It’s long – so please stick with it. I think it’s so important and worth the time (not to read my ramblings, but at least to watch the video).
You may or may not know that last May, one of Jason’s friends committed suicide. Took her dad’s gun, loaded it, went to her room, shot herself. Her mom came home and found her.
This is sooooooo definitely not something a 14 year old (or ‘any’ year old) should have to deal with. The squad had a memorial for her at one of the kids’ houses – cookies, balloons, stories. MacKenzie’s family attended.
A lot has happened in a year. Within the school district (the majority of kids come from well-off middle-class families) in the past year, there have been numerous suicide attempts and a number that have succeeded. It’s so sad. The administrators are wondering WTH is going on and WTH do we need to do to stop this culture of suicide?!
I have all kinds of opinions on what’s happening and why these kids with seemingly everything going for them and everything to live for are choosing to end their own lives. If you want to know them, call me.
But for now, I’ll say that they took a step. A first responder in the area walked into the school after winter break, sat down in the Principal’s office and had a very frank conversation about what had happened over break with a number of kids at our school alone. He said they needed to get real and find a way to get through to these kids.
So they had an assembly. Unfortunately, the assembly was on the 1 year “anniversary” of MacKenzie’s death. Not intentional, and possibly something they should have changed, but they decided to leave it as it was scheduled and made it very clear to all the kids that this was not some kind of memorial or celebration or anything like that for this one child.
None of the kids wanted to be there, but they all went. I chatted with Jason afterward about it. He said it was horrible and awesome. He said they finally treated the kids like adults. Finally told them how it really is. He said he thought they made a huge impact and finally got through to the kids – at least a large portion of them. I asked if he thought it would make a difference. He said absolutely.
The thing that hit home the most? MacKenzie’s dad stood up there in front of 1000 high schoolers and told them what happened that terrible morning – in detail. Then he went on about how he had hoped to come there that day and provide all of the kids with a message of hope . . . but ended up saying (yelling if you ask Jason) that he was still too angry with his daughter to forgive her or give those kids a message of hope – because for those left behind, there is no hope of ever getting that loved one back.
The biggest impression on Jason was watching his friend’s dad go from sad, to smiling at memories of his daughter, to yelling because he was so angry.
What I took from Jason was that NONE of those kids had ever before thought about what happens to those they leave behind. It’s like they think they just get over it and move on.
The first responder also spoke, as did a counselor from the area. Not a school counselor, but a local counselor who himself had tried, and failed, to kill himself when he was 13.
The evening after the assembly, they had a meeting for the parents. The same people spoke and basically told the parents what they had told their kids that day.
Here’s a link to it – it’s worth watching if you have the time.
It is almost 2 hours long. If you don’t have the time, please just watch the first part where MacKenzie’s father speaks (starts at ~5 minutes). And have a box of Kleenex ready. The honesty and detail . . . I can’t imagine.
Fast forward to Monday of last week. We get an email from school on Monday afternoon telling us that a Freshman has committed suicide. She stole her dad’s gun, ran away, and someone found her body Monday morning. Of course the kids were hearing about this through the grapevine all morning.
Another friend of Jason’s (not a squad friend, but a friend nonetheless). WTF IS GOING ON?!?! I thought you said the assembly had an impact? Would change things!
He asked the same question, without the curse words. Then he tells me how he figured it was coming because everyone was texting everyone Sunday night asking if anyone knew where Riley was, etc. etc. etc. Um Dude?! This is not stuff you keep to yourself. You do NOT go through these things by yourself. When you start getting messages like this, you TELL US! We may not be able to help Riley, but at least we can be there FOR YOU as much as possible.
Then he says “She’s literally THE last person you would’ve ever thought would do this.”
I said “Dude, that’s what scares the SHIT out of me!”
He just said “I know. It sucks.”
A horrible couple days at school. Nobody wanted to do anything, especially not study and prepare for finals.
Fast forward a whopping 2 days to Thursday of last week. Another email with the title “Sad News.” My heart sinks as I read about another freshman, this time a boy, who killed himself Wednesday night. His 15th birthday. He killed himself after the family birthday party. Suddenly that post that all the kids saw on Instragram about his birthday had a new meaning. School said they were making a general announcement at 1:15 to the kids about Kai. Anyone who needed to come pick up their kids early was welcome to do so.
I texted Jason and asked if I needed to come get him. No.
Do you know this boy? No answer (crap!).
Do you need to skip baseball practice tonight? No.
I pull up to school and the high schoolers are outside in a giant circle holding hands crying, praying, grieving, just being together. It was like one of those dance circles where someone goes in the middle and dances, then someone else does. Except this time, they were going into the middle of the circle to say anything they had to say about what was going on, how they felt, etc.
OMG this is not something high schoolers – or ANYONE – should have to be doing ever . . . not to mention a week before school is out. Where is the happy? The year book signing? The fun and games? The making summer plans?
Turns out Jason knew this boy, but was not a “friend.”
What the hell do we-they-them do with the last week of school? Finals? So many kids are REALLY grieving and receiving counseling.
And who wants to go to school each day not knowing what kind of horrible news you might hear that day? It’s definitely something they’re looking forward to each morning.
I just want them out of school. Done for the summer. They all need a break from “it.”
The school did not cancel finals, as they shouldn’t have.
BUT, each department got together to see how to best handle the current situation, and each teacher sent out an email to the parents of his or her students.
Turns out, most of the teachers are NOT cancelling finals. They expect the kids to be there for finals; however, the final cannot make their grade go down – it can only make it go up. If your child just cannot properly prepare (those closest to the kids are having a really hard time) then the parents can email the teacher and they can talk. If the kids are not in class taking their final, they need to be in the counselor’s office getting help during that time.
I get it. They’re trying to help the kids and relieve the stress. And relieve stress it did – Jason’s stress level decreased 10-fold! I still made him take all of his finals – AND STUDY for them. But knowing you weren’t going to ruin your grade was a huge stress relief. (I have opinions on THIS, too – just ask me what they are. I think it’s the ROOT of the problem.)
***My fear? This will end up being like some horrible horror movie where kids make a pact . . . and one of the group chooses to literally take the hit so the rest of the kids can get out of finals. The workings of the teenage mind . . . they just don’t understand the FINALITY of it all . . . and that whatever they are feeling NOW will NOT go on forever. Ugh.
So Jason comes home Tuesday. Asks if he can go hang out a friend’s house and have a campfire (this friend is not in the same school district and they were finished with school last week). We’re like “Um HAYEL no! It’s finals week and you have to study!” He then goes into which finals he has and how he doesn’t have any studying to do for the very next day (no finals – they are just final projects for those classes and he’s already done) and and and.
We struggle with a decision and talk and hem and haw until Friend is at the door to pick him up.
We ultimately decide to let him go, but make it clear it will not be a late night. I will pick him up at 9:00.
He’s been working hard in school.
He’s been working through all of the “stuff” that’s going on.
But in the end, quite frankly, he just needed to spend time with friends. Friends that AREN’T from his school. Friends with something else to talk about. Friends with regular teenage stuff to talk about. Friends who are already enjoying summer and aren’t stressed out. Friends who just want to hang out and have a campfire.
Friends who just want to be teenagers.
Those hours did WONDERS for him. He loved every minute of it. When he got in the car he said “That was the best night in a long time. We just hung out and had fun and talked and laughed. I think I found my people.”
He’s known these people for a long time (he went to daycare with T – they’ve literally been friends Jason’s entire life). It was just the therapy he needed.
So now what?
Who knows. I just know he’s looking forward to a summer of baseball with his friends, a week-long sailing trip around the Florida Keys with his Scout troop, and just existing and having a good time.
That’s all we want for him, too.