I Don’t Want Another Family to Lose a Child the Way We Did
I will never forget sitting with Frankie in the waiting room in the pediatric psychiatric wing on the night I brought her to the inpatient unit, three months before she took her life. We had been there for hours, seeing one group of doctors and then another. A lovely nurse had brought us some apple juice as well as granola treats. Frankie was sipping the child-sized juice boxes while munching on one granola bar. I was unable to help but nod, but it broke me that she had kept such a difficult secret for so many years.
How can we make our world more supportive for our children’s development? Frankie’s teenage friends are inspiring me. They loved her deeply and support one another now that she is gone.
Frankie discovered warmth and healing during high school in the theater program office. It was hidden behind a busy New York City school door. On good days, she would sit on the worn couch in that office, snuggle in a pile of teenagers and discuss plays, schoolwork and their lives. On hard days, she would hide in an untraveled corner of that same office and allow the anxiety and depression to run its course. To help her get to class, she would text a close friend or, if she had spoken out about her troubles, encourage others.
After Frankie passed away, students decided to redecorate the corner by adding colored Post-it stickers to the walls. A pink Post-it had the words “you Matter” written on it. A yellow one said “it gets better”, while an orange one gave a number for someone to call for assistance. A few Post-it pieces had made the corner a place to support, heal and comfort the next struggling teenager.
Frankie might have been saved if Frankie had used a seatbelt method. I realize that details of such an option are still not well figured out. We don’t need to lose more children just because we aren’t brave enough take on something that scares, something we don’t fully understand, and something that is more common than we realize.
If 17-year-olds and 18-year olds who have lost a close friend can find the strength to envision a world that is filled with healing, then design and construct the structure to support them.
To report thoughts of suicide, dial the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800 273-8255) (TALK). SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources contains additional resources.