The journey continues. That I have been able to write nearly all of these posts without a tear shows how far we have come. Thank you for your time in reading and commenting on the posts in this series. I want to leave you with a few closing thoughts.
1. If this can happen in my family it can happen in any family. I’m not saying my family is perfect. But there is genuine love and connection between us.
2. In light of this fact, don’t spend your life worrying about it. If you or your teen are feeling sad more days than not, having sleep problems, losing interesting in things you used to enjoy, and other typical symptoms of depression, see a doctor right away. As I hope you have seen here, depression is dangerous.
3. If you do not have open lines of communication with your child, that is not good. Anna has always had extremely open lines of communication with Christy and me, and yet she chose not to tell us. That is the worst possible scenario. Generally if the lines are open, kids will come to their parents with this stuff. Make every effort to open those lines. If your child doesn’t communicate with you, consider that it may be related to your response when he/she tries. Do you find yourself feeling threatened or fearful, or frequently getting angry? This is your issue and if it’s getting in between you and your child, deal with it. Get help.
4. Know your child’s friends. Again in our case, Anna had/has amazing and beautiful friends, but often a child moving towards suicidal depression will ditch his/her old peer group and either remain alone or get new friends that you may have second thoughts about. When Anna started to receive visitors in the hospital, she called her best friend Sarah. Sarah came to the hospital (an intimidating thing even for an adult to do in this situation) walked into a room filled with people, sat down on Anna’ s bed and said, “You’re so stupid. I love you.” Every kid needs a friend like that, and Sarah is like one of our own. Many of Anna’s friends have been so gracious to her and have played a key part in her recovery.
5. Know that Anna’s case is not typical. Most people give hints or show signs. It is not often that people keep this secret 100% to themselves as Anna did. If you know what to watch for, chances are good you will be able to find something if something is there to find.
6. Take depression with the deadly seriousness it deserves. Do not ignore it, do not keep telling your child over and over to “cheer up,” and do not accuse him/her of simply acting this way to get attention. That is a risk you do not want to take. Have them evaluated by a doctor.
7. Be a force for goodness and love in the life of your child that he/she will have to contend with. Yes, my daughter attempted suicide and yes I have grieved and questioned myself a million times. But I have always been a force for goodness and love in Anna’s life that she had to contend with. When I saw Anna getting mixed up with someone that I thought was bad for her, I told her. She got grounded a few times. Sometimes I got angry, but I always told her it was because I love her so much and want the best for her. This is common sense for most people, but I needed to write it down.
8. Last and most important — you will be much more likely to miss your child’s darkness if you are lost in darkness of your own. Do anything and everything it takes to learn to live your life in the light. Read books about parenting, about being a better human being. Deal with issues of depression, anxiety, social isolation, repressed grief, denial, etc., that may be in your own life. Model good mental and emotional health. Your child is unique and no matter how healthy you are he/she will still face their own challenges, but the more educated you are and the more healthy and whole you are, the more likely you will be able to raise a healthy and whole child. Or, in the nightmare scenario that we faced where a child attempts anyway, that you will have some idea how to help them find the light.
I don’t understand why our school system teaches reading, writing, math, and science, yet does not address 1) relationships; 2) parenting; 3) money, the three of which will have a far greater effect on our lives — and society — than anything else.
END OF RANT.
And with that, I bid you adieu. Please get these posts to everyone you can. Anna’s attempt was not preventable, but most are, if we have the right relationship with our child, and the right information. Peace to you.