A year ago today we lost a young man in our community. He was a bright and talented young man. It was a shock to our community, to us, to our children.
I’ve been writing and re-writing this post for the last year, but today is the anniversary of his death, and I felt it was time to share in hopes that this helps someone.
I lived in a bubble as a child. I still live in a bubble when it comes to the violence and heartache many people experience. It’s just too much for my heart to take.
I avoid the news and the multiple versions of cop dramas on TV. I know there is bad in the world, that people are lost much too soon, that unjust actions take the lives of young people. It makes me angry, and sad, but I can’t focus too heavily on it without dissolving into tears for everyone who has lost someone they loved, for every child that dies too soon.
I don’t know if it was fortune or circumstance but I never experienced loss until I was an adult. Sure I ‘lost’ friendships, relationships, and even myself sometimes, but mostly I lived in a bubble. I had two children before I attended a funeral. A baby on my hip, and a young boy by my side we went to Virginia to pay respects to my mom’s mother, my Granny. My kids don’t even remember it. Chasing the kids and seeing so many relatives helped distract me from my grief. As time went on I could somehow justify the fact that she passed away at her age-she had lived a long life, had 4 children, been a grandmother many times over, buried a husband, and spent her twilight years needing the help of one of her children to manage daily life. It was sad, it was awful, but somehow I found comfort in her living her life.
Last year a young man in our community died suddenly. I dropped everything when we found out. He was a robotics student that my husband coached. A friend to my son. Someone my oldest daughter adored.
I sat with my husband as he crafted emails and texts because he had to share the devastating news with other people. I took the youngest one out of the house so my husband could break the news to my son that his friend had passed away suddenly. My daughter who had become close with him over the course of a day not long before. When she came home from school we had to break the news to her as well. She dissolved into tears immediately and had to spend most of the afternoon in her room because she needed to be alone. Our younger kids learned about his passing, and while they felt sad at the thought and had many questions they did what little kids do. They processed it, they came back to it when they had more questions, but they were being kids.
Until this point in their lives my kids have never known what it’s like to lose someone so close to them. Someone so young. Someone they considered a friend.
I spent several days in a state of shock and grief-not because I knew him well, but because I knew how many people were grieving for him. I cried for his family, for my kids, for my husband, for his girlfriend, for the teammates, the classmates, the family friends that were all struggling with his loss.
Later we learned that he had taken his own life. A new wave of grief washed over me, and the responsibility of being a parent and having to tell our older kids was just overwhelming. They had the same questions we all do when someone takes their own life. We talked and still talk about it as it comes up for them, I know it’s not something that they will really ever understand.
Several days after his passing my husband, oldest son, and I attended his funeral service. I was not prepared for what I saw. Hundreds of people came through to say goodbye. There was an emotional and moving service like none I have ever attended before. I can’t put into words what it was like to see so many young people grieving.
I don’t know that I’ll have the words to do that grief justice, but I know that everyone who knew him well would talk about his humor, how caring he was, and how he always made people smile.
Each of us are working through our grief in different ways-for me it’s writing this post over and over and over again. I don’t even know that I will ever hit publish, but I know I need to let the words come out to move forward, but not forget.
We did what we could to honor his memory. I had his name engraved on a trophy he and his teammates won so that it could be placed in the school he attended and be a reminder to the students there. My daughter keeps making things to remind her of him, even a year later she keeps them in a special place.
While I didn’t know him well I know he is gone too soon. I can’t help but think of his mother every day. I say a silent prayer every morning for her.
There isn’t much I can do to help, but sometimes I think the best thing I can do is remember. It’s been a year, but I still think about him often. My heart aches for his family and friends.
Today I’m making a donation to AFSP, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The foundation funds research to help prevent suicide, education, promote legislative change to support mental health, and provide support to people at risk as well as survivors of suicide.
From AFSP: “In the United States, a person dies by suicide every 13.7 minutes. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among fifteen to twenty-four year olds and the second leading cause of death among college students. In this country, approximately twenty million people suffer from serious depression and one million people attempt suicide each year. However, most Americans remain unaware that suicide is a major national health problem that takes an enormous toll on family, friends, and the entire community.”
To learn more about AFSP, or to make a donation go to AFSP.org.
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