Today I received an email that left me sick to my stomach. It was from the stepmother of a reader of my blog. Stepdaughter killed herself…trying to find answers…saw that her stepdaughter had commented on my blog…saw I’d responded to her..saw I’d told her to email me personally.
She did email me. I did email her back. She still killed herself.
She was being bullied, she said. She had many regrets, she said. She was going nowhere, she said.
The feelings. Guilt. I was so busy with work. I should’ve written a better response. Regret. I could’ve saved her. Anger. How is it that we allow teenagers be so cruel in their ignorance? Grief. Her family. Their pain.
I had known it was a high risk situation. I had emailed her back with what I thought to be a supportive email, but that was it. I remember being stressed at work. I should’ve done more. I should’ve followed up. I should’ve given her more resources. I knew better. I let her down. I let her family down. I let myself down.
I thought about the meaning I could find in this. The lessons I could take away so I could sleep tonight while her family lies awake for the next 2 years. That you can do everything you can to support someone, but their ultimate suicide is out of your control. That bullying increases suicide risk greatly, and must be taken seriously. That the bad haircut I was stressing about 15 minutes ago is pretty freaking insignificant now.
But most importantly: If, in this moment, you are suffering, know that you are not alone. Hundreds of thousands of others are out there, too, feeling the same feelings. Masking their tears. Lying in a puddle of tears. Ashamed of their tears. Despairing, hurting, coping, not coping. Know that it won’t–it can’t–last forever. You are not in this alone. I’m in this. That person crossing the street when you’re stopped at a light is in this. We’re all in this together.
If, in this moment, you are not suffering, know that everything you do matters. Every moment of connection you have matters. Be compassionate. Ask a stranger how they’re doing. Open a door. Offer a smile. Think twice before being rude to your colleague or the cashier. Treat every interaction with care. Be strength for someone else who needs it right now. It will come back around, because you will hurt again too.
Please spread this message. We can’t be perfectly compassionate and connected in every interaction, but we can be better. We need to be better. Care for the humans around you. It does make a difference. It does matter. Start now.
If you are feeling suicidal, you’re not alone. Please reach out to one of the following resources:
In memory of Breanna Lestenkof