An 11 year olds grief

As a parent I am always trying to protect my daughter from the world. It is not because I want her to be oblivious to the way the world works, but rather I want to make sure she can have a childhood. I was naive to think we would make it until she was through her teenage years without a big event that directly effects her life.

She was so stoic when Justin passed away.  I could see this person that was not an 11 year old at all, but a grown person that felt like she had to help others. There were moments where I saw the little girl, like when she held my hand and looked into my eyes with tears in hers and said “mommy I promise I won’t ever do this”. As a parent its a defeating feeling to know that this is something you can’t protect them from.

I feel I have done her a disservice though, because grief takes me over and it comes spilling out over everything in my life. While we have constantly been talking to her and checking in on her, I think she believes she needs to be strong for me. She was seeing the counselor at school and we keep reminding her that we would be able to get her into someone now to have her speak with. She keeps just saying she is ok.

She has been having a tough time sleeping, at first we chalked it up to a pre teen just trying to stay up all night playing video games, but I started to get concerned. This last week one night where I had to stay up to get ready for an over night shift (I always try to stay up as late as possible the night before), I asked her to come out of her room and sit next to me on the couch. When she sits next to me she always instinctively finds the spot where she fits perfectly into the crook of my arm and I can kiss the top of her head.

I asked if she was having trouble sleeping for any reason, she burst into tears and said “I just miss him so much.” My heart shattered into a million pieces again. She talked openly about closing her eyes and only being able to see him without life left in him. She said she doesn’t want to sleep until she is so tired she has no choice but to sleep.

There is something so wrong in having to hold your child while she sobs and wonders what she could have done differently to let Justin know he was loved. I said to her people love people in there own way. I asked her if she remembered when Justin said he was happy she was coming to his school so that he could look after her and make sure that no one ever bullied her. I asked if she remembered when we told her that Justin was transgender and wanted to be called Justin and it was something she took without questioning and was so accepting. She said she did. I said that was him showing you how much he loved you, and you showing him how much you loved him without strings attached.

I so much don’t want this pain for her. I don’t want it for anyone. Somehow though it has stolen some of her innocence and I know there is nothing I can do to change that. She writes about him in her summer journal and she has drawings of him she has done hanging all over her room.

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I feel like she lost so much more than any of us did, in all of this.

There will be professional counseling in our future. In the mean time, I will check in with her in every quiet moment, remind her that her dad and I are here for her. I lost my courageous brave nephew to these bullies, I won’t lose my sweet daughter to them.

She won’t ever be the same without him, and there is nothing I can change about that.

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Speak Love

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.

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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?