After This Teen’s Death Left Her Family Shaken, They Included A Powerful Message In Her Obituary

Sadie Riggs was a vivacious teenage girl whose career aspirations involved fighting fires and caring for animals. Sadly, the Pennsylvania native never got the chance to fulfill her dreams. For Riggs tragically passed away at the age of just 15. And the obituary, written by her family, sent a powerful message to those they deemed responsible for her untimely and shocking death.

Born in Bedford, Pennsylvania in 2001 to father Eric and mother Beverly, Sadie endured something of a difficult childhood. For you see, she was abandoned by her drug-addicted mom in her infant years. And it was only when she was taken in by the sister of her stepmother Alicia, that she experienced some stability. That woman’s name was Sarah Smith.

Now, the pair first developed a bond when they were both invited to go on vacations to Myrtle Beach and the Outer Banks with Eric and Alicia. Later, Sadie and Sarah started to spend time together on weekends. And much to her delight in early 2017, Sarah was appointed Sadie’s legal guardian.

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Touchingly, Sadie loved being with their pet dogs in the open air, and she had a keen interest in drawing. But sadly, the teenager also had to deal with being constantly bullied by her fellow high school students. And the taunting didn’t end when she went home, either. For Sadie was also bombarded by upsetting messages on various social media platforms.

And in an interview with Pittsburgh Magazine, guardian Sarah revealed that Sadie was first picked on for her tomboyish look and ginger hair during her middle school years. Regardless of this, though, the teen had been excited about moving up to Bedford High School. And her early days there appeared to be relatively smooth – she particularly enjoyed the countdown to the annual homecoming dance.

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But after telling a fellow classmate that she liked him, Sadie started to be bullied again. Indeed, Sarah told Pittsburgh Magazine, “They said she was fat – she starved herself and lost 23 pounds. They called her a whore, a red-headed she-devil, a bum, a low-life.” As a result, Sadie cut her signature red locks short in an attempt to stop the taunts.

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However, even when Sadie returned home from school, she still had to deal with the cruelty of her peers. Yes, she was constantly taunted on social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. Now, Sarah did her best to monitor Sadie’s online activities, often replying to those doing the bullying and enforcing an internet ban. However, the teen couldn’t resist the temptation to see what the rest of her classmates were saying about her.

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All the more shocking, Sarah told NBC that she received little help from the authorities or organisations concerned. She said, “I went to the police. I went to the school. I even contacted Instagram headquarters, and they didn’t do anything about it. So finally I smashed her phone. I broke it in half. She was bawling every day and I couldn’t take it anymore.”

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Furthermore, one particular incident appeared to hurt Sadie more than any other. For in early 2017, the youngster started wearing a sweatshirt she’d picked up in the school’s lost and found. But when the real owner saw Sadie wearing it and reported her, the bullies used this as an opportunity to heap even more misery on the troubled teen.

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Yes, sadly Sadie was often picked on for her dress sense, and the fact that she came from a humble background. Indeed, her legal guardian Sarah held down two jobs to make ends meet, working on a farm and in a restaurant. She told NBC, “I’m a single mother and I couldn’t afford to buy her nice clothes.”

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Nonetheless, Sadie’s grandmother Stephanie urged the teen to fight back against her tormentors. But the youngster instead started playing truant and, even more worryingly, self-harming. As a result, Sadie received both medical and psychological treatment. But in April 2017 the teen overdosed on her medication and was rushed to hospital. Subsequently, she spent five days in a psychiatric facility, according to Pittsburgh Magazine.

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And after leaving the facility, Sadie attended a summer school initiative designed to help kids with similar emotional problems. Initially, Sarah believed that things were improving for the teen. But her world came crashing down in June 2017 when she returned home with her father Jeff to an unimaginable sight.

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For you see, Sarah believed that Sadie was only sulking when she spotted her up in the backyard tree she often enjoyed climbing. But on further inspection, it became clear that the youngster had hung herself. Desperately Sarah tried to resuscitate Sadie once Jeff had cut the cord, and she eventually discovered a light pulse. However, after being rushed to UPMC Bedford Memorial Hospital, Sadie was pronounced dead.

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So Sadie’s funeral took place at the Louis Geisel Funeral Home a week later. And it was preceded by an obituary written by her legal guardian Sarah and her grandmother Stephanie which went viral. Indeed, the pair’s powerful words instantly struck a chord with those who had been affected by bullying and also sent a message to those who had played a part in Sadie’s suicide. So let’s find out more.

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Well, the obituary began, “In an effort to debunk the rumors about Sadie’s death we would like to share this information. Yes, Sadie took her own life, she hung herself. It is hard to fathom that someone so young could be so troubled. Sadie was seeking help, she was in counselling and taking medication, but it was all too much for such a young soul to live with.”

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Then Sarah and Stephanie went on to discuss Sadie’s unconventional upbringing. They wrote, “If you take a minute and look at Sadie’s family dynamics you will see that a large percent of the people in her life were not not related to her by blood. But she was sent to us by God who knew this child needed a family.”

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What’s more, the relatives then remarked on how much the teen had been forced to deal with from such a young age. “Sadie had a tough life and until a recent incident at school she handled everything life served her,” they added. “For a young lady so excited about going to High School things sure went terribly wrong for her.” Then Sarah and Stephanie turned their attention towards those who’d made Sadie’s final year so miserable

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The obituary continued, “For the bullies involved, please know you were effective in making her feel worthless. That is all between you and God now. But please know that it is not too late to change your ways.” And with that came a pledge from the family who admitted they had endured a traumatic episode.

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“Sadie’s death has taken us to dark places,” admitted Sarah and Stephanie. “We will stick together and protect one another as we try to make sense of this tragic loss.” After that, the pair once again directly addressed those who had tormented Sadie. And it was this particular passage that proved to be the most powerful.

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“To all the bullies out there,” the obituary continued. “I just want you to know that as much as we despise your actions never, ever do we wish for you to feel the paralyzing pain that engulfs our bodies.” Heartbreakingly, Sarah and Stephanie then described this pain as “so severe that it makes the simple act of breathing difficult.”

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Touchingly, Sadie’s legal guardian and grandmother then reflected on whether they could have prevented Sadie’s death. Indeed, they told of “the guilt that leaves us wondering what we could have done differently or that struggle to remember the last words we spoke.” They then made the hugely emotional statement, “Our hearts are beyond broken.”

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What’s more, Sarah and Stephanie concluded their heartfelt obituary without any malice. They wrote, “Sadie, it was a privilege to have you in our lives and we will always love you. May you find peace in the arms of God and may we all be kind to one another.”

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And after that, the family added a message to mourners wishing to pay their respects. “In lieu of flowers, the family of Sadie ask that you be kind to one another,” it read. Now interestingly, this touching sentiment struck a chord with many. In fact, Sarah and Stephanie have received several acts of kindness since posting their emotional farewell.

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For instance, an anonymous Chicago native sent the pair a memory tree, while two Bedford businesses put up signs outdoors saying, “Be Kind for Sadie’s Sake.” Also, the local community in general was responsive, donating money to Sadie’s funeral. And then there was the high school student who offered an apology for the time he’d insulted the bullied teen.

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Crucially, though, Sadie’s obituary has touched the hearts of many online – even fueling a wider debate about bullying in schools. In fact, Sarah and Stephanie’s words ended up going viral. For instance, Jenny Rapson of Faithit, a site focused on inspirational true stories, was just one of the many who felt compelled to highlight the obituary.

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Yes, Rapson wrote, “I’m not in the habit of reading obituaries, and I pretty much never discuss death notices with my children. But when I saw several of my friends share the obituary of a young girl on Facebook, my interest was piqued. Did the child of a mutual acquaintance or friend-of-a-friend pass away and I had not heard about it?”

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“No, I found out when I clicked to read,” Rapson continued. “All of my friends were sharing the obituary of a complete and total stranger. In fact, this young girl’s obituary is going viral, for a very powerful reason. Because in 15-year-old Sadie L. Riggs’ obituary, her family took a strong stand to attempt to save other lives.”

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And Rapson believes that Sadie’s obituary is something that should be shared amongst the younger generation. She added, “We have to teach our kids that their words and actions matter. That there’s no such thing as ‘harmless’ bullying, and that extending love and kindness instead of rejection and ridicule can make all the difference for a soul in need of it.”

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What’s more, Rapson concluded her piece by discussing the importance of empathy. She added, “We have to instill in our kids the ability to ask themselves “What would if I feel like if someone said or did that to me? As Sadie’s obituary proves, how we teach our kids to treat (or not treat) others can be the difference between life and death.” And even more bloggers pitched in.

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For example, Karen Johnson from mom-focused site Babble offered her condolences and gratitude to the family for opening their hearts. She wrote, “Whether or not Sadie’s family ever receives answers, explanations, or apologies from those who bullied their daughter, their reality is a future less bright without Sadie. We thank them for using her obituary as a platform to help stop bullying and spread kindness instead.”

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In fact, a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2015 discovered a worrying statistic. Yes, suicide among mid-late teenage girls was at its highest rate for four decades. And now that the entire world is online, the ability to carry out cyberbullying has arguably further complicated the issue.

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For you see, a different study by Florida Atlantic University’s Cyberbullying Research Center also made for startling reading. It found that youngsters who are subjected to both cyber and face-to-face bullying are 11 times more likely to try and take their own lives than those classmates who aren’t bullied. Sameer Hinduja, from the university, told Pittsburgh Magazine, “The kids think there is no escape. They’re living it at school, and they’re living it at home. It’s very painful.”

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Furthermore, the subject was explored in the article “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?,” published in The Atlantic. And psychologist Jean Twenge told the magazine, “It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.” And with that came more expert input.

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You see, the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide told NBC News that social media wasn’t solely to blame for the rising suicide rate. But it did say that it was a significant factor, and that parents should try to monitor their kids’ smartphone usage. Clinical director Phyllis Alongi said, “They can’t turn it off, nor do they want to or know how to. It’s stunting their coping skills, their communication skills.”

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And while Dr. Victor Schwartz from teen suicide prevention group JED Foundation told NBC News that social media does have benefits, he also warned it can give kids a dangerous sense of anonymity. He said, “As a result, they do things that they would not otherwise do in a face-to-face situation.”

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Indeed, Schwartz commented on how quickly things can get out of hand in the virtual world. He added, “Because it’s so easy to connect a bunch of people very quickly, something that in a school yard or someone’s back stoop might be three or four people can easily become a mob. And things can get nasty when you’re dealing with a mob.”

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What’s more, Sherry Cain, a psychologist and mother of two whose daughters attended the same high school as Sadie, said cyberbullying is a major problem. She told Pittsburgh Magazine, “I pray for her [Sadie’s] family. What if one person had been nicer to her? Maybe the outcome would have been different.” But a student who knew Sadie struck a more depressing chord about bullies.

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That’s right, Bedford Senior High School sophomore Nicholas Regos told Pittsburgh Magazine, “Bullies don’t know any other way.” To add to that, Regos emphasized that he and his peers had been shocked and deeply affected by Sadie’s passing. And sadly, of course, the same applied to Sadie’s family who were finding it difficult to move on.

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Yes, Sadie’s guardian Sarah found it difficult to pick up the pieces after her untimely death. And although she found great comfort from the global response to her and her mother’s heartfelt obituary, she soon isolated herself from friends and family. Indeed, Sarah was eventually hospitalized with a serious bout of depression.

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Heartbreakingly, she told Pittsburgh Magazine that she still feels responsible for Sadie’s death. She said, “Everyone asks me if I want to have a kid. No. I let Sadie down. She was my baby. I will keep adopting dogs, but I can’t have any more human kids. I’m scared I would have to go through this again, and I just can’t do it.”

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