The stages of grief may have new lessons to teach us in the aftermath of bullycide.
•Denial: This couldn't happen in our school. This couldn't happen in my family, and certainly not to my child. Yes, it could. Talk to your child. Talk to your school.
•Anger: How dare those kids treat someone like this? Where were the teachers? Did the teachers not get help from school administration? Tell your child and the school that bullying is not "boys being boys" or "girls being girls."
•Bargaining: If we had heard about this sooner, could we have stopped it? Why didn't my child see a way out? What if I had asked more questions; might I have realized how bad it was? Don't leave questions unasked. Demand answers.
•Depression: No answers will bring back a teenager who was bullied to death. Empower teenagers to never let it get this bad. That you know "how teenagers are" will not be a reason to leave our kids to their own devices.
•Acceptance: We must acknowledge the loss; we must hope in time for the strength to find forgiveness. In loss we can never forget, but in time, perhaps the love and the memories can become stronger than the pain.
Teachers, especially, may experience the "bargaining" described by Kübler-Ross. After a bullycide, teachers start asking, "If we had done things differently, could we have helped more?"
I sat down recently with teachers of a school where bullying and a suicide attempt had occurred. They saw the signs; they brought it to administration. They saw it minimized and mishandled. I challenged them to have true courage with administration. To make waves. To ask tough questions. We must all now do the same.
David Kessler co-wrote On Grief and Grieving: Finding meaning through the five stages of loss with the legendary Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. His new book is Visions, Trips and Crowded Rooms: Who and what you see before you die. For more information and resources, visit www.grief.com.
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