A Parent's Nightmare

A boy in our Jr. High School committed suicide this week. The school sent home a quick paragraph about him passing away "unexpectedly at home", but soon the word got out. I found myself sitting in front of the computer reading the Facebook page set up for him wishing it had been a drug overdose, or a gun accident...anything but this deliberate act.

I wondered how or if I should address it with my boys (9, 10, and 13 years old) and hated the thought of explaining something the little boys never even heard of. I dreaded discussing it with my 13 year old for fear of giving him any ideas.

As a parent, how do you explain when your child looks at you and says "Why did he do that, mom?" How do you emphasize that nothing could ever be that bad, that this is never the right decision?

A friend of mine debated about taking his kids, who knew the boy, to the funeral. He reasoned that teens often feel that no one cares about them and that seeing all the sad family and friends will drive home the point that more people care than they might think.

It's Feedback Friday...

When faced with this kind of tragedy, do you broach the subject with your kids or do you wait until they ask?

What details about the death are appropriate to include when discussing it with kids?

Is it better for a 9 year old to remain oblivious?

Under what circumstances would you consider taking your kids to the funeral?


  1. How truly horrible. I don't think I would take my children to the funeral, unless it was someone they were close to. If they wanted to show their support, I'd have them write the family a card. I would sit down an talk to them about it, b/c I'm sure that it is being discussed on the playground and I want to make sure they get the truth from me. I would talk very frankly with them about depression and mental illness and make them promise to tell me if they are ever feeling such feelings of hopelessness. I would also discuss with them how important it is to be kind to everyone and to reach out to those kids that seem like they need a friend.

  2. Nope, I personally don't think it's ok for a 9 year old to remain "oblivious". The truth is, is this is a great time for you to talk about it with them. They will hear the word suicide a lot as they get older, and probably already have. Seriously, just think of the nightly news, or all the drug commercials on TV and radio..."may lead to thoughts of suicide"....etc." My 10 year old has asked because of those. Suicide is a scary thought in general, but for a child is such a confusing idea. I say talk about it. And yep, absolutely explain that there is NOTHING, nothing that could ever be so bad that they should take their own life. They have you, they had their dad.... even if your not getting along, or on different pages some of the time, you still absolutely, unconditionally love them!
    Unfortunatly these things happen and other things ~ I wrote about having to talk to my just turned 11 year old about "The choking game" after a young girl died doing this. If you want you can read about that here: http://ordinarymiraclesoflife.blogspot.com/2011/06/talk.html

    Good luck Jen and prayers to the families involved and all the families affected in any way!

  3. These are things that need to be talked about no matter how difficult. It is just so sad to hear but the ages of your boys are the time when big incidents become long lasting memories. When my husband was in upper elementary school, a father came to school and took one of his friends out of school. They went home and the father killed his family and then shot himself. My husband is 59 and he has never forgotten it. Talk to them. I'd say no to the funeral....it would be a bit too intense at this age.
    A young man I know killed himself last year and I wrote this piece and gave it to the family. Maybe it will help when you talk to the boys.

  4. What a nightmare. I have a 10 year old so I can relate to how weird it is to talk about these things with kids that still feel like babies. My own belief is that I'd rather be the first person to talk to my daughter about all the important issues. If you talk about it first, then you get to form your child's first impression of the topic. I wouldn't want to give that up to someone else.

    I wouldn't take my daughter to the funeral unless they were very close. That may not be the right thing but that is how I would handle it.

    That poor kid....I keep shaking my head.

  5. What a sad story....so young.
    My 9 year old son's soccer coach took his own life last spring and after word got out at school, we had to have the discussion. It stinks to have to go there, but it also clued my kids into how very lucky they are, and to remember to be kind to others because you never know what someone else is going through. Also I've talked to kids in my 7th grade CCD class about this subject.....at this age of leaving others out and being mean on facebook, etc. a little kindness goes a long way.
    UGH....that poor family.

  6. Very sad but almost a daily story. Unfortunately, our society has evolved (or regressed) to not allowing our children to be children. From the provocative clothes in the stores in sizes starting at 6, to high heel shoes in youth sizes, kids getting hair dyed and fake nails, 7yr olds with phones, families rushing everyday and no sit down dinners where you ask what's new, so many divorces. I am 59 and can remember only 1 divorced kid when I was little. I think we need to arm our children with all the knowledge to keep them safe. Today, sucide is real and our kids need to know there is always another option. I think talk everyday, not just when there is a crisis. Prayers to the family.

  7. I would rather them hear about it from me than from the kids at school.

  8. I don´t think any age is too young, and I´d surely talk to my kids about it. I´d tell my kids that this person was just very, very sad, and decided he didn´t want to live anymore. And that these things happen, and they are incredibly sad, but that this is the reason why it´s so important to care for each other, to look out for friends, and to seek help when feeling sad. I have two friends who suffer from severe depressions, and I do feel responsible for them, as in constantly ringing their doorbells, bringing them music tapes, inviting them to concerts - anything to drag them out of their dark. I let my kids be a part in this, and also tell them that this is all we can do - we can offer help, but it´s also up to the person to accept it.
    When I was 3 years old, my little sister died at 9 months. My parents didn´t let me see her, didn´t take me to the funeral, and refused to talk about it. I figure they were heartbroken, but I still feel left out today, and I´m still kind of angry with them for excluding me, just to protect me. Kids are a lot stronger than we think, and excluding them from important issues in life doesn´t help bonding a family, and I also don´t think it makes them stronger. It´s my job to prepare my kids for life, and, sad as it is, this is a part of life, too.
    Oh, and I think the same goes for regular death. Or birth. Or conception. Or religion. Or terrorism.
    Whatever it is, I try to include my kids. I consider it part of my job as a mum to find those right words, to explain such things in an honest, true way.
    And the school - I really can´t understand why they covered it up. If anything, I think it´s dishonorable to the boy who took his life. I think it would also be part of the school´s responsibility to adress this.

  9. I would deffently talk about it. There is great web sites out there that give good advice on how to talk to children about suicide. When my girls were 8 and 10 and 6there uncel tried to commit suicide at 18. I rember going to the hospitial and taking to my brother inlaw I told him I am at a loss as what to tell them what happened to him. He said Jennifer tell them the truth.
    When they ask why did this kid do this you tell the truth you dont know why. Then you can exsplain that there are many resons why pepole commett suside because of mentail health abuse ect. What ever you feel best in exsplaining to your kids.

    My husband is a trooper Chaplin and went to a suiside call of a 13 year old boy . He talked with the family and found out this boy had mentail illnesses and was bullied his whole life and could not take it any more.

    This is not an easy topic and I wish you luck.

  10. My 28 year old brother recently died by suicide. It has been so hard for my family, but talking about it helps. I have siblings who are 12, 15 and 17 still at home. When you talk openly about anything, especially something as serious and scary as this, you take some of the fear out of it. You also have the chance to tell your children how much YOU love them, and how devistated YOU would be if they made that choice. If they know that you love them, no matter what, and they can come to you, no matter what, it could make a huge difference down the road.
    Also, there is such a huge stigma with Suicide that REALLY has got to go. My brother was a well employed, college graduate, no substance abuse issues, with a wife and two kids. Totally unexpected, and not the type of person that you'd expect.
    Chances are your kids are going to hear about it/talk about it/think about it at some point in their lives. Wouldn't you rather have the conversation started now, when it's a little farther from home?

    And that's the end of my two cents.
    (stepping off my soapbox)

  11. My husband took his life 2 years ago. Left me with 3 children and it is the best to not hide and be up front. Kids can handle way more than you think they can. They are better off when everyone is not tip toeing around them. Life is rough and it sad but my kids have watched as we buried my husband, grandparents, cousin and they had a harsh reality years before my husband when they lost their 4 year old cousin. What helped was that they were part of everything.

  12. Hi there...My brother committed suicide when he vas 16 and I was 18...talking about it helps absolutely. Children is able to cope with a lot of things if just their grown ups is able to tell them in a prober way...hope you understand what I mean...inn spite of my bad english!

  13. All of our middle school staff went through a prevention/support training recently and a great resource is: http://www.yellowribbonsd.org/

    Good info for parents and kids to help have the discussion and educate.

  14. As someone who battles depression and anxiety, please talk to your children. Most of my family know about my disease (and that is what it is), but the ones who don't are the ones who don't believe that it is a real affliction and don't or won't understand what I deal with on a daily basis. I refuse to deal with ignorant people who think they know everything.

    I think it is part of a child's worldly education. They need to understand (as gently as you can put to the younger ones) that life is not always rosy and happy for everyone. I also think it should come from the parents.

  15. I think you need to talk to your children. The more openly you talk with your children the more they feel like they can talk to you about things and the more they are able to cope. My son is only 5 but already knows about death. When his mouse and his fish died we didn't hide it. We showed him and explained to him. He doesn't grasp it all but we talk to him so that he understands and doesn't need to be afraid. I hope as he gets older if he is suffering he will talk to us.


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