My teacher and coauthor Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who originally came up with the five stages of grief, would have trouble finding acceptance these days when it comes to bullycide. The grief that follows a teenage suicide because of bullying can easily become complicated grief. As we begin to unravel it, you can see where the term complicated grief comes from. Any aspect that complicates a death can result in grieving that is more intense, of longer duration and with greater difficulty in finding peace in the loss. First and foremost, a precious child has died. When a teenager dies, you are left with the tremendous pain of the loss itself. Suicide has long had the bumper sticker of "a permanent solution to a temporary problem." Parents are left wondering how things got so bad that their child could not have come to them for help. Then, to find out that their teenager's pain was a result of other teenagers' intentional actions, the loss becomes even more crushing.
In grief and loss we want answers; we want to find reasons for tragedies. As often mentioned, in the grief of suicide, everyone is left to wonder how this could have happened. Could the parent of the teenager who killed him- or herself have done more? The answer to this is surprising. Parents of a teenager who commits suicide because of bullying often had a good relationship with their child. Yet parents may ask why their child did not turn to them for help. Many answers have been put forth. Maybe he or she was embarrassed by the bullying? Being a part of the school culture, did he/she feel it had to be worked out alone? Did the child feel he/she had come forward and the bullying was observed and nothing was done, so nothing will ever get better? Was a code of silence allowed to replace the Golden Rule? No matter what the answers, we are left to the sad reality that our young loved one will never be coming back.
The grief of losing the victim easily extends to the teenagers who bullied them. Many bullies report they are haunted by their actions long into adulthood. And that's when no one died. Many times their own grief becomes overlooked by all. Sadly for them, they are left to deal with a loss they unknowingly helped create. These are teenagers who let their words and actions become too ruthless. They will forever live with the harshness of unintended consequences. The goal of bullying is to be mean and to upset, harass and make fun of someone else. So the bully will always know that he or she meant to hurt someone—but just not that much—and ended up crossing the line. This must be a horrible guilt/loss to endure. The bully's parents may also feel much grief and anger at themselves and the school, believing that if limits had been set, perhaps their child would not have gone so far.
New lesson from the 5 stages of grief