Because I can't bear the thought of you leaving
without saying goodbye..."
Chloe shared this with me the evening I returned from the state Capitol after "Safe Schools Lobby Day" where the Michigan Safe Schools Coalition gathered to ask the Senate to pass a comprehensive anti-bullying bill. The bill is named "Matt's Safe Schools Law" after an East Lansing 8th grader, Matt Eppling, who took his life following a hazing incident at school.
At "Safe Schools Lobby Day," five different families were on hand -- each whose child had committed suicide after being the victim of bullying. As I talked with these grieving parents, several dynamics became clear to me:
- Most of these parents did not see any warning signs that their child was at risk.
- There is an incredible bond among parents who have suffered the unimaginable loss of a child.
- The pain appears to be the same for these parents no matter how many days or years have passed.
or, along with others who loved their friend, celebrated Ian's life through art (Chloe on left).
Grief is a combination of a multitude of feelings and the process is unique for each person. Last year, many of us lost our friend Steve. This week I was contacted by one of Steve's college friends who had just learned of his passing -- learned that Steve had taken his own life. This college friend was overwhelmed by sadness as well as anger.
As I experienced grief this week -- seeing it in my daughter's eyes, hearing it in the gut-wrenching stories of these parents at Lobby Day, or reading it in the words of Steve's college friend-- I am reminded of Ian's family's words, "If he only knew" (how much he was loved).
In the aftermath of these devastating losses, I am left with the question "What can we do?" What can we do to become more aware of the suffering of others? What can we do to make a child's way easier? What can we do to ease the pain of those who are left behind?
- We can celebrate differences and work toward understanding and facing our own fears
- We can become aware that depression can be invisible and talk about it -- educating ourselves first
- We can ask our state senators to pass an anti-bullying bill that protects ALL children
- We can REMEMBER these beautiful lives -- and take action!