I learned something new yesterday. It is normal for a teenager to go through some depression while grieving the loss of a close friend. I think I always knew this. So watching my grieving daughter the past 3 weeks hasn’t scared me too much. Until yesterday. That’s when the school counselor called and said maybe my daughter needs anti-depressants. It really freaked me out – made me step back and think… why? Why should she take something to “force” her to cheer up? She feels sad. Isn’t that normal given the circumstances? That’s when I called our grief counselor and started to read more…
There are steps in the grieving process – and it’s important to experience the emotions in order to heal. I firmly believe Annie’s feelings of sadness, hurt, anger are completely normal. It’s okay to be un-focused at school and tired. Of course, not forever, but it’s only been 3 1/2 weeks. Please, give the girl some time. I still cry a little each time I fly into Mexico for Thanksgiving. It’s where my dad lived and where I went to see him. His sandals still sit in my entryway 2 yrs later. It’s hard to let go.
So here’s my thoughts… and you can disagree. Please don’t ask me to mask Annie’s emotions with a pill. She is simply a sad girl missing a friend she loved. She’s not sad all the time. She still smiles and laughs – even though she is sad. She is excited for homecoming. She wants to be with her friends. She is talking to me. She is still working. She is just sad and not focused in school right now. She needs to heal and express the emotions she feels. She can always catch up in school. Maybe there might be some summer school… but that’s a small price to pay for experiencing a normal, healthy healing process.
I say to the high school… don’t forget about kids like my daughter. Cody had many friends. The memorial service marked only the beginning of a long journey forward for many kids. They need guidance and support. They need tools to cope. They need to know they aren’t the only ones having trouble moving forward… the only ones who can’t change their Facebook photos. They are simply holding onto a friend they aren’t ready to let go of yet. Give them time. Suicide is a traumatic, confusing event. Let them know their feelings are normal and that there are indeed many documented steps in the grieving process.
To anyone out there who’s lost someone… do you remember that point where you still felt sad and it seemed everyone else had moved on? I did after my dad died. All of the sudden no one asks how you are anymore. They don’t want you to be sad anymore. If you say you are – they try to cheer you up and distract you. Inside you’re screaming, “But I don’t feel happy.” I regret pretending so soon after my dad’s death. I regret only crying in private so not to upset anyone. I know the reasons were valid. You don’t want to scare your kids. You want to be brave. You want life to feel normal again.
I want my beautiful daughter to feel what she needs to feel. To express what she needs to express. To take her baby steps back each day with honesty… not with medications or pretense. She is mine to protect and mine to guide. So if you see her, or any of Cody’s friends, ask them how they are. Don’t be scared of their answer. Or maybe just give them a hug. If they tear up, squeeze tighter. They will slowly make their way back. At the end of the healing journey they might be a little changed, but I hope they realize just how strong they really are.
Dedicated to all those kids still hurting even though they are smiling for us.