As a parent, I can imagine no greater loss, no greater tragedy and no greater pain than to lose a child. After writing a HuffPost article on bullying, I was contacted by Mike Urry, a father whose 13-year-old son, Steven, committed suicide as a result of bullying. For the past six and a half years, Mike and his wife have endured the absolute torture of losing a child.
Through his pain, Mike has become a crusader against bullying and has been courageous enough to allow me to share his personal tragedy in these articles His Name Was Steven: A 13-Year-Old Victim of Bullycide and Bullycide: A Father's Heart-Wrenching Letter to His Son's Tormentors.
Recently Mike wrote an essay about the unrelenting sadness and pain he still experiences. I am compelled to continue to share his story so that his interminable nightmare and Steven's tragic death won't go in vain. I hope that this story can be a window into the far-reaching and devastating implications bullying can have. I hope it can open our eyes to the reality that we are living in a culture where putting someone else down to make yourself feel better has become rampant.
I also hope that sharing this tragic story can help propel us into wanting change -- a cultural shift where we educate our children about empathy, compassion and cooperation. Stepping out of a Culture of Conflict and into a Culture of Connection where we can be at peace with who we are as individuals while honoring and respecting others for who they are.
The following is Mike's deeply personal, poignant and powerful essay. I thank him for so openly letting us into his world of pain and hope that some kind of healing and peace can find its way to him.
The roller coaster continues...
"I can't even imagine what you're going through." If I had a nickel for every time I've heard that, I'd be rich. Ok, not exactly rich, but I'd have enough to buy lunch, I suppose. I jest, of course, but the truth in that statement is very real.
Even I thought that by now I'd be free of the worst effects of my experience; "Time heals all wounds" as the saying goes. I've come to realize that that sort of wishful thinking doesn't ring true. Time might change one's feelings, but healing takes more than time, and the pain never really goes away. As I'm fond of saying, "You don't get over it, you just have to get on with it." To some degree the pain does lessen, but mostly I believe that I've just begun to get used to it. It's the monkey on my back, the elephant in the room that's become part of who I am, rather simply an experience I've been through. Even using the past tense to refer to it sounds wrong, there's nothing "past" about it.
Unlike most emotional injuries, the core and source of the pain never changes at all -- I can go right back to December 5, 2006 literally in a heartbeat. I try not to do that, and therein lies one of the fundamental truths of the matter. What eventually wore me down weren't the memories per se, but the constant battle to keep them at bay. It's a struggle to come to grips with the reality that it won't "get better" in the most common sense of that phrase. Life does get better, but only by force of will.
Where the original memories of most painful events tend to somewhat dull into memory over time, in this case, that moment of trauma doesn't. It's still there, waiting, just around that next mental corner I turn, for that moment to pounce.
Sharp as the day it happened. This has the annoying effect of interfering with everyday life. Every day begins to be seen through the filter of the event, even when I don't realize I'm struggling not to think about it. One begins to fool oneself into thinking that it is "going away" ( where ever that might be... ), that there will finally be some kind of peace. The shocking realization that I've been waiting for the wrong train, so to speak, has been difficult to process.
I thought I understood what was meant by the term acceptance the way it's normally used in grief counseling and therapy. As daunting as it sounded, I believed the thing I had to accept was my son's death. That made no sense to me, but I never knew why until later. The answer, when I thought about it, was obvious -- no parent can or will ever truly accept the loss of a child. We can't because we're parents, that comes with the job. If we were any less devoted to and protective of our children, the human race never would have made it this far. It's hard wired into our psyche and can't be denied or altered. It a fundamental part of what makes us human.
Instead, what I've found what I need to learn to accept is the harsh reality that this particular painful moment isn't going anywhere. Pain is a relentless teacher, and one has no choice but to pass the test. There are no make-up exams in life. It's up to me to adjust to that, or in other words, accept it.
So in a sense, I'm back to square one, or at least the first step in the next phase of this induced madness. The struggle to get to this point hasn't been without its effect on my ability to function in day-to-day life, and it seems to have taken a turn for the worse at the moment.
Over time, I've realized that the bad moments and days had gradually become the norm, rather than the reverse. The distractions caused by my increasing stress have finally become too much, and have become a problem at work, so it's back to therapy for me. Hopefully, I can gain some insight into my disorder this time. My early attempts at therapy weren't terribly successful. I'm a tough nut to crack apparently. I might sound pessimistic, but I'm not, really. If you're having similar problems dealing with depression, reach out, find a therapist, talk to someone that can help! If a born cynic like me can do it, anyone can.
Florida 2004 (from Facebook)
From Facebook: Thank You Richard for sending me this photo...I did not have this class picture of me in grade six but as soon as I saw it I recalled the year and the principal in the back Mr Gallagher. I was starting to become more girlish looking and developing into a young lady (far left front) and a group of boys that were friends since 1st grade noticed the changes and suddenly were grabbing me inappropriately when I was walking the hallways. I told Mr Gallagher, he pulled each boy into his office and I never knew what he said but those boys never touched me or said another word about it. Mr Gallagher, where ever you are I thank you and I never forgot how you stood up for me.
Today on Father's Day remembering the love of a father and daughter. (Glen and Rehtaeh)
These are photos of Halifax teenager <a href="http://thechronicleherald.ca/metro/1122345-who-failed-rehtaeh-parsons" target="_hplink">Rehtaeh Parsons, who was the victim of an alleged gang rape and an online bullying campaign</a> over the last few months. Her mother, Leah Parsons, posted the images and her daughter's tragic story on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/Angel-Rehtaeh/352644484835299?fref=ts" target="_blank">a Facebook memorial page</a>.
Follow Jonathan Hewitt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LifeKidoWay