brightcove.createExperiences(); Alexa “Lex” McAllister, the former Bachelor contestant who died on Tuesday after a suicide attempt, has left her family in complete shock.
The last time Julie Turner McAllister saw Lex – just two weeks ago – the 31-year-old beauty was “happy.”
“She was smiling,” Julie, Lex’s sister-in-law, tells PEOPLE. That contagious smile is why the tight-knit McAllister family can’t understand Lex’s decision to end her life. “We’ve looked through her phone, we’ve looked through her messages and we can’t find anything,” Julie says.
Lex was taken to Grant Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday in stable condition after threatening to kill herself in a text, according to police records obtained by PEOPLE. She died on Tuesday morning at 2:35 a.m., a Grant hospital official confirmed.
Julie, an ER nurse, says that Lex had taken a “combination of two different prescription medications, and Tylenol and Aspirin.”
“She was brought to my facility while I was at work,” Julie explains. “So I was there with her, and so was her brother, my husband, who’s a police officer for the city. So we were both with her at all times. We were there when she came in, and she was alert at first, and then her health just declined rapidly, I think from the pills settling in her body.”
The mom of four, who has been married to Lex’s brother Josh for over 18 years, says that the entire family gathered by her bedside to say goodbye.
While Julie admits that there were “whispers” of a struggle with depression and bipolar disorder, she contends that no one had any idea “that it was this bad.”
“You could see different phases in her, the manic and the depressive states, and sometimes when alcohol would become involved, it just spiraled,” Julie says. “I think that she had a really rough week last week and I think maybe she was drinking a little bit more, I think it spiraled into something that she just couldn’t get ahold of.”
She continues, “It sounds like, from what we’ve been able to piece together, that she reached out to some acquaintances to get together or hang out and they were all busy and she didn’t tell any of us.”
The McAllister family is close, according to Julie: “we all live within 15 minutes of each other.”
“It was odd if we didn’t see each other a few times a month,” she says. “Like big family get-togethers … everybody was always included.”
During those family celebrations, Julie says Lex, a former radio show host, doted on her nieces and nephews: Kyleigh, 14, Klaire, 12, Kenzie, 8, and Joshua, 3. Julie shares: “She thought my girls were the most beautiful girls and she thought all of the boys were the most handsome boys, they could not do anything wrong. She loved being their aunt.”
While Kyleigh and Klaire understand how her aunt passed, little Kenzie was told Lex was sick.
“The most endearing thing [Kenzie] said was, ‘Mommy, if I could turn back the clock I wouldn’t,’ and I said, ‘Why honey?’ ” Julie says. “And she said, ‘Because I don’t want Aunt Lexi to live that moment anymore.’ And she’s right.”
Lex appeared on ABC’s popular dating show in 2010, vying for the affection of Jake Pavelka. Although she didn’t receive a rose in the first week, Julie says Lex was “very glad” she did the show.
“Lexi is very ’empower women’ and she had the attitude going into it that she would love to find love, but if not, she wanted to use this to … teach women to be independent and they can do anything,” she explains.
While Lex hadn’t found love before her death, Julie says she longed for a deep connection like her brother and parents.
“She loved to make everybody else feel wonderful, and she wanted to change someone else’s life. I don’t think she ever really realized how fabulous she was,” she says.
The McAllisters will put Lex to rest in “typical Lexi style,” says Julie. “She wanted a closed casket, because she said she didn’t want people walking by and gawking at her. And she’s always said that she wanted to be cremated because she doesn’t like to be alone and she doesn’t like to be in the dark. So that’s what we’ll do with her.”
Until then, the “devastated” family will grapple with the loss of their “protective” sister, daughter and aunt.
Julie urges anyone struggling with depression to reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and says, through tears, “if we reach one person, than maybe one part of this was worth it.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-273-8255.