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ND family points to effects of bullying after 12-year-old daughter takes her life

Cherish "Chance" Houle

 BISMARCK -- The death of a North Dakota 12-year-old by suicide and a heart-wrenching, detailed obituary is calling attention to the issue of bullying.

The family said Cherish "Chance" Houle of Bismarck took her own life last Saturday, March 31. Family members said the seventh-grader had a tough life, was in a difficult family situation and living in a foster home, but perhaps bullying at school may have contributed to the tragedy.

However, the family still is asking, “Why?”

"I have a lot of questions like ‘why?’ and ‘why didn't she just message me?’” said her aunt Summer Nelson in a television interview with WDAY-TV.

Nelson said her mother sat her down on Saturday and she could see the hurt in her eyes. It was then she found out.

Nelson and her niece would talk frequently.

"She always had a smile and her little voice was just cute and so sweet,” Nelson said.

However, she said she noticed a difference lately in the 12-year-old who had changed her name to Chance.

She was being bullied at school, having issues in her foster home and became withdrawn, Nelson said.

"She messaged randomly and we talked for hours, but then recently she just kind of drifted and we didn't stop talking but she like kind of pushed people away," Nelson said.

The detailed obituary published to the website of Eastgate Funeral and Cremation Service in Bismarck describes the bullying she faced.

It said the girl had “experienced intense pain most people her age will never know. Throughout the last 6 months of her life, she experienced continual transition and intense bullying at school. While the news is currently highlighting violence as the result of bullying, Cherish’s support systems saw a very different result. Those who loved Cherish didn’t know how unbearable that pain she was experiencing had become for her. The support and love she was able to receive from those around her wasn’t enough to heal the scars of the relentless bullying she had already suffered. Cherish didn’t harm others or turn to drugs and alcohol to deal with her pain, she took her life.”

The family said they shared the story to make people aware and to try to prevent other tragedies.

In the obituary, the family asked that parents “talk to their children and find out answers to hard questions. Are they being bullied? Are they the bully? Have they witnessed bullying and it broke their heart, but they were glad they weren’t the target today? Did they not know what to do and walked away? Or joined in the laughter because they didn’t want to attract the attention of other bullies in the crowd. We are asking you to teach your children that our words are our most powerful resource and we need to be careful to use that precious resource to positively affect people. Teach your children what to do if someone they know is talking about suicide. Teach them who to call for help.”

The obituary also details the crushing blow the suicide dealt to the family.

“The ugly truth of bullying is someone who loved Cherish had to open the bedroom door and see what they saw on Saturday. The ugly truth of bullying is those who loved Cherish can’t close their eyes at night because they can’t get the image out of their head. The ugly truth of bullying is doing CPR for 4 minutes and 26 seconds. It’s listening to 911 operator tell you to go faster and push harder. It’s knowing that you didn’t open the door early enough for it to matter anyway. It’s that Cherish isn’t here anymore.”

The girl is survived by her mom, Jessica; her dad, Nathan; siblings, Santana, Sonte, Maliyah, Nathan Jr., and Yuri; her grandmas, Marina Cheifstick and Judy Nelson; and many aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Visitation for the girl will be Thursday, April 5, from 10 a.m. to noon at the funeral home.

Read the full obituary here.