Chloe Martin Snell’s childhood ended abruptly at the age of 11. While she struggled in the years that followed she believes her power to empathize is more important than the depth of her hurt.
A shy person by nature, writing was the most private part of her. But finally sharing years of poems with her family opened the door to publishing a slim volume of poetry entitled, "We Miss You: Giving All My Flowers to a Ghost". The 70-page book was recently launched at St. Francis Xavier University bookstore and Martin Snell expects to hold a book signing locally later this fall.
“I knew my poems meant something to me but it was a long time before I realized there might be something in them for others,” said Snell, 23, who works in a local daycare.
While the book is dedicated to all who have touched her and “those just hanging on,” it is written in memory of her mother, Jody Anne Martin, who committed suicide when Martin Snell was just 11.
“I understand now there were things in her life that were not easy and she broke under too much weight but her death shocked many people. She was well known and had a really great work ethic as manager of the Thistle Bar and Grill. She loved motorbikes and music and her daughters. Too many people didn’t see it coming,” said Martin Snell.
She was living with her mother at the time.
“I didn’t have any sense that things were so bad for her so it was a complete shock. I guess you could say it broke my heart when she left,” she said.
She credits her father Chris Snell and his wife Litocha with providing a secure and supportive home after her mother’s death.
“They really stepped up and helped me in every possible way. They made sure I got counselling but in my darkest, loneliest moments, I wrote. In the beginning I wrote to my mother and about my mother. I was angry, I was frightened, I was overwhelmed. I wrote it all down because I was trying to find a way to move through all my feelings.”
As she got older she also began to consider the impact of her mother’s death on others.
“I tried to understand what it must have been like for my sister who was 18, pregnant and out of the house by then. Now I think she lost her mother at the time she needed her most but the way she pushed through and the person she became always inspire me.”
Martin Snell also began to write about the new challenges in her life, including an emerging sense she was a lesbian.
“I knew but I wasn’t always open about it. I was not worried about my parents or my family because they’d already proven they would support me through anything. My worry was all internal, all about whether I could have a happy life as a lesbian.”
With her parents' backing and support, she went to Mount Saint Vincent University where she took child and youth studies, minoring in psychology. She was also drawn toward courses and programs that focused on mental health and addictions.
“I’m very aware of many people suffering from mental health issues today and it is something I’d like to be able to help with. I’ve taken training to become a safe person to talk to because it is really important that people have others to turn to when they need help,” she said.
Martin Snell fights her own battle with depression.
“I’ve always been very open about my depression but I’m doing well. The kids I work with can always bring a smile to my face.”
In university her longtime best friend learned about her writing and was very supportive. Not long ago, she showed her poems to her family, first to her stepmother and her sister.
“My stepmother said she knew I was writing all through the years and she thought I’d talk about it when I was ready so she was comfortable reading my poems.”
She also learned her sister had many of the same thoughts about their mother, immediately following her death and in the years since she died.
“She felt I got her feelings down on paper and that meant so much to me.”
After Martin Snell shared her work with her family they all made a commitment to tell each other if their daily struggles ever reached the point that they were “in trouble.”
“We know first hand what it is like to lose someone and we don’t want it to happen again so we all made a promise to reach out if we need to. I hope I never have to, but I’ll tell my family.”
They also decided Martin Snell’s poetry deserved a wider audience.
“If I have a message it is that I understand things can be bad but they can get better. There are so many of us who will help in any way to avoid having another person choose suicide over life.”
Martin Snell is still a bit uncomfortable being referred to as a poet and author.
“It all sounds kind of strange but it is really encouraging when people respond to your work. I’m on Amazon and that’s unbelievable but definitely exciting.”
In compiling her book she went back through years of poems and may have missed some that will find their way into a second book along with new material.
“I’d like to do a second book, to continue putting out the message that there is help and things can get better.”
Rosalie MacEachern is a Stellarton resident and freelance writer. She seeks out people who work behind the scenes on hobbies or jobs that they love the most. If you know someone you think she should profile in an upcoming article, she can be reached at email@example.com