Since the suicide of a middle school boy last Saturday I have been doing crisis facilitating and counseling since Monday at the school site. Today was the third day. I am exhausted, emotionally barren, and near stoic. I arrived on site with an excel spreadsheet in hand that I created to organize all of the psychologists as to which children needed follow-up counseling today after this horrific tragedy. The list, like every day since Monday, was daunting. All of the members of the crisis team looked so battered and worn. We slapped on our battle faces and proceeded forward with the notion that the children and staff were in more need of our services than we were tired. All week I have experienced an odd feeling of exhaustion and adrenaline coursing through me. It seems that each moment one or the other is the pilot of my current existence.
I met with student after student. The shock is starting to wear thin on their young hearts. The boy who killed himself just a few short days ago has a sibling, she returned to school today. We, as the crisis team, banded together to quickly create a plan in order to make the transition back to school as seamless as humanly possible. I quietly questioned to myself whether or not we could accomplish this goal. A priority concern was not having her hounded by the other students who have been crazed with the need to know more details about her brother’s suicide. We, like mothers, wanted to protect her from any more pain. She presented in good spirits. I can only assume that she was partially relieved to be at school and out of the horrifying grips of her mother’s grief. Oh how it hurts to even think of the anguish that their mother is experiencing. I shudder at the mere thought.
Two days ago we provided the children that we were counseling with paper and markers to write cards to the family, draw pictures of their emotions or simply to keep their hands busy to help yield the constant flow of tears. Within an hour many of them had in fact created art, but not on the paper provided. They had begun to tattoo and brand themselves, their arms, legs, cheeks and foreheads. They wrote the dead child’s name all of their exposed skin. As a team we decided that we shouldn’t supply the kids with art supplies for the following day. We had to limit the suicide contagion factor and ensure that this young boys’ suicide was not being glorified. Our primary goal was to not encourage students that are drastically suffering from this loss or other traumas in their life so they themselves will not contemplate or commit suicide. Yesterday we did not provide them art supplies. We had learned through many conversations with children who were very close to the child who killed himself that his favorite color was red. We decided that we would supply a vast amount of red yarn. The purpose was for the kids to tie a red piece of yarn around their wrist in memory of their lost friend.
I look down and there is a red string tied around my left wrist. I’m in awe that five inches of string can scream so many emotions and horrors. The red string belts pent up pain from a young boy. It shouts sheer and utter desperation from a child. While a simple red string belts and shouts, the child lived silently with his anguish until he decided to live no more. A red string communicates clearly; he could not and never will again.
I look down and there is a red string tied around my left wrist and I hear the wails of his mother. The type of wailing that comes from somewhere so deep and horrific that you’ve never heard such a sound come from a living being. I see her tears consuming her body and nearly drowning her entire being. I see the blankness in her eyes, the hollow field where her son once occupied. I see her hands clenched together over her heart as if trying to keep it inside of her thin frail body. I see her knees giving way as she has no strength left to keep her upright. I hear the trembling of her voice between screams of torment. There is nothing comparable to a woman’s suffering who has lost her child. There is nothing comparable to a mother’s suffering who has lost her child to suicide.
I look down. There is a red string tied around my left wrist and I want to take it off. I am consumed with the images of crying children and devastated teachers. I am covered with questions of why and how. I see this red string and I imagine all of the different variations as to what could have gone on in this young boys mind. I question what caused him so much pain that he gave up on himself and how he was provided with the courage to kill himself. He did not attempt suicide, he committed suicide.
I look down. There is a red string tied around my left wrist and I shed a tear, and another. Five inches of red string holds my emotions captive. I cannot take it off.