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Parents tell of tragedy of their daughters who were bullied when they came out



EXCLUSIVE: Our 11-year-old daughters took their lives because people would not accept their sexuality: Parents tell DailyMailTV how schoolgirls shot and hanged themselves after classmates bullied them 'for coming out'

  • Madissen Foxx Paulsen and her best friend Sophia Leaf-Abrahamson, both 11, committed suicide within months of each other in North Dakota 
  • Madissen shot herself with her dad's gun in December 2017 and Sophia was found hanged at her home two months later 
  • Their parents Angela Leaf and Shane Paulsen believe the girls were bullied because they were questioning their sexuality and called each other 'girlfriend' 
  • Shane told DailyMailTV: 'I'm trying to work through where it went wrong. I still live in the same apartment where she killed herself so I don't go home often' 
  • The girls met in fifth grade and became inseparable, with Angela noting: 'They followed each other. When Sophia cut her hair, shortly after Madissen did too'
  • Both parents believe that their daughters may have been in love and struggling with questions about their sexuality
  • Angela said: 'Sophia asked if she could talk to me. I told her she could talk to me about anything, She blurted out, ''I think I like girls.'' I told her it was okay' 
  • Shane said once they were all eating and 'my daughter points at Sophia and says, ''This is my girlfriend and there's nothing you can do about it dad''

By Louise Boyle In Thompson, North Dakota For Dailymail.com

Published: 14:20 EST, 9 January 2019 | Updated: 14:41 EST, 9 January 2019

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The heartbroken parents of two 11-year-old best friends, who committed suicide within months of each other, believe that the girls were bullied by their classmates because they were questioning their sexuality and called each other 'girlfriend'.

Madissen Foxx Paulsen shot herself with her dad's gun in December 2017 at her home in Devil's Lake, North Dakota. 

Two months later, her best friend Sophia Leaf-Abrahamson was found hanged at her home in St Michael on the Spirit Lake Reservation.

Angela Leaf, 33, and Shane Paulsen, 46, spoke together for the first time exclusively to DailyMailTV about their devastating loss.

The distraught parents said they only became aware the sixth-graders were being bullied at Central Middle School in Devil's Lake after their deaths.

Madissen Foxx Paulsen (left) and her best friend Sophia Leaf-Abrahamson (right), both 11, committed suicide within months of each other in North Dakota
Madissen Foxx Paulsen (left) and her best friend Sophia Leaf-Abrahamson (right), both 11, committed suicide within months of each other in North Dakota

Madissen Foxx Paulsen (left) and her best friend Sophia Leaf-Abrahamson (right), both 11, committed suicide within months of each other in North Dakota

Their parents Angela Leaf, 33, (right) and Shane Paulsen, 46, (left) believe the girls were bullied by their classmates because they were questioning their sexuality and called each other 'girlfriend'
Their parents Angela Leaf, 33, (right) and Shane Paulsen, 46, (left) believe the girls were bullied by their classmates because they were questioning their sexuality and called each other 'girlfriend'

Their parents Angela Leaf, 33, (right) and Shane Paulsen, 46, (left) believe the girls were bullied by their classmates because they were questioning their sexuality and called each other 'girlfriend'

Shane, who is originally from Portland, Oregon, said: 'I didn't know there was a problem until I woke up to a gunshot on December 2.

'I thought I had a healthy, happy child. Madissen was excellent in school, As and Bs. She won the American Citizenship Award.

'I don't have other children, I'm a single father. We lost Madissen's mom Ravanah to heroin addiction.

'I'm trying to work through where it went wrong. I still live in the same apartment where she killed herself so I don't go home often.

'Madissen was everything. She was happy. I saw it, I know she was.'

Angela said: 'Sophia had a radiant personality, instantly you were her friend. She got that from my Dad, he was the same way.

'She loved the outdoors, snowboarding and playing in the snow. During the summer, it was swimming or fishing.

'She never gave you the sense that something was bothering her, always smiling, joking.'

The girls met in fifth grade and became inseparable. Shane said: 'Sophia stayed the night a few times and the kids had a good time. We'd go to the movies and Burger King.

'They spent a lot of time doing their art, they were making a comic book together.

'They were both super colorful. They liked to dye their hair, electric blue and pink.

Angela added: 'They followed each other. When Sophia cut her hair, shortly after that Madissen did too.'

The mom, who worked as a 911 dispatcher at the Bureau of Indian Affairs for ten years, said that Sophia dreamed of being an artist, teacher and joining the military like her cousin.

Shane (pictured with Madissen) told DailyMailTV: 'I'm trying to work through where it went wrong. I still live in the same apartment where she killed herself so I don't go home often'
Shane (pictured with Madissen) told DailyMailTV: 'I'm trying to work through where it went wrong. I still live in the same apartment where she killed herself so I don't go home often'

Shane (pictured with Madissen) told DailyMailTV: 'I'm trying to work through where it went wrong. I still live in the same apartment where she killed herself so I don't go home often'

Madissen was found dead after she shot herself with her dad's gun in December 2017 at her home in Devil's Lake, North Dakota. Pictured: Art work by Madissen detailing her 'demon pain' 
Madissen was found dead after she shot herself with her dad's gun in December 2017 at her home in Devil's Lake, North Dakota. Pictured: Art work by Madissen detailing her 'demon pain' 

Madissen was found dead after she shot herself with her dad's gun in December 2017 at her home in Devil's Lake, North Dakota. Pictured: Art work by Madissen detailing her 'demon pain' 

The girls' parents said they only became aware the sixth-graders were being bullied at Central Middle School in Devil's Lake after their deaths. Pictured: Another drawing by Madissen 
The girls' parents said they only became aware the sixth-graders were being bullied at Central Middle School in Devil's Lake after their deaths. Pictured: Another drawing by Madissen 

The girls' parents said they only became aware the sixth-graders were being bullied at Central Middle School in Devil's Lake after their deaths. Pictured: Another drawing by Madissen 

Angela added: 'My uncle ran the marathon so she wanted to do that too. Then she wanted to be a police officer because I worked in law enforcement.'

Shane, a long-distance truck driver, said that Madissen was passionate about computer-animated design and was a huge animal lover.

He said: 'I wanted her to go to college. She played piano, drums, guitar then found the clarinet. You give them everything and let them find out what they love.'

Both parents believe that their daughters may have been in love and struggling with questions about their sexuality.

Angela said: 'Sophia asked if she could talk to me. I told her she could talk to me about anything, to never be scared to talk to me.

'She blurted out, ''I think I like girls.'' I told her it was okay.

'She asked if I was ''grossed out'' and I told her I would be a big hypocrite [if I did] because my sister is my best friend and she's bisexual. I told her there's no way I'm going to judge her because she's my daughter.

'If she and Madissen had those feelings, I would never have any issues with it. It's part of life and I love my daughter one way or the other, no matter what.'

Shane said: 'Madissen, Sophia and I were in a Burger King and my daughter points at Sophia and says, ''This is my girlfriend and there's nothing you can do about it dad.''

'I joked with them, ''Well, you guys aren't sleeping in the same room tonight.''

'They were 11, how do they even know what love is yet? They were best friends.

'My daughter questioned her identity but it didn't matter to me if she was in love with girls or in love with boys.'

Both parents believe that the girls were bullied because they shared their affection for each other.

Angela said: 'Sophia (pictured) asked if she could talk to me. I told her she could talk to me about anything, She blurted out, ''I think I like girls.'' I told her it was okay'
Angela said: 'Sophia (pictured) asked if she could talk to me. I told her she could talk to me about anything, She blurted out, ''I think I like girls.'' I told her it was okay'

Angela said: 'Sophia (pictured) asked if she could talk to me. I told her she could talk to me about anything, She blurted out, ''I think I like girls.'' I told her it was okay'

Angela added: 'If she and Madissen had those feelings, I would never have any issues with it. It's part of life and I love my daughter one way or the other, no matter what'
Angela added: 'If she and Madissen had those feelings, I would never have any issues with it. It's part of life and I love my daughter one way or the other, no matter what'

Angela added: 'If she and Madissen had those feelings, I would never have any issues with it. It's part of life and I love my daughter one way or the other, no matter what'

Shane said: 'I don't know what other people are teaching their kids. I don't know the teachers well enough to know where they stand on issues. They could have been attacked by an adult for showing the way they felt.'

Angela said: 'Sophia never mentioned anything. I told her, if somebody's saying something to you, let me know, we'll get to the bottom of it. I thought that communication was open between us.

'She got As and Bs and then all of a sudden during that year, her grades started dropping.'

In the weeks before Madissen's death, Shane said that she was moody but put it down to her 'turning into a teenager'.

He explained: 'I'm a truck driver, I'm not home every day. My mother was home, she had more interaction with my daughter lately than I did. I needed to work, so that's what I did and I may have missed a few of the key things that I should have picked up on but I'm finding them now and I'm not going to quit.'

On December 1, 2017, Shane returned home from a week on the road. He had bought a handgun the week prior after an increase in shootings at truck stops.

The father said: 'I didn't leave the gun in my truck because I didn't want anybody getting a hold of it. I put it in the locker in my living room and locked it up.

'I chatted to my daughter while she was on her laptop. I went into the living room, was watching TV with a beer and fell asleep.

'I woke up to the gunshot at seven o'clock in the morning. Madissen knew where my keys hung. I had taught her to shoot at an early age, going to the gun range had been a lot of fun for us. She knew how to work the gun and snuck it out while I was asleep. 

'That's a burden I'm going to bear forever. I'll never own another gun and I smashed that one to pieces.

'My mother opened Madissen's bedroom door and I was right behind her. The smell of gun smoke hit me as soon as I crossed the threshold. I knelt down and grabbed Madissen's arm. She was still warm but she was dead. I can't get rid of the smell of warm blood in there.'

In the weeks before Madissen's (pictured with her father) death, Shane said that she was moody but put it down to her 'turning into a teenager'
In the weeks before Madissen's (pictured with her father) death, Shane said that she was moody but put it down to her 'turning into a teenager'

In the weeks before Madissen's (pictured with her father) death, Shane said that she was moody but put it down to her 'turning into a teenager'

The father said: 'I didn't leave the gun in my truck because I didn't want anybody getting a hold of it. I put it in the locker in my living room and locked it up'
The father said: 'I didn't leave the gun in my truck because I didn't want anybody getting a hold of it. I put it in the locker in my living room and locked it up'
He added: 'I woke up to the gunshot at seven o'clock in the morning. Madissen knew where my keys hung'
He added: 'I woke up to the gunshot at seven o'clock in the morning. Madissen knew where my keys hung'

The father said: 'I didn't leave the gun in my truck because I didn't want anybody getting a hold of it. I put it in the locker in my living room and locked it up. I woke up to the gunshot at seven o'clock in the morning. Madissen (pictured) knew where my keys hung'

Shane said: 'That's a burden I'm going to bear forever. I'll never own another gun and I smashed that one to pieces'. Pictured: The now destroyed gun which Madissen used to commit her suicide
Shane said: 'That's a burden I'm going to bear forever. I'll never own another gun and I smashed that one to pieces'. Pictured: The now destroyed gun which Madissen used to commit her suicide

Shane said: 'That's a burden I'm going to bear forever. I'll never own another gun and I smashed that one to pieces'. Pictured: The now destroyed gun which Madissen used to commit her suicide

Shane continued: 'I called 911 and told them my daughter committed suicide and the operator asked if we needed paramedics. I said, she's dead, send everybody.

'I was in shock. They took me down to the police station. I don't remember how long I was there.

'When I came home, her body was gone. The bedroom was scrubbed clean, the carpet removed and replaced by my close friend. I kept saying, ''How did you do all this in an hour?'' They kept telling me, you were down there for nine hours.

'All that was missing was my daughter and the TV. The bullet went through her head and into the TV.'

Two days after Madissen's death, Shane was horrified to learn that she had attempted suicide before.

'Two six-year-old boys knocked on the door and asked me about her death. One said that two weeks earlier she had tried to hang herself in a closet.

'It dawned on me that I had seen bruises on her neck but I suspected it was a hickey and said, ''That better not be a hickey, you're too young.''

'These are all just children, I can't be mad at them. I told them it wasn't their fault and that I loved them.

'These children are fragile and want to be accepted so badly. When their friends turn against them, it's a real battle for them to shrug it off. They carry that weight.'

He added: 'If some of her friends had spoken to me, her death may have been prevented.

'I would never have had the gun if I had known this might happen and I would have got her help right away.'

Madissen's funeral was held on December 12, 2017, at St Joseph's Catholic Church in Devil's Lake and was attended by hundreds of people.

Shane's devastating loss was compounded by the fact that the local funeral home (pictured) then buried his daughter without him. He said the pain of not being present at his daughter's burial almost drove him to take his own life
Shane's devastating loss was compounded by the fact that the local funeral home (pictured) then buried his daughter without him. He said the pain of not being present at his daughter's burial almost drove him to take his own life

Shane's devastating loss was compounded by the fact that the local funeral home (pictured) then buried his daughter without him. He said the pain of not being present at his daughter's burial almost drove him to take his own life

Shane said: 'I have a small urn of ashes (pictured). My mother scattered a little bit of her in Oregon and her ashes were also laid with her grandfather in Devil's Lake'
Shane said: 'I have a small urn of ashes (pictured). My mother scattered a little bit of her in Oregon and her ashes were also laid with her grandfather in Devil's Lake'

Shane said: 'I have a small urn of ashes (pictured). My mother scattered a little bit of her in Oregon and her ashes were also laid with her grandfather in Devil's Lake'

Both parents said that Central Middle School (pictured) has had little contact with them following their daughters' suicides. They only found out their daughters had been bullied after their deaths
Both parents said that Central Middle School (pictured) has had little contact with them following their daughters' suicides. They only found out their daughters had been bullied after their deaths

Both parents said that Central Middle School (pictured) has had little contact with them following their daughters' suicides. They only found out their daughters had been bullied after their deaths

'I gave a speech about my daughter but I talked to the kids too,' Shane said. 'I remember picking up Sophia and hugging the hell out of her.'

Shane's devastating loss was compounded by the fact that the local funeral home then buried his daughter without him.

'They interred my daughter when I was at work. They didn't call me so I missed the part where they put her into the ground. They invited people that weren't even family. When I asked why I wasn't notified, the man on the phone said that I wasn't on the list.'

Shane said the pain of not being present at his daughter's burial almost drove him to take his own life.

Shane said: 'I have a small urn of ashes. My mother scattered a little bit of her in Oregon and her ashes were also laid with her grandfather in Devil's Lake.'

Angela said that she broke the news to Sophia that Madissen had died and the family kept a watchful eye over her as she dealt with her grief.

'I didn't want her finding out from anybody else so I held her and told her Madissen had passed away. She broke down.

'She took Madissen's death hard. She would cry for days. She wouldn't go to school because she was afraid what people would say and didn't want to realize that Madissen wasn't there anymore.

'We tried to keep her mind busy. I encouraged her to focus on her piano playing because she enjoyed it.

'I asked her if she knew Madissen was going to do this and she told me no, that the last day she saw her, she tried talking to Madissen and she pushed her away.

'She kept saying how she should have been there to keep her from doing what she did. I don't know if she felt guilty.'

Angela said that she broke the news to Sophia (pictured) that Madissen had died and the family kept a watchful eye over her as she dealt with her grief. 'She took Madissen's death hard. She would cry for days,' Angela said
Angela said that she broke the news to Sophia (pictured) that Madissen had died and the family kept a watchful eye over her as she dealt with her grief. 'She took Madissen's death hard. She would cry for days,' Angela said

Angela said that she broke the news to Sophia (pictured) that Madissen had died and the family kept a watchful eye over her as she dealt with her grief. 'She took Madissen's death hard. She would cry for days,' Angela said

The mom was forced to explain suicide to her young daughter after Sophia (pictured) asked why she couldn't see her friend in her casket. Angela said that neither the psychiatrist nor school counselors were concerned that the 11-year-old was suicidal 
The mom was forced to explain suicide to her young daughter after Sophia (pictured) asked why she couldn't see her friend in her casket. Angela said that neither the psychiatrist nor school counselors were concerned that the 11-year-old was suicidal 

The mom was forced to explain suicide to her young daughter after Sophia (pictured) asked why she couldn't see her friend in her casket. Angela said that neither the psychiatrist nor school counselors were concerned that the 11-year-old was suicidal 

 On February 19, Angela was working a nightshift as a dispatcher when she heard the harrowing 911 call that her brother Steve made after he went into the basement and found Sophia hanged 
 On February 19, Angela was working a nightshift as a dispatcher when she heard the harrowing 911 call that her brother Steve made after he went into the basement and found Sophia hanged 

 On February 19, Angela was working a nightshift as a dispatcher when she heard the harrowing 911 call that her brother Steve made after he went into the basement and found Sophia hanged 

The mom was forced to explain suicide to her young daughter after Sophia asked why she couldn't see her friend in her casket.

Sophia began seeing a school counselor to help deal with her loss Angela said: 'Sophia was diagnosed with Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder.

'Some days we felt like we were walking on egg shells because anything would leave her mad or crying.'

DMDD is a childhood condition of extreme irritability, anger and intense temper outbursts. It is usually treated with medication and therapy. Sophia also began seeing a psychiatrist.

Angela said: 'In one session, when Madissen's name was brought up, Sophia went blank. She wouldn't say anything, it's like she wasn't there.'

Angela said that neither the psychiatrist nor school counselors were concerned that the 11-year-old was suicidal.

'They addressed suicide with her and didn't see any signs. The Friday before she went through with it, she was talking about her future, spending time with her aunt. No indications that she was going to harm herself.'

On February 19, Angela was getting ready for a nightshift at work and left Sophia and her brother Riley, eight, with her mom Rita, 62, and her brother Steven, 39.

'For some reason, I kept telling myself I should take her to work with me,' Angela said. 

'She was on the computer, laughing, watching YouTube. I gave her a big hug and said I love you. She said it back.'

Later that night, Angela heard the harrowing 911 call that Steve made after he went into the basement and found Sophia hanged.

As they struggle to understand what made their daughters take their own lives at such a young age, both parents try to focus on the happy memories they have
As they struggle to understand what made their daughters take their own lives at such a young age, both parents try to focus on the happy memories they have

As they struggle to understand what made their daughters take their own lives at such a young age, both parents try to focus on the happy memories they have

The mourning mother and father urged other parents to keep a close eye as to what their children are doing online
The mourning mother and father urged other parents to keep a close eye as to what their children are doing online

The mourning mother and father urged other parents to keep a close eye as to what their children are doing online

Angela said: 'A page came over the radio for an ambulance. My stomach dropped. I knew something was wrong, then I heard the address and it was for an 11-year-old not breathing.

'I held myself together as long as I could to make sure the ambulance got there.

'I remember my brother Mike calling, asking what was going on. I told him, Sophia's dead and he hung up on me.

'I remember pulling into the driveway, the ambulance, the lights and a patrol unit.

'I go in the house and I hear somebody yell, we got a pulse. It was my brother Mike who was doing CPR, he used to work as an EMT. He took over everything when he got there, he didn't allow anybody else to touch her.'

Young LGBTQ people are up to 7 times more at risk of suicide attempts, says sociologist

Sociologist Michel Dorais, a professor at Laval University in Quebec, specializes in suicide, gender and sexuality studies. He told DailyMailTV that in the U.S, young LGBTQ people are 3 to 7 times more at risk of suicide attempts.

Professor Dorais said: 'To be clear, sexual diversity does not causes suicidality but homophobia/transphobia, fear, intolerance, exclusion and stigmatization place young people at risk.

'It is why this problem (depression and suicidality among youth LGBTQ) is so important for families, relatives and educators: we have to be more protective and inclusive for sexual diversity among young people (at all ages). The main problem is the rejection, or the anticipation of more rejection.'

The professor did not believe that the tragic deaths of Sophia and Madissen were a 'suicide cluster' but rather 'a (double) suicidal crisis following a coming out at a very young age, without enough support (personal, familial, by friends, by community) to face a possible backlash, especially bullying at school – a tragic problem now, without serious responses in many places'.

Dorais said that the risk of suicide is elevated when a close friend or relative has taken their own life. 'At a young age, we do not have the resources to cope with this: less community support, less life experiences of this kind, fewer solutions in sight.

'The first loves are the greatest ones, and LGBT youth is not an exception. On the contrary, real love often represents for them the main hope for a better future, despite the problems they meet.'

The academic urged parents, friends and the wider school community to be alert to young adolescents in crisis.

'[Young adolescents] don't always demonstrate their despair. The most painful sorrows are very personal, with the belief that nobody will understand.

'More generally, young LGBTQ people receive insufficient attention. They have the same problems as others adolescents and the challenge is to be accepted (not only tolerated) as a person and (eventually) couple. It's a challenge for which there are so in need of our help as adults and society.'

He added: 'A last word for fathers and mothers, who need help, too: The most efficient prevention is listening and the 'arms open' approach. Your children, especially when they are, for a reason or another, perceived as marginal or 'different' need all the concrete support you can give them. The best antidote for suicidal ideation is hope.' 

Sophia was taken to St Alexius Hospital in Bismarck. 'I got in the truck with my cousin and we followed the ambulance. He told me to wait in the truck when we got there.

'I knew something was wrong because one of the EMT workers came out, dropped in the snow and started crying.

'I took off into the ER and I see my brother in front of the Jesus statue praying as hard as he can.

'The doctor told us her heart stopped again and they got it going but her eyes were fixed and dilated.

'I knew instantly she wasn't there anymore but I couldn't let her go. I couldn't make the decision for them to stop.'

Sophia was flown to Sanford Medical Center in Fargo as medics desperately tried to save her life. Angela and Sophia's father, Thomas Abrahamson, 34, were delivered devastating news.

'They did everything they could but then a specialist explained that the blood vessels to her brain were damaged, she wasn't getting any blood to her brain and it had swollen so much they couldn't make out the different parts.

'Me and her dad Thomas waited for everybody to get there. We sat there for hours and I just prayed over and over but I noticed her fingertips starting to turn blue.

'I knew no matter how much I wanted her to, she wasn't coming back. So we made the decision to shut down the machines.'

Sophia died on February 20 and her funeral was held four days later at St Michael's Catholic Church.

Angela said: 'That was the hardest day. I should have been picking out a prom or a wedding dress, not a casket.

'We decided to have her cremated, her dad has some of her ashes and I have part of her. When it's time for my mom, she was going to be buried with her.'

The two parents live in a perpetual state of torment, poring over their daughters' diaries, schoolbooks and artwork for potential warning signs they might have missed.

Angela said: 'I went through the computer again and again, trying to find something. In every book she read, I look for signs that I missed. I found her journal and there was a lot of pages ripped out. I think she didn't want anyone to see.

'There are still so many questions. I always have the what-ifs. What if I did this? What if I did that?

'I try to remember every positive thing that we've done together. Last night her brother broke down crying because he missed her so much and then I went through Facebook, looking for clues in the pictures.'

Shane has sent the contents of his daughter's computer hard drive to be analysed by a tech expert in Arizona.

He said: 'I'm looking for somebody that knows about computers and has the time to invest into looking into this for me.

'I don't want to contaminate [the computer] in case there's leads that are going to lead me back to who she was online or if there was an adult involved.

'I'm still looking for answers.'

Both parents said that Central Middle School has had little contact with them following their daughters' suicides.

Shane said: 'I think they just want it all to go away. It isn't the kind of publicity a school wants - two kids in the same grade, two months apart commit suicide and bullying could have been a huge issue.

'There's a real problem in that school and I can say it boldly, because I know that bullying goes on and people look the other way.'

In an email, Scott Privratsky, Devil's Lake Public Schools superintendent, told DailyMailTV: 'The school district will not comment.'

The mourning mother and father urged other parents to keep a close eye as to what their children are doing online.

Angela said: 'I went to Central Middle School too and I had been bullied there. But when I was a child, bullying stopped at school. With social media today, I think that bullying can go further than that. You don't know who they're talking to.'

Shane said: 'Parents are working two jobs just to keep the lights on and we trust these teachers and other people in the community. It's really easy to let these kids sit on the couch and be on the computer.

'You assume that you've raised your child smart enough to know the difference, who not to talk to you but they don't have any clue who is on the other side.

'I thought we had good communication but she didn't tell me a lot of things like she had a Facebook account.

'If I could go back in time, I would be home every day. I would tell other parents to unplug kids as much as you can.'

As they struggle to understand what made their daughters take their own lives at such a young age, both parents try to focus on the happy memories they have.

Shane held a charity food drive on December 2 to try to bring some comfort and overcome his painful memories of that day. Angela says she has been unable to contemplate Sophia's upcoming anniversary but hopes to have a big family barbecue to remember her on her birthday this summer.

Angela said: 'I don't want to see another family member or another person go through this, because it destroys a parent.

'It gnaws at you. You feel like you didn't do anything as a parent but everybody's telling you that raised your children well. But then, why isn't she still here?

'It's the memories of our little conversations, just off-the-wall stuff. She would be like, ''Mom, why is the sun orange?''

'Or watching her and her brother play this little game where they both act like chickens, chasing each other through the house.

'She was like a little fish when it came to water. Even if you her told not to swim, she would be off the other side of the boat.

'Just watching her draw and play piano. Seeing her smile.'

Angela left her job as a dispatcher after her daughter's death and now works in retail. She also moved to the small town of Thompson in May because Sophia's younger brother was being bullied about his sister's suicide.

'It was a new start for Riley because people were talking about his sister's death and told him on the bus that she hung herself. He took it pretty rough.'

Shane said that he will forever miss his daughter as his traveling companion.

Shane said: 'I'd taken her a lot of places - San Diego, San Francisco, Portland, Phoenix. I took my kid to Vegas and we've been in a limousine together.

'I got her a passport but we never got to use it. I wanted to show her different cultures, different foods.

'What I'm going to miss the most is I don't have a travel buddy anymore. I'm not going to quit doing that but now I'm just going have to take her in my heart.'

· Angela and Shane encourage feedback on their story and hope parents will let their children share their stories and artwork, in the hope that they can feel empowered to know someone is listening. They can be reached at: Angela Leaf & Shane Paulsen P.O. Box 1227 Devils Lake, ND 58301

· For confidential help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or click here 

· Text 741741 from anywhere in the US to text with a trained Crisis Counselor or click here  

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