Among Silent Echoes

A Memoir of Trauma and Resilience

Phyllis Dyson

Twenty-five years after her mother’s traumatic death made news headlines, Phyllis Dyson is finally speaking out, addressing her own silences, and breaking the cycle of abuse.

Decades after her mother’s brutal death, Phyllis Dyson felt compelled to unearth the truth about her mother’s illness. By chronicling the events of her childhood, uncovering family secrets and betrayals and gaining access to government documents, Dyson has captured the heart of her family’s tragedy in a debut memoir. 

From a young age, Phyllis and her brother learned to rely on each other as they dealt with a missing mother, an absent father and a departed grandmother as well as being sent to live with their maternal uncle and his wife, despite their relatives’ apparent lack of interest in the responsibility of raising children. Although brother and sister were happy roaming the Cariboo backwoods surrounding their uncle’s home, there was always darkness beneath the surface. 

When she reached the same age her mother was when she was killed during an altercation with a police officer, Dyson became determined to learn the truth about her mother’s fate and the lack of protection extended to her and her brother as children, truths that only deepened her compassion for those struggling with mental illness and for the families that surround them. 

Among Silent Echoes is the tender and intimate story of the consequences faced when those who have been given a mandate to protect us do not, and the resilience of one woman who emerged whole from that traumatic world.

“Dyson bares her soul to help us understand how mental health issues affect families. The story of her life from a child to a successful adult shows strength and resilience, and is truly an inspiration.”

—Terry Milos, author of North of Familiar

“Phyllis Dyson has written an affecting and compassionate account of a family profoundly disrupted by schizophrenia. Through detailed stories and anecdotes of family life, Dyson builds tremendous empathy for her mother as a woman who loved her children and did her best to care for them against great odds. The story relates how systemic failures and ignorance about schizophrenia led to the tragic outcome of a violent death and a shattered family.

Ultimately, however, Dyson’s memoir is a triumphant survival tale. Phyllis’ journey from a turbulent childhood to a place of understanding about her mother’s illness and death is inspirational and deeply moving. Anyone who has a parent with schizophrenia or other serious mental illness will undoubtably see much of their own story in the confusing and often traumatic experiences of Phyllis and her brother as they navigate a childhood and adolescence without adequate support and social services. Among Silent Echoes is a heartfelt plea to help children and parents dealing with serious mental illness to live productive and dignified lives.”

—Donna Motzer, President, Sunshine Coast Branch of the British Columbia Schizophrenia Society

“With candid, unembellished prose and uncompromising self honesty, Phyllis Dyson has honoured her mother’s life in this moving memoir of a family continually disrupted by the ravages of psychosis but always sustained by love. Phyllis’s mother had schizophrenia, a disease poorly understood, stigmatized and feared. She died tragically at forty-five. In Among Silent Echoes, Dyson has opened a door to greater understanding of the facts and effects of this disease, both through a compelling narrative and through her concise elucidation in the introduction. With understated passion and an open heart, Dyson invites us into her life and experience. Read it. You’ll be glad you did.”

—Martha Royea, poet, author of “Airborne” in the anthology Always With Me: Parents Talk About the Death of a Child