The other day I had a conversation that stayed with me deeply. It started when my sister told me about a neighborhood boy who lived across the street from us whose house had been torn down. Despite the proximity and the shared bus stop I am not sure I could say I actually knew him. In retrospect I don’t think there is really anyone who can lay claim to ever truly knowing him. Sadly none of us will ever get the chance because he took his own life.
He was a quiet young man, who I can almost never remember looking anyone in the eye. Despite his seemingly imposing stature he was one of the gentlest souls I have ever come across. He was one of the only people who showed me any kindness as a bullied newcomer on the bus to school. I remember feeling a sense of relief when I saw him come, always at the last minute, to the bus stop in the morning. He kept to himself but always had a polite greeting and maybe a little small talk when we crossed paths.
I thought about how he lived as a shadow without ever truly connecting to anyone outside of his mother and grandmother. He shut himself away from all those around him. It made me wonder why and it made me wish I had not been just a tiny child of eight so maybe I could have reached out to him as a real friend. I wish I knew enough to truly tell his story.
Although his story comes from quite a few years back now it is heartbreakingly the truth of many young people today. There is a sickening rise in the amount of young people feeling like their lives are not worth continuing.
I remember being one of those invisible kids who at times was grateful for being ignored to get a break from the torment of my peers. However, I was fortunate enough to have a few close friends I felt safe enough with to share my pain. They took some of my burden and made me feel like maybe I wasn’t a freak who would never be accepted by anyone. If it hadn’t been for them I do not know what might have happened in my young life.
When I see my young clients today it reminds me of how it felt to be in their shoes. It is important to help them to feel that their pain is real and valid. Even though we may see the “light at the end of the tunnel” it is not always that easy for them in their moment of despair. This may also mean at times we must also work with their parents to make sure they do not dismiss their child’s pain as irrelevant due to their age. With the right encouragement and support it may allow them to heal and feel safe enough to reach out to others.
Nicole Michaud is a Counselor in training in Central Connecticut. She is also the voice behind the cooking Blog MyLoveForCooking.com