Dear readers, in this post I am sharing a piece written by a fellow parent . “The Sound of Her Breath” is written in response to the parent’s experience of having a suicidal teenager.
The Sound of Her Breath
When she was a baby I would sneak in her room to listen to her breath. Although I tried not to obsessively worry about SIDS, I took comfort in the sound of her breath. Sixteen years later I am once again sneaking in her room, listening to her breathing and thanking God that she is still with us. The difference is that an hour later I will return, listen again and thank God again and I will repeat this throughout the night.
It sounds obsessive but we are struggling. Our daughter is suicidal. Even writing those words seems unreal. This cannot be happening. Not to us. Not her.
But it is real. Last year one of the most popular girls in her class committed suicide. She took her life in the room she shared with her younger sister who found her only minutes too late. When this happened we asked the inevitable, “How did her parents not know?”
Now we understand. They did know. They knew she was struggling. They knew she was in pain. And they had gotten her help. For a few years they shuttled her back and forth to inpatient treatment, day hospital care, therapists and psychiatrists. At each sign of trouble they were on top of it and still she died. Still, they lost their little girl.
Her story is not the only story like this. Hers is not even the only story in our community. Just last month there was another suicide in our own neighborhood, three months before that there was another one just down the road. I know we are not alone in our struggle but it doesn’t matter.
Being in this position, watching our child suffer is impossibly hard. We are doing everything we can to help. People keep telling us that. It is their way of comforting us, but what do I hear?
I hear, “If she does kill herself you need to remember, you have done everything you could.”
I hear that it is hopeless. I hear that I am powerless. And I sink. Isn’t that a horrible thing? I sink. Just when my daughter needs my strength and support I am finding myself falling into my own abyss. I am lost and I don’t know how to pull myself out. I want to help her and I can’t.
Since she was a baby I have been there for her. For every boo-boo, cold, fever and heartbreak I have comforted her. But right now I am not a comfort. Right now, nothing I do is helping and I find myself wondering how much of what I say and do is hurting.
I have no answers. So right now, tonight, the best I can do is sneak in her room. Stand beside her bed and listen to her breath. The best I can do is to be thankful that she is still with us.
If your child (or you, or a family member or friend) is experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help. Their phone number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They will connect you to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
To read about our family’s experience with suicide, please read this post.
And be assured that any messages you leave directed at the author of “The Sound Of Her Breath” will be relayed to her.
Thank you for reading this.
Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. My pronouns are she/her/hers.