life and loss

Friends who were at the vigil last evening at Shipley in Bryn Mawr for Cayman Naib shared the above photo with me. I don’t know about all of you who read my blog, but I bet there are a lot of us who woke up today once again thinking about the Naib family. They have experienced an unspeakable tragedy. Just like (but for different reasons) the Hannagan family of Downingtown did on Valentine’s Day.

It is completely unfathomable to me of how anyone would feel after losing a child. I almost feel guilty for expressing condolences to these families because I don’t know them, and I didn’t know the children. But these crazy things that throw curveballs in life can happen to anyone, can’t they? Unless you were born with a heart made of stone how can you not feel empathy and sympathy for these people? How can your heart not break in some small way for them?

I remember growing up,  a student back then at Shipley, when fate took the lives of two young women I knew. They were not classmates of mine but they were schoolmates of mine, and one in particular was a fairly good friend at the time.  In the case of both of these girls from many years ago, they both died because of automobile accidents for lack of a better description – one was in an accident and one was hit by a car while running. But it left a huge hole in our school community at the time for some of us, along with what it did to their families.

As a freshman in college, one of my classmates, committed suicide the night before parents weekend was supposed to begin.  He jumped out of a window in a floor above mine in the dorm where I lived. I remember waking up to sirens and flashing emergency lights. He had been a really nice guy, and although not a close friend,  ironically  it ended up he was a cousin of some sort of a girl I knew from high school. I still to this day remember clear as a bell snippets of the memorial service held by students on campus for him. Someone played Follow You, Follow Me by Genesis on a stereo and the music wafted all around us.

There are particular parts to the lyrics that I can still hear in my head when I think of this:

I will follow you will you follow me
All the days and nights that we know will be
I will stay with you will you stay with me
Just one single tear in each passing year
With the dark,
I see so very clearly now
All my fears are drifting by me so slowly now
Fading away
I can say
The night is long but you are there
Close at hand I’m better for the smile you give
And while I live
 I will follow you will you follow me

 

I think we are all ever mindful of how fragile life is. And how like it or not everything can change in an instant.

Cayman’s death was ruled a suicide a short time ago.  Depression hits all ages .

But we can’t stop living can we? We can’t live wrapped and safe in cotton batting locked away from the world. The  thing is this however: when tragedy befalls a young person it is so much more magnified in it’s awfulness for lack of a better description. I can’t even imagine what it’s like directly for the families involved. Selfishly, I don’t want to imagine that.

When things happen to children we all can’t help but be affected, especially if we are parents in any form. Whether natural parents or stepparents or adoptive parents, it affects us. It didn’t happen to any of us, but we know but for simple twist of fate anything can happen.

But I guess the important thing is how we deal with loss. I’m not talking about those people personally grieving who are experiencing  it in the first person and have to work through it, I’m  speaking of the rest of us.

We can’t let tragedy and sadness swallow us whole, we have to pay it forward. As parents we have a very special obligation and a simple one: to love and teach our children well. We want the best for them but I think what  happened in the past few days makes us mindful once again of how we have to pay attention without smothering.

We were all kids ourselves, once, but it was a long time ago. Times have changed, life has changed the world is very different. It behooves us all to ensure that our children can talk to us no matter what.  Being an adolescent is the best of times and worst of times quite literally.

But the thing is this: with girls we often have a better idea of what is going on because they are just more verbal and more communicative. Boys for the most part, weather in whole or in part, are still waters run deep. And the reason for that I believe is because historically and societally men and boys are raised to be stoic and not show emotion and be strong. We have to let our boys know that it is not a weakness to talk to someone about what is going on or talk  if they are upset.

I have a teenage boy. Trust me, I know there are days he wishes I would just be quiet and not talk so much and not ask so many questions, just like there are days I wish I didn’t have to pry things out of him. I am working on the abbreviated version of conversations with a teen boy as in fewer sentences, but I am work in progress. But after this weekend, I am mindful of how, whether he wants it or not or might be embarrassed or not,  I need to tell him more often how much he means to me.

Love is a very powerful emotion and we do need to tell those in our world of any age how we feel about them. It sounds like a dorky Hallmark card, but life is a precious gift. We need to celebrate it and appreciate it while we have it. The importance of being together and not allowing people we care about to feel all alone, also can’t be overlooked.

Love and loss or part of the cycle of life. And both can cause enormous heart ache. But when the dust has settled , we always need to be mindful of the gifts we have. Live and be the best human beings possible is one of the best ways to celebrate any life lost for whatever reason.

Hug your kids, people. Hug your loved ones. Talk to them. Call the ones farther away to see how they are doing. Appreciate the life we have. It’s not always perfect, it’s a work in progress, but it is so much better than the alternative.

Say a prayer for young boy who was named Cayman and his family, the Hannagan family of Downingtown…and whomever else you think might need a little of what my grandmother referred to as “Irish insurance”.

Teen suicide is an ugly reality. This is a mental health issue . That is the conversation we should be having in public and taking away the stigma – as adults we should be helping kids through difficult times safely. The pressure on kids today can be enormous. Let’s not make this about finger pointing because the average person is not equipped to recognize the signs of teenage depression.  That is not a negative statement, either.

Depression manifests differently in kids versus adults and I have been told this by a friend who is a mental health social worker in another state. Teen suicide is ugly. It’s not something that teens or adults want to think about.  It’s unpleasant and difficult. But it does happen. Teen suicide is very real, and is preventable.

We as human beings must advocate for taking the issues of teen depression and suicide out of the shadows and  into the light.  It is time to remove the stigma attached to depression and related mental health issues.  We’re all human beings, after all. And I think if we learned anything about what happened here to this sweet boy Cayman Naib, it is that we all have a lot to learn.

Parents  need to be  honest and admit  at times it can be a struggle when communicating with the teenagers in our homes.Togetherness as a family that is positive opens many doors, and face it, what is one of the hardest parts of raising teenagers? Communication. And communication isn’t social media like Facebook and Twitter, e-mails, chat programs, it’s a real conversation. Sitting down and talking even if it is light dinner conversation. Real and tangible contact and human interaction is so important with regard to interpersonal relationships at any age.

As my friend Liza says love, only love. Without love,  life is very gray.

Thanks for putting up with my rambling stream of consciousness today and for stopping by.

Cayman 1

5 thoughts on “life and loss

  1. A lot of great points made in you blog! Loved it! Thank you for writing it. I have not experienced a suicide but could have been heading in that direction quickly with my daughter. Yes, my verbal daughter did not say anything, but her behavior changed. She became quiet and withdrawn. Believe me girls are very much at risk too. Children (boys and girls) don’t tell anyone how they are feeling because they are embarrassed. They don’t think anyone can help them and that the pressure is just something they should be able to deal with. If they can’t keep up with it, they think there is something wrong with them. This leads to anxiety and depression. We need tell our children that there is help for them. Talk to your children! Do whatever it takes to reach them.

    When trying to take the pressure off of them we sometimes tell them “the test or game is not important” they hear -“what is important to me is really not important”. We need to let our kids know that we understand that they are under a lot of pressure. We need to ask-What can I do to help? What is overwhelming you? Do whatever it takes to find out what is wrong-even if it means going through their belongings. Sometimes parents need to figure it out for them and help them. This is our job as parents. Figure it out and make changes. You will be surprised at what can be done. Schools will help make a plan to cope with school work. Find a good therapist and psychiatrist. There are group therapy programs – My Light Program (mylightprogram.com) American Day (mainline health.org/DayTreatment). If these don’t work for you look for an IOP program near you. IOP stands for Intensive Out Patient

    My heart breaks for all of these families. They are no different than any one of us. I will continue to pray for them and all of the children who need to find their voice and say-I need help!!

  2. Thank you for everything you wrote. As most of you know…at least in the Radnor community, we lost our beautiful loving 18 year old son Dan to suicide in 2013. This Saturday is Dan’s 20th birthday. We would like to invite you all to attend the event that our foundation in Dan’s memory, the DMAX Foundation, is hosting on April 27th at Bryn Mawr College. The Honorable Congressman, Patrick Kennedy is coming to speak about mental health, about “Explorations of the Inner Frontier”. He spearheaded the mental health parity act in 2008. He will be talking to all high school and college students that attend after the event.
    The mission of DMAX Foundation is to eliminate stigma and encourage safe and caring conversations about mental and emotional issues in our youth. We are starting DMAX Clubs (DMAX was Dan’s sports nickname…he was a three sport athlete…lacrosse, basketball, football…and a much loved honor student who make his friends laugh regularly) on college campuses. Come to our event (hosted in conjunction with Main Line School Night), volunteer to help us reach students…and spread the word. We have a facebook page, DMAX Foundation, and DMAX Clubs. Visit our website at http://www.dmaxfoundation.org/pkevent to learn more and register for the event. Spread the word. Let’s fill up the 500 person auditorium.

  3. I’m truly sorry for anyone that loses anyone for any reason. Suicide, cancer, traffic accident, etc. But I do find this entire issue a bit disturbing for one glaring fact. The police asked the family (upon them finding the boy and realizing a gun was involved) to you own a gun?

    Now, take a step back and answer this please. Being on the search team looking for someones loved one…..Why did the family NOT tell the massive police forces, FBI, etc that they A) owned a gun B) Realized the gun was missing?

    They never made it public that the boy was disturbed with a loaded GUN!! Would it have been o.k. that I came upon a frightened boy in the woods who was intent on killing himself but first killed me to stop me from stopping him? Why hasn’t this been explained to the hundreds of the people searching for him. Do you not find this disturbing? What in the world or why in the world would you as parents hide that fact if you knew your gun was gone? Lets pretend for a moment that they didn’t know he took it. Are you going to convince me that all those police types from detectives, street cops, FBI, seasoned search and rescue personal never asked the first few important questions when someone goes missing…like, does he do drugs, does he own a GUN, do you own a gun, what or who are we dealing with here?

    Its fine to sit here now and have this heart felt weeping heart conversations with and about this family NOW but what would you be saying if their child would have killed a kind loving individual that felt compelled to help without ever being told, “you are searching for a young man with a gun”!

    I find this entire sad story that it may have been a bit odd. Something doesn’t add up what or why it really happened.

    • Ok look I posted your comment but do we know all that went on? No. Wouldn’t expect to.

      I am not going to comment on the gun and armchair quarterback that. We don’t know what happened with that nor do we know what law enforcement knew or didn’t know.

      What matters to me is that for whatever reason a 13 year old boy committed suicide. A young kid is dead and the family now has to try to put the pieces back together and raise their daughter as now an only child.

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