I Can’t Find The Words of Comfort for Anyone Affected by Bullycide

positive peace candle

Since I’ve been advocating for the bullied, I’ve met and talked to so many families- parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, spouses, children, cousins and friends who have lost a loved one to suicide. I’ve read, heard about, and listened to their heartbreaking stories. I’ve watched them cry, and I’ve often struggled to find the words to tell them how my heart breaks for them. What are the right words to say to someone who has suffered so significant a loss?

I’ve listened to stories from grieving parents who have lost a child to bullying and suicide. While they told me the story of the events which led up to their child’s death, I could hear the anguish in their voices. I could sense the many questions which continue to flood their minds that may never be answered! I could feel the injustice of it all, and let me tell you; it shook me to my core!

I can’t help but feel a wide range of overwhelming emotions- heartbreak and empathy for the surviving parents and family, intense anger toward the bullies who pushed that child over the edge and disgust at the school and school district, who did nothing to help, or worse, only intensified the child’s suffering. I feel nothing but rage and contempt for a system that failed this young person and their family and at the people in power who were in a position to help the poor young man or lady but didn’t!

Although I have lost a spouse to suicide and know what it is to experience the loss from it, I realize this: The loss of a spouse is terrible and heart-wrenching. Yes. But it isn’t quite the same as losing a child.

Child abuse with the eye of a young boy or girl with a single tear crying due to the fear of violence or depression caused by hunger and poverty and being afraid of bullying at school.

I try to put myself in the parent’s shoes, but it’s unbearable. I cannot imagine what a parent goes through. The unanswered questions, having dreams of their child’s future, disappear! Not long ago, I looked into the eyes of one grieving mother, and I wanted to cry but managed not to. I wanted to be strong for her because she needed me to be!

My oldest son went through a period of bullying, so I know this could just as easily have been him years ago. And I honestly don’t know if I could have held up as well as this mother has!

Try to imagine having that baby you once carried for nine months- the baby you felt move and kick inside your belly- ripped from your life forever! Imagine losing that precious, tiny creature, you once held for the first time in the hospital, whose sweet little face you gazed lovingly on, and were unable to take your eyes off of!

FILE – In this Monday, Sept. 16, 2013 file photo, pallbearers wearing anti-bullying T-shirts carry the casket of Rebecca Sedwick,12, to a waiting hearse as they exit the Whidden-McLean Funeral Home in Bartow, Fla. One of two teenage girls charged with stalking Rebecca Sedwick, a Florida classmate who complained of being bullied before her suicide no longer faces any criminal counts, her attorney said Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco, File)

I cannot fathom the despair of having to bury the child I was sure would someday bury me! Understand that this goes against the natural order of things! I cannot imagine the total shock and disbelief- that feeling of being kicked in the gut that goes with such a loss! And I struggle to find the words to comfort any parent who has lost a child to bullycide!

What are the right words? How do you communicate to a grieving family member how much you hurt with them and how much you long to ease their suffering and wish you could? And how you wish that there was some way- SOME way you could bring that loved one back to them.

If you have a heart as I do, you want to reach out and hug that person! You want to hold them. You want to console them. You want to take away their pain. But anything short of doing the impossible, you know, will never be enough to ease their suffering.

Sympathy card with burning candle and rose on open book

Like me, you try to imagine how you’d feel if it were your child, but you can’t. You can’t bear the mere thought crossing your mind. But these families have lived it, and they continue to live it every day. Understand that this is a massive loss that this mother, this father, this sibling, this grandparent will carry for the rest of their lives!

Nothing will ever be the same for them again. Realize that this is a new normal (if that’s what you want to call it) that they will never be able to adjust to. Every day from here on will be another day of struggle- another day of fighting to keep it together- another day to act like you’re okay because you’re afraid of overwhelming the people around you. How long can these broken parents keep up the charade?

Again, words can never say how my heart breaks for them. All I can do is be there for them and listen as I struggle to find the words of support and compassion they so need to hear.

Maybe the reason I struggle for the right thing to say is that there are no words! There are no words that could ever quell the grief of a loss so heavy and so devastating! No words can ever provide complete consolation or comfort. And no words can ever bring justice to the loved ones left behind.

To all, who have lost a family member- a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a grandparent, especially a child, to suicide or bullycide, know that I’m here for you. It doesn’t matter if we know each other or are total strangers. And even though I struggle to find the words to tell you, rest assured that I care. My heart cries with you, and I have the utmost love, sympathy, and compassion for you!

You are always in my thoughts and prayers!

When a Bully Becomes a Buddy

butterfly

There is always a possibility that bullies eventually become friends. It doesn’t happen often but it does happen. And when it does, it often becomes one of the best friendships ever! I don’t know why it is but it seems like the bonds are much tighter than if you’ve never been enemies.

I turned a years-long bully into a buddy by appealing to her self-interest and realizing what her desires were. And what I learned was that, more than anything, she wanted to feel validated, valued, and loved.

This lady had been bullied in school herself. And I found that she would get bullied and afterward, she’d come around and bully me. Then, being a smart-mouthed teenager, I would bully her back. Between the two of us, it was tit for tat.

We both left high school, got married, had families of our own, created our own lives, and didn’t see each other again.

positive peace candle

Almost twenty years later, I ran into her again at a bar and grill. If looks could kill, I would’ve been dead on the floor because, when we locked eyes, she immediately knew who I was and that look came over her face- the same expression I remembered from high school.

It was clear that even after all those years, the same hatred was still there- the only things that changed were that we were now adults, we were both mothers, and had marriages behind us. So naturally, I mirrored her reaction.

A few weeks later, I saw her again when I sang in a karaoke contest and won. She was in the audience. After the show was over, she came up and congratulated me, and although I was stunned, I was grateful and thanked her.

We soon began talking as she whipped out of her purse a mini photo album and showed me pictures of her woodwork and paintings. And I’ve got to tell you! This lady was uber-talented!

positive peace flowers

Her work looked so professionally done! As I gazed in awe at the pictures and admired what I saw, an epiphany hit me. I realized that all she wanted was to be validated.

I’ll never forget how her eyes lit up when I genuinely complimented her work.

With time, we grew closer and she soon became one of my best friends. ‘You see? She needed someone to make her feel as if she mattered and I gave her that.

We grew to love each other very much. The two of us would go to lunch together, spend girl-time together laughing, chit-chatting, and talking about our kids and our lives. We’d even stick up for one another when we had to.

She and I stayed friends until she died after a three-year-long battle with cancer. She’s been gone for two years now and I still think of her- a lot! I miss her just as much as I did the day she passed away and I’m wiping away tears as I type.

Life hasn’t been quite the same without my beautiful girl-pal. How I wish I could call her!

positive friends

Our early enmity and later friendship taught me so much! And that to turn an enemy into a friend, it takes finding out what the other person’s deepest desires are, what voids they may have, and what kind of wounds they’re nursing. You must then help them fulfill those desires, fill the voids, and heal the wounds.

You must make them feel good about themselves by giving them recognition for their talents and successes, respect for the person they are, and unconditional love and friendship. You must value their trust as you would gold. Then make sure it’s reciprocated. Once those requirements are met, you know you’ve turned an enemy into a friend.

This is not to say that this will work for everyone because some bullies will think there’s an ulterior motive and only double-down on their hatred of you. Some will only fear that their softening toward you will be a win for you. But we were the lucky ones.

May you sing and dance down the streets of gold

May you wade in the Crystal Sea
Until I see you again at the pearly gates

In Loving Memory
Stephanie Rains Shoemake
1971 – 2017

“They Should Still Be Here!”

peace happiness hope beautiful day

Several months back, while driving Roxie, my little reddish-blonde Pomeranian to the groomer’s, I passed what was once the home and property of my Dad and Stepmother, who are now both deceased. At the age of only 53, my father passed away from complications of Acute Myelogenous Leukemia in the summer of 2005. My stepmother passed away eight years later of complications from Lupus. She was only 63.

Each time I pass that beautiful two-story home and spread of property spotted with gorgeous flower beds and bushes and covered with fresh green grass, I cannot help but gaze at it, remembering how overgrown the place was when they bought it. During the fifteen years my dad and stepmom lived there, they transformed the place from the eyesore it had once been to the gorgeous stretch of property it is today.

Those flower beds and bushes, still present today, are the footprint they left behind.

bullycide suicide death remembrance sympathy memorial

Even now, years after their deaths, the blood, sweat, and tears they both poured into the place is still evident! And I find myself thinking, “My Goodness! They should still be here!”

I go on thinking, “I should be able to pull into the driveway even today and see my father sitting on that wrap-around porch, taking a draw off a cigarette and looking over the property. He should be beaming with pride at the results of years of hard, often hot work. I should be able to see my stepmother crouched in one of the flower beds, pulling weeds with gloved hands.”.

I often ask myself if these thoughts are sinful…if thinking this way is, in fact, the same as saying that maybe God was wrong in taking them at such an early age. So I think this with caution.

Then I remind myself…or maybe it is God reminding me that I am only human and it is only my mere mortal and human mind which cries out, “They should still be here!”. And that God’s ways are beyond all comprehension…beyond our human understanding.

The reality is that, in the grand scheme of things, God’s plan is that some will not grow to a ripe old age like others. But that’s okay because although I miss them terribly, I can take comfort in knowing that my dad and stepmother are in a much better place than any of us left here on Earth.

Nevertheless, each time I drive past that old house and stretch of property, my heart can’t help but cry out, “They should still be here!”.