My husband and I were talking about the school shooting in Texas when one of my high school kids came into the room. We continued to discuss the tragedy and the public response, while my son just sat and listened. He didn’t say anything, he just waited. We didn’t really know what he was waiting for, so my husband asked him if he had something he needed to talk about.
“One of my friends committed suicide tonight.”
A sudden jolt of pain and sadness rushed through my body. I didn’t have a ready response. I didn’t know the right thing to say or do, so I just asked my son how he felt. We talked with him about their friendship. We asked if he was OK and we sat for awhile, in quiet sorrow. He told us about their friendship and all of the time they had spent together. We asked him a few more questions and then thanked him for telling us. We thanked him for coming to talk to us. We told him that we loved him and gave him a hug as he headed off to bed.
Depression and suicide are really difficult issues to discuss. I know that I am not qualified to give advice, but unfortunately, I do have some experience. When my oldest was 17, he became severely depressed. His depression lead to an eating disorder and body dysmorphia. I could tell that he was struggling and in pain, but I didn’t know how to help. I constantly told him of my love for him, but that didn’t change anything. My son finally sunk so low, that he began to consider suicide. Thankfully, he reached out for help. Thankfully, we were able to talk with some counselors. Slowly, my son began having very open and honest conversations. He told me about his deepest fears and pain and I began to understand the helplessness of depression. I began to see how suicide can seem like the only option.
Because of this experience, I learned how to have more meaningful conversations with my kids. I learned that I needed to talk with more love and less judgment. I learned to tell my kids that their value and worth is not tied to how they look, what grades they get, or how well they perform in sports. I learned to tell my kids that I love them because they are my children, not because of any good, or bad, that they do. I learned to tell them that no failure, is too big to overcome… and there will always be failure.
Do you talk with your kids about suicide and depression?