Why One Father Is Struggling to Forgive Himself After His Bullied Son's Suicide
Kids started teasing Ryan Halligan in fifth grade. When Ryan told his father, John, that he was being picked on, John's initial response was, "It's just words. You need to just ignore him."
But the bullying got worse. When Ryan began developing a friendship with another student only to have their relationship betrayed when the new friend began spreading a rumor that Ryan was gay.
Ryan began receiving vulgar, homophobic emails, and not telling his parents. The following month, emotionally battered by bullies and suffering through undiagnosed depression, Ryan hung himself in the bathroom of his home.
It's been 12 years since Ryan Halligan committed suicide and seven years since John shared their story on The Oprah Show. Today, John tells us that he feels no resentment toward the kids who teased his son. "They were just children making some bad decisions, and we forgave them a long time ago," John says.
He hasn't quite forgiven himself, though. "The part I'm struggling with the most is forgiving myself because I do feel like there were mistakes I made along the way that could have prevented this."
Here, John opens up about the fallout from his son's suicide, his devotion to informing the world about cyberbullying and the latest on his upcoming book with the working title "If I Could Have a Do-Over": A Father's Hard-Earned Lessons About Cyberbullying, Depression, and Suicide.