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Surviving the Shadowlands of Teen Suicide

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When my son was fourteen years old, he suddenly lost his best friend. The week began with an ordinary Monday. My son spent the morning chatting with his friend before school began, they passed each other in the hallways numerous times throughout the day, they ate lunch side by side, and they said goodbye at 3:15, as they did every day for five years. That night his friend took his own life.

On Tuesday morning, with the news of his friend’s death, my son’s heart broke and his world changed. Prior to this tragedy, my son lived in the beautiful bubble of a happy childhood. Sure, he’d faced fear, struggle, and disappointment, but in light of the nuclear blast of that Tuesday morning, the rest looked like fireflies in a dark sky. My husband and I found ourselves walking a strange and uncertain path alongside our grieving son. How could we help him?

When we first heard the news that morning, we found ourselves utterly empty of words to say, ideas to offer, or wisdom to share. Instead, we huddled on the couch and clung to one another. In the quiet of that embrace, God led us moment by moment, word by word. Prayers sprang forward, encircling our trio as we sat and wept. In the hours and days to come, our faith would prove the only steady resting place.

Soon we began to receive phone calls and visits from dear friends who were unafraid to enter into our brokenness. I will never forget those who were brave enough to come to our home, face our tears, and endure our grief. These friends wisely resisted advice, but rather they offered their tender presence. My son’s small group leader came over, brought lunch, and spent the afternoon playing on the game system with my son: the gift of normalcy in a world where normal lost all definition.

In the days, weeks, and months to come, we learned to walk in and through our grief together. Tears were frequent, but they weren’t hidden. Questions were raised, most without answers. Memories surfaced, and we paused to honor them. Our family learned to be open with each other in a way that felt risky and raw, but the fruit of that was honesty and transparency in our grief. We mourned together, and we moved toward healing together.

The gift of normalcy in a world where normal lost all definition.

Two years have passed since that tragic Tuesday. My son has grown into a courageous, compassionate young man who has been profoundly shaped by this loss. In fact, we have no idea know how deeply he has been shaped by his friend’s death. It reveals itself gradually and will continue to do so throughout his life. While I would rewrite this part of his story if I could, I find myself marveling at the ways our family walked together in the midst of this grief and the way we were transformed as we walked through the valley of the shadow together.

More on Teen Suicide here. You may like My God in the Darkness and Is Battling Depression Disappointing God?

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Susan cherishes the beauty of the Smoky Mountains, the bloom of a Dogwood tree, and the taste of her mother’s pound cake. She betrays her roots by taking her tea “unsweetened.”

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