18 days ago my 13 year old nephew, Justin took his own life. The way those words hurt to say or to write, rip through my heart and leave me in a dazed state. He had these sparkly eyes and this laugh that would make you laugh in spite of yourself. I keep expecting any day that he will come up those steps saying “Aunt Steph, you know what happened?”, or be sending his an uncle a text starting at 4pm “What’s for dinner?”. No one will ever replace him, and that part of my heart is just for him.
Walking through extreme grief, you start to look inward for things you need to speak out about.
Bullying took my nephew away from me. He was the 2nd of 3 kids that have taken their life on the island I live on, because they were bullied for being different from the norm. I am different from the norm myself, but I am old enough to know that you can walk away from those that speak out against you. These kids feel like they can’t walk away or that they are walking alone in this journey.
First instinct is to blame the bullies. They do hold some of the blame, but it goes deeper than that. These bullies are being raised by parents. Maybe these parents don’t believe their child could say these hurtful things, or do these things that hurt people to the core of who they are. Maybe these parents do know, and they feel lost in the world, not sure where to turn.
In a world full of hate everywhere, its our responsibility as humans to speak love. We sensationalize hate, as a society we are failing each other, and the next generation. Turning on the TV every day to see another shooting at a school or everything that is wrong in the world is depressing. The heaviness of this hate is falling on the youngest in the world, and they can’t process the complexity of these emotions without support from us.
This must be a concentrated effort by all. It should be the most important fight in our life. As Parents, Educators, Mental Health Professionals, and Human Beings we need to combat this hate that is filling the schools and minds of our young people. The hardest part of this is admitting we are doing it wrong. Every time we say “I hate..” or any version of that phrase we are putting negativity out into the world. We need to recognize what this is doing to our youth. This is teaching them hate.
So my challenge to anyone that might be reading this. For your part in this concentrated effort to stop bullying and letting these kids know they are not alone, is just simply to start making the beauty and good in the world more important than hate. Really speak with an extreme amount of love so we can change the tide, and make no mistake about it, we CAN change the tide of hate speak. Every water drop coming together will make a flood. Love each other. Love those that are different than you, try to understand their differences, respect them, and let the way they see the world become part of who you are.
For my part, I am going to continue the fight for transgender rights that my nephew started. I am going to demand that we have a place for these kids (the bullied and the bullies) to get the help they need, this means continue my fight for mental health services. I will tell my daughter every day things that I love about her, about the world, about our life together. I will let her know she is not alone, I will give her options for people to speak with. I will do anything to protect her and all children.
How will you make a difference? How will you speak love into the world instead of hate?