Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Aftermath

"I'm still waiting for your suicide note.
I keep telling myself it just got lost in the mail
Because I can't bear the thought of you leaving

without saying goodbye..."

I found this image on my daughter Chloe's dresser. It was next to pictures of her dear friend Ian whom she lost four months ago. We sat on her bed remembering Ian and cried.

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.
Despite this devastating pain, Ian's family has actively looked for ways to have his friends walk alongside them through the "Journey to Healing." The family hosted an event by that name at school a few weeks ago. This day was filled with many opportunities for friends and family to express the myriad of feelings with which they are left. Some worked out emotions by breaking dishes (Chloe on the right) . . .

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?

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At March 31, 2008 at 9:12 AM , Blogger Michael in Norfolk said...


Thank you for this post. It helps focus on the consequences of bullying and ignorant rants such as that of Rep. Sally Kern. Word DO have consequences and people like Ms. Kern give bigots a green light to harrass and bully those who they perceive as "different."

Keep up the good work.

At April 1, 2008 at 10:25 PM , Anonymous Amy said...

Thank you, Colette, for your sound advice for parents and friends. We all need to heed these words and consider these ideas. You remind us, again, of where our focus should be--our children.

At April 3, 2008 at 8:44 AM , Blogger Georgia said...

Thank you for these insightful and empathic comments about depression, bullying, and LGBT families. I am always in aw of your willingness to share your personal life in such a powerful and intense manner. The resources you provide via the links will be immensely useful for advocates, educators, legislators, and families. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Georgia C


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