it was just her and me and we played cards all day.

I got up Tuesday, March 2, (2021), I got up and Abbie sent me a text saying, “Have a good day” with my first day going back to work after my hip surgery. She said, “Have a good day, Mom. I’ll talk to you later.” And I said, “Yep, me too.”  We talked about other things. And then she put Kyah on the bus.

The bus driver said Abbie gave her a kiss told her she’d see her at three. She ran out to Walmart and got a bunch of stuff and left it on her kitchen table. She got in touch with me later and asked me if she I wanted her to bring me dinner. And I said no. So she said, “Well, I’m going to pack my dinner really quick and go to work.” So she packed her dinner, went to work about 10 o’clock in the morning. Nobody saw anything. At noon, she told work, she was going to go take her dinner hour, and she’d be back in a half an hour. So she left work at noon. And I got called about two o’clock in the afternoon and nobody could find her.

I’m in her emergency contacts, so they called me at work and said, “Hey, have you seen Abbie today? She left work at noon. Nobody has heard from her.” And I said to him, I said, “Oh, you know what?” I said, “I bet her phone died.” She hadn’t been sleeping really well. And I said “I bet her phone died and she fell asleep. Why don’t I go up to her trailer and wake her up?” And they said, “Yeah, , because we have people coming over to learn about Kyah at about three. And I said, “Well, I will wake her up.” I said, “I can’t believe she did this.”

So I ran up to her house from work and when I got up there, her best friend was there, and I could see she was upset. I got out of the car, and Trista come up to me, and I could hear this screaming in the background. And I thought, oh my gosh, Abbie had a nervous breakdown, she just lost it. And I ran up to Tricia and I said “What’s going on, Tricia? Is it bad?”  And she said to me, “It’s really, really bad, Becky.” And I started running towards that the screaming thinking Well, I’ve got to go help Abbie. And I could hear the screaming and Abbie’s garage door was open. I ran into the garage and she had taken her life in her garage. And that screaming was actually a person that had gone over to check up on her screaming with the 911 operator.

When we went in Abbie’s house, she had sent a text message to three of her best friends saying “I love you” and “Thanks for everything” and left her phone in her house. She had quite a few missed calls from me, her friends. But nobody saw it coming.


So then when the police came, you know, my first reaction was actually, I remember telling the cops that, you know, “Abbie wouldn’t do that. She wasn’t depressed. She wasn’t unhappy.” She had a vacation planned for like two weeks later to go with a best friend to Florida. We never saw an unhappy person. I was determined that she had been killed. And I remember telling the cops that she had been killed. And I said, “You’ve got to find out who killed her, because Abbie wouldn’t do this.”

Well, that’s when we went through her house. The coroner did find a prescription for antidepressants. And he asked me, did I know she was taking antidepressants? And I said no, you know. And then when he counted the pills, he said she’d only taken a couple. And she’d had the prescription for about a month so she wasn’t taking them. I don’t know why. I don’t know whether they didn’t agree with her or she didn’t think she needed them. I don’t know. But, you know, I was still even though I saw that I was still in that frame of mind that I knew somebody had killed her because this happy-go-lucky girl wouldn’t do this. You know?

About two days later, I got called by the cops and they asked me to come down to the cop station. And I again, I remember leaving the house thinking oh, they found out who did it, you know. And when I got down there, Abbie had done videos. Notes to us. And she left a note to me, a note to her brother and sister. A note to her niece and nephew, her daughter and then her partner. And the note, mine, said basically that “Nobody ever knew how depressed I was when Dad died. And losing Shyia is just more than I can handle anymore.” And when I read it, or heard it, I all I could think of is she’s right. I had no clue how depressed she was. Nobody did. She hid it so well.


If you were to ask me, I have three kids. My son has struggled with depression his whole life. Abbie never had a bad day. Never. She always had a smile on her face. She was always such an outgoing personality.

I’m much more of a reserved person. Abbie was the life of the party. She could talk to anybody on the street about anything. She loved people in general. So I don’t know. I knew she was upset after her dad died, but I would have never said that upset. And yeah, we were so shocked. There was nobody who saw it coming.

Actually, in order to adopt a special needs child, you have to go through counseling. It’s a mandatory thing. I don’t know if it’s statewide or U.S.-wide, but it’s mandatory in North Dakota. And you have to see your counselor once a week for a little over a year. So Abbie was seeing a counselor every week. And you know, we did get in touch with the counselor to see if she had seen any depression. And she said, No.  she said, It wasn’t even something that I would have put down for Abbie. She said she never had a bad word to say, never talked about her insecurities. She never talked about just being sad in general. She never talked about being worried. The counselor was floored, absolutely floored.


I live in Jamestown, N.D. Well, it’s a smaller town 100 miles from Fargo and 100 miles from Bismarck. We have a small college here. Our town is about 12,000. But when the college is in session, we’re about 15,000. So it’s a smaller town. The nice thing about the town is, since Abbie died, I’ve had a lot of people step forward and want to do something, because she knew everybody in town. She worked as a nurse, but then she also worked for a company here in town that deals with adults with special needs. So Abbie’s worked with special needs her whole life between me and her work and her. She was a nurse at the school. I’m a nurse. That kind of thing. A lot of people knew her.

After Abbie died, they did a fundraiser for suicide awareness. It was a shop here in town that Abbie and I went to get like protein shakes. When I was off on my hip surgery, Abbie would bring me protein shakes. In just in a matter of like three-and-a-half hours, they raised $1,900. That’s how much the community supported it.


Last year, the college asked me to come up. They set up a scholarship and Abbie’s name – the nursing department did. And I went up and talk to them about who is Abbie because the girls that are in the nursing program there now did not know her. And the professor’s wanted me to come up and talk about who was Abbie, and then talk about suicide awareness. So I talked about that last May.

They wanted the scholarship to go to somebody that they felt had some of the same values as Abbie, and stuff. And the girl that actually got the scholarship, worked for special needs, and her fiancé also took his own life about a year before Abbie did. So there was some connection there too, you know? So yeah, I mean for a small community, I think they’ve pretty supportive. And hopefully it will keep going.

It’s so important because my family has kind of stepped back. I’m not sure if they just don’t know what to say. None of my family acknowledged Abbie’s birthday last year and her birthday is coming up again. And nobody in my family acknowledged Abbie’s death date.

When I gave my speech at the college, one thing I put in my speech was so many people say they don’t know what to say. And I said, first of all, nobody knows what to say. But anybody can say, I’m sorry. You don’t have to have the answers, all you have to do is offer a Kleenex and a hug, you know.


I have a friend here in town who I think said it perfect. She came over to my house right after Abbie died. And she said to me that day, “I didn’t bring any food to eat. I have absolutely no idea what to say, but I’m here if you need me.” And I thought, that’s perfect. And she’s still beside me all the time. She didn’t know what to say, and I wouldn’t have known what to say, you know.

You don’t have to say anything, just be there. I think that’s what sometimes is the hardest, it’s the people that almost act like it never occurred.

Published by Tim Rowden

The Grief Project is dedicated to sharing the stories of suicide loss survivors as well as information and research on suicide, mental health, advocacy and prevention. I’m a suicide loss survivor, husband, father, writer and journalist, with 33 years experience as a reporter and editor. I believe sharing our stories can help help others who are struggling, whether they are loss survivors or struggling with depression or other mental health issues. We honor them and honor our loved ones by sharing our stories.

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