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My son's classmate committed suicide, and this is how we handled it

Ami is a writer who is also a childbirth educator and former doula. In addition to her love of all things birth and babies, she is addicted to celebrity news and isn't ashamed to admit it. Ami lives in Chicago with her husband and her te...

When a child commits suicide it's utterly heartbreaking

When my son called to tell me a classmate committed suicide, I was stunned. Here's what happened next.

I was at my office when my 12-year-old son called me after school, like he does every afternoon.

"Did you hear what happened at school today?" he asked.

"No," I replied.

"A girl in my class died... everyone's pretty sure it was suicide."

"What?" I exclaimed so loudly that the entire office heard me.

He told me she had been bullied, but students thought she was doing better. She had been at school the day before. She was a talented athlete and musician.

She was a 12-year-old child who killed herself.

I immediately reminded him that nothing is bad enough to commit suicide and he can always come to me or my husband to talk about anything so we can get him help if he ever needs it.

When suicide happens close to home

Of course, it's heartbreaking to read about any child who is depressed, bullied or worse.

But this was a student in my son's class at school. It felt completely different — like someone punched me in the gut — and I never knew this young woman or her family.

Too much information?

I told my husband what happened and he was shocked, too. We wanted to protect our son from any of the details, so I spent that night at home Googling what happened. Not much was reported in the news at first, but the one story I found online mentioned not only the suspected suicide, but also how the student did it. I showed my husband the story and said, "I really hope he doesn't see this." A few minutes later, I heard him talking to a former classmate (word traveled fast) who told him about the story. In that moment, as we heard him reading the story with his friend, we decided we couldn't shield him from the news.

We would love to have hidden all of this from him, but it wasn't realistic. Something like this was going to be talked about, so it was important for us that he knew we were there to listen. Remember, he initially told me what happened.

Tough questions with no easy answers

People in the community wondered: Did she kill herself because of the bullying? Did the school do enough to prevent it? Did she have issues with a teacher being too hard on her? Should someone have been alarmed about some of her social media posts that may have alluded to her wanting to take her own life?

I ask, does any of this matter now? A little girl's life is over. Whatever her reasons, whatever someone may have done or not done or did not do to help her, she is gone forever. I can't possibly imagine what her parents are going through.

I know this is cliché, but hug your kids a little tighter tonight. We like to think we know everything that's going on in their lives, but the reality is that's impossible. The best we can do is love them.

If you suspect someone might be considering suicide, or you have struggled with those thoughts yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Read more

The Trevor Project prevents LGBTQ suicide
Talking about suicide prevention and awareness
Teen suicide: How to help the survivors

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