It's hard enough to explain death to our children, whether it's an elderly relative, a beloved pet, or a young child. But when that death occurs--to a child no less--by suicide, we are left speechless and heartbroken, not knowing what to say.
This week, two things happened in our community. First, Jaylen Arnold, age 13, kicked off his No Bullies in School 2013 through the foundation he created, Jaylen's Challenge Foundation. He began this incredible organization at the age of 8 because he was being viciously bullied due to his Tourettes Syndrome, as well as other disorders. His slogan, Bullying No Way!, emblazons glow in the dark bracelets given out to school kids at his presentation. My son's school was the first to see Jaylen and actor Dash Mihok. He came home so excited, so inspired. I volunteer for JCF so I knew about it in advance and somehow managed to keep it a secret.
The next day, Jaylen not only visited another school, his presentation moved a young lady so much, she approached Jaylen and told him that she's being bullied so much, she was planning to commit suicide that evening. She is safe and recieving appropriate treatment.
However, later that day, the body of 12 year old Rebecca Sedwick was found after she committed suicide. Rebecca had been bullied at school the previous year (at the school my son now attends). Even though her mother removed her from the school, the bullying continued through social media. She told a friend she wanted to harm herself. Being young himself, he told no one. And now our community is reeling.
There is no shielding our kids from news like this--it spread around the school like wildfire, counelors in place for those who needed it. Our friends across the street, their youngest son went to school with her. Even though he didn't know her, he's been affected. We all are. I can barely see a picture of this beautiful girl and not cry. Twelve years old. And bullies telling her she should kill herself.
Where are the parents of those vicious beasts? Who raised them to be so cruel?
So the talk needed to be had with my son. Most importantly--if he or a friend felt the need to hurt themselves or heaven forbid, kill themselves--we urged him TELL SOMEONE. That's the kind of promise that needs breaking. Better to lose a friend because they are angry (and who will probably someday forgive you) than to lose them forever to death.
Rebecca's funeral was today and my heart ripped in two, seeing one of her friends crying his heart out--he had approached her, asking her what was wrong. She wouldn't tell him. I wanted to reach thru the TV and hug him and tell him it's not his fault.
I told my son that sometimes when a student commits suicide, it can cause others to become depressed, even follow in their footsteps. I told him we would never judge him, or a friend, if they were feeling sad and needed help.
That's when my beautiful boy told me that he and his best friend had made a pact last week--that if either of them felt bad, they promised to tell the other one. As a parent, I cannot tell you the immense pride I felt at his maturity and empathy. The buddy system, working in a way I hadn't thought of.
Rebecca, I'm sorry you felt so bad that you felt this was the only way out. I'm sorry I didn't know you. I would have told you that you were beautiful, smart, and so loved. That it gets better, that help is available and to never give up hope.
I pray you are at peace, sweet angel. I pray for your family and friends. I am even more committed to helping Jaylen end bullying so that another young person doesn't choose to die becauswe that seems easier than living each day being viciously bullied.
IF YOU ARE BEING BULLIED--NO MATTER WHAT YOUR AGE--SPEAK UP!
If you are considering suicide PLEASE call 1-800-273-8255
I promise you, YOU ARE WORTH IT. Someone out there loves you. Someone can help stop the bullying. Someone can help you cope and overcome the pain.