Nothing ever prepares you for reading a suicide note written by your own child.
I’ll never forget the look on my husband’s face when he handed it to me to read. Shock, pain, and a heaviness all showed. As I read each section, addressed to different people in her life, my stomach twisted and tears prickled in my eyes. I wanted to throw up, knowing that she felt this way and hadn’t ever told us.
Thankfully, when I read my stepdaughter’s unfinished note, we knew she was alive and safe, at the time. It was a wake up call, however, and we quickly began the process of taking care of her and getting the help she needed.
Like many teenage girls, my stepdaughter is very private. Closed doors are of utmost importance to her, and she admonishes us to knock before entering her room. This can be a real pain, since our house is tiny and requires that each room have multiple uses. That means her room also doubles as the change room for my two younger children, where clothes and diapers are stored. It’s not fair to a girl who wants and needs privacy, but I’m glad of the excuse to go into her room intermittently, now.
After reading that note, and talking to her about her suicidal and self-harming tendencies, I live in fear of walking in to see something horrifying and permanent. Something that her little sister, who worships her, will never be able to unsee. Something that will haunt me forever.
A long conversation with our family doctor revealed that this wasn’t a state that she was constantly in, but one she unwillingly found herself in, during times of stress. She had no plans of killing herself, didn’t want to abandon her family or hurt them, the way she knew she would, if she were to go through with it. But she confessed that she had moments when she felt it would be easier to end things.
What do you say to a child who feels this way? How, in God’s name, is it possible to convey how treasured, how important, how worthy they are? That our hearts splinter apart, when faced with the thought that they are cutting themselves in hidden places, to dull the pain? That so very many people would be utterly devastated if they were to act on their impulses?
We have tried. Or, I have tried. My husband seems to be stuck in that stereotypical male role of not talking very much about feelings at the moment.
This story is still very much in progress, but I write it now to relate how thankful I am that this is still a story in progress. The fact that we discovered what was going on, despite her best efforts to hide it makes me feel like we have a fighting chance to get her the help she needs in time.
But this also needs to serve as a warning to other parents of teens. Sure, there are moments of moodiness and an intense need for privacy that most teenagers need. Yes, there are times of strife, and clashes between your teen and you. You’re still allowed to get on them about finishing their homework and staying up too late.
You need to listen to your instinct, though, if your child is saying the words, “I’m fine, it’s okay,” and you can see in their eyes that it’s not, talk to them about it. And make sure, even through the fighting, that they know they are loved. That they are important. That they are worth fighting for.
And hopefully they’ll remember, when it counts.
This author has chosen to write anonymously.