Trigger Warning: suicide, self-harm, mental health
I mean to write to you in a respectful manner, because I understand what you are going through. To lose someone the way that you did feels a lot like suddenly losing the ability to breathe. I know, because I, too, have lost someone with what feels like nothing or no one to blame. No illness, no accident, no real answers. And it has happened to me more than once.
But allow me to tell you about the one loss that really matters, because you actively contributed to it without thinking about the consequences of your actions.
When my brother was eight, he started vomiting every time he left the house. Social interaction terrified him so much that his body could not physically handle the idea. It was something that we got used to dealing with as a family. But, all at once, things got much, much worse.
He was making attempts on his own life more frequently than anyone would like to admit. A girl, five years older than him, started a relationship with him in which she molested him and emotionally abused him and manipulated him into staying with her by threatening to kill herself. Then, our uncle was murdered. And this stupid thing called life continued to strike him down over and over. And he was not responding well.
When he was 11, a doctor diagnosed him with bipolar disorder and prescribed drugs to him that were essentially a contemporary, chemical lobotomy. And for a long time, I lost my baby brother. In a home filled with physical, emotional, and verbal abuse, he had been my only salvation for a long time. And for reasons completely unclear to a young teenage girl, I had suddenly lost him.
And, though you can not possibly care, I tell you all of this to let you know that I understand that terrible ripping sensation you feel in your abdomen because you have stretched yourself so far trying to find your daughter. And I understand that you make yourself sick going over the ways that this might not have happened. And I know all too well how angry you are with the world for taking her from you. Because I have experienced this loss more than anyone should have to in a lifetime.
And so I understand why, when a young boy’s phone number appeared in your daughter’s suicide note, your first instinct was to pick up the phone and yell at him. To tell him how much he has cost you, and how it was his hand, somehow, from across the country, that tipped the bottle of thirty dangerous pills down your daughter’s throat.
What I don’t understand is how you could bring yourself to act on it. How you could possibly think that my young brother, who tells me on a daily basis how badly he wants to leave this world and his suffering behind, would learn some lesson from your actions. I don’t know what you thought to accomplish by blaming this 17-year-old boy for an act that, though tragic and incomprehensible, he had no real hand in. It is a tragic coincidence that his phone was off that day, right when she needed him. But where were you? Who else’s phone might have been off? Who else could have been there for her when she needed them? This does not fall to the singular fault of an ill-equipped boy who has barely managed to keep himself alive these last 9 years.
My suggestion to you is to ask yourself how many teachers, doctors, family members, and other responsible loved ones looked at your daughter. Saw the signs I’m sure were there. Listened to her say what were probably terrifying things about not wanting to live. Watched her drown in her own thoughts. And didn’t do a single thing? How many systems has she been through–school, work, medical–that have failed her by not paying attention? How many people has she encountered who were not educated about mental health issues or suicide rates or teen anxiety and depression who might have helped her otherwise?
I understand how it must feel easier to blame a singular entity for your loss. But understand that you will not get your daughter back by yelling at or hating my brother. What you will do is make me miss school, lose my job, and stop sleeping to watch over my tormented, desperate brother, because those systems and those people failed him, too. You can not get your daughter back. But you can keep others from feeling this same terrible frustration by working to educate others. Or work to fix these systems. Or even to try to look for these signs in the children of those around you because 1 in 4 children your daughter’s age are suffering the way she did and so I know that you know a few.
I’m sorry for your loss. I’m sorry for what your daughter went through before she passed.
I want you to know that I have already forgiven you for what you so carelessly did to my brother, my family, and myself.