Sunday was a gorgeous day and I was on my way out the door to catch the bus when my roommates 13 year old daughter walked up the steps. She had been down the street at her church’s youth group. I asked how her class was and she offered the usual response of “It was good”, but then she stopped and turned to me. “Something bad happened….. One of the boys in my group killed himself.” She went on to tell me about his situation, how had been louder at school lately and how he was sad because his dad was shipped off to Afghanistan again. All the boys at church were crying over their friend who had been so loved. She wasn’t that close to him, but I decided to wait a while and chat just in case. While my first instinct was to leave so I wouldn’t miss my bus, I knew there would be another bus. I vividly remember the pain when my friends older brother killed himself as a teenager. I wasn’t leaving till I knew she was okay. We ended up talking for a bit. We talked about feeling so bad you want to hurt yourself, about my experience at her age with my friend, and about how she had many people who loved her. Then she started a funny movie and I left knowing her mom would be home within the hour.
There are 3 very important and simple things you can tell a young person in this situation.
1. It is OKAY to have bad thoughts, to be sad, and to feel anger. These are feelings most humans have. I remember a time when I was so angry and sad, that I did not want to tell anyone because I felt my thoughts were too awful and I would be looked down for thinking that way.
2. If you ever need to talk, I will listen without any judgement. I am here for you and care for you. There is nothing you can do to make me stop caring for you.
3. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I have been through hard times where I wanted to give up, but instead I chose to work through those problems and find solutions. Life gets worse and life gets better. You are capable of overcoming any problem you face.
Take the time to talk to your child, your niece, nephew, grandchild, or friends child. Stop and make sure they are really okay. Let them know you care about them and want them to be happy. Even at the teenage stage, you have more influence than you realize. Talk, hug, and be available.
What would you tell a young person confronted with the suicide of their peers?