When Taylor got to the car, her cheeks were red and her eyes were brimming with angry tears. I knew something was wrong. Cate leaned over and said, “Taylor, why are you crying?”
“Shut up, Catey!” Taylor snapped back.
And Cate, to her credit, did not respond but wordlessly faced forward and dropped her head. It wasn’t the time to talk about it. I watched her in the rear view mirror as we drove. When we got home, Taylor wrenched open her door, stormed inside, and up the stairs. I heard her heavy footsteps and took a deep breath. Knowing I needed a few uninterrupted minutes, I got Cate a juice box and a snack, got her situated in front of the computer and headed upstairs.
Loud cries were coming from the other side of the door as I prepared to turn the knob. Taylor was face down on her bed, whole body wracked with sobs, the eyes that rose up to meet mine were no longer mad, they betrayed the pain that had taken hold. I felt my heart crack wide open in my chest. Her face showing the depth of what she was feeling.
I paused a moment, weighing the moment carefully, before sitting next to her. The room filled with her sounds. I looked at her, the same child that was handed to me ten years ago, wrapped in a blanket, barely filling my arms she was so tiny. Now, with her 7.5 size shoes kicked off at the foot of her bed, I’m aware of how much time has passed and how it feels like I haven’t had the chance to recognize it, how much I want her to know. I watch her ribs rise and drop with ragged breaths as she begins to calm herself down. She doesn’t fight my presence, letting me sit there, even snuggling an inch closer to me.
This is a moment we’ll have more than once, it’s just beginning. At ten, she’s just starting to feel complex emotions in her young life. Betrayal, embarrassment, wanting to fit in, feeling out of place, finding her way, and all while she transitions into being a teenager. And those are hard years. And there are tough roads ahead. I’ve seen them. They loomed so large ahead but seem so small looking now back on them.
Gently, I touched her shoulder, pulled her up and into my lap like I used to do when she was much smaller. Her head nestled into my neck and she quietly retold the story, being embarrassed at school, the feeling that her whole world was shaken, and no matter how small, the experience has taken a piece of her innocence away from me and left a scar in its place. Not the first and not the last. And we want our children to pass through these years as unscathed as possible, never knowing what lies ahead. After twenty minutes or so of listening to her, her tears had dried and laughter had now replaced her distress. And I could relax again.
And as I left her room, I took her hands saying, “No matter what, just promise me that you’ll talk to me. Please. And know in every part of your heart that you are loved and that this will pass. It will always pass.” And she nodded absently, her eyes still puffy and red, dismissing my message almost immediately. And she can’t possibly know the urgency that exists in my heart to make her feel the realness of that. For her to believe that she can survive anything that she faces and that she’s never alone. That I know how much strength she has.
I’ve seen the darkest side to that sadness. And today was just one moment, but there will be more. And I don’t speak of it often, but depression and suicide took someone very special from me and it was something that didn’t swoop in and carry them away suddenly in despair, but something that chipped away over time until they felt they had no choice. And I was there, every day, living unaware of it in my presence, of the depth of that pain he carried. And so now, I’m left without him. I’m left with regrets.
And nothing can ever become so bad, can ever be believed to be so permanent. And the hardships will come, and I can’t keep them from coming… and I wouldn’t keep them all – there are lessons there. There is grace is overcoming them, in finding yourself in the chaos and noise. But, please, speak up when it’s too much. Speak up, when there is more that you need, when you feel invisible, when the hope is slipping away even if it is just for a second. Speak up then. Don’t wait.
I’ll never leave you there, in that place. I’ll never let it be what you believe you deserve or that it’s something you have to face alone. And I can’t promise I will be able to make it better… but I can promise to never leave your side and never give up because I know what is on the other side of the difficult times.
And I’ll raise you to trust yourself, to believe that your strength is enough on its own, but I’ll still be here….just in case you need a reminder.
[Writer’s note: If you or someone you love needs help. Needs to talk, tell them to speak up. Visit http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or call 1-800-273 – TALK (8255)]