02/21/2013 at 10:00 AM EST
Alone and adrift, Mindy McCready seemed to have little concept of time in the blurry month following the apparent suicide of her boyfriend
, songwriter David Wilson, on Jan. 13 at the lakefront home they shared in quiet Heber Springs, Ark.
"She would call you at 2 in the morning and then would call you 20 minutes later and act like she hadn't spoken to you in a week," says a friend of the long-troubled country singer, who had left a court-ordered rehab facility after just one day on Feb. 7.
She didn't talk much about her two sons
, 10-month-old Zayne and 6-year-old Zander – both boys had been placed in foster care when she was admitted for treatment – because the subject brought her to tears.
Upset over speculation about her role in Wilson's death, McCready had been spending her days sleeping and her nights drinking and was screaming "about everything," according to a Feb. 6 petition filed by her father, Tim, to have her committed to rehab
. But even as her world imploded, McCready sounded resolutely hopeful after watching the Feb. 10 Grammy Awards. Recalls the friend: "She said, 'I'll be there next year. That's a promise.' "
But as with much of McCready's deeply tumultuous life, the moment of optimism was short-lived. Just five days later McCready, 37, was plunged into despair after being served with court papers proposing that her sons be sent to live with her long-estranged mother, Gayle Inge, in Florida.
"The most important thing are my babies must come home," she wrote in an e-mail on Feb. 16 to L.A. private investigator Danno Hanks, who stayed in touch with McCready after working with her during her 2010 stint on VH1's Celebrity Rehab.
"She lost all hope," says Hanks. "She said, 'I'm losing my kids. I can't live without my kids!' "
At her request, Hanks had made a video advocating suicide prevention
with the song "I'll See You Yesterday," in which she sings, "If tomorrow's gonna be the same/ I'll see you yesterday." Says Hanks: "Mindy told me that it was exactly what she wanted. Then I asked her if I could post it. And Mindy's answer was, 'You'll know when it's right.' "
The next day, McCready shot herself in the mouth
on the porch of her home – the very same spot where Wilson, 34, had been found dead, according to a police source.
The suicide marked a brutal end for a singer who had once been among Nashville's brightest stars before a toxic spiral of reckless relationships, arrests, addiction and family fights played out publicly for nearly a decade.