Understanding and caring are not the same thing. While I know that many students and adults are hurting over Ryan's suicide, I cannot say that I understand all the different ways this is affecting them and even myself. I cannot say that I understand what Ryan went through mentally and emotionally to arrive at suicide and I cannot say that I understand how to even begin to help our band family pick up the pieces.
What I can say is that I CARE.
I CARE if a band student or an adult is struggling.
I CARE if our band family is experiencing depression, tears, confusion, guilt, anger, anxiousness, pain, isolation, rage, trauma, or feeling withdrawn, fragile or burdened.
I CARE about how this has affected you, whether you were close to Ryan or were not because everyone at Bay High has been impacted by his decision.
How can I say with certainty that someone who didn’t know Ryan shouldn’t be affected by his decision? Just like with Ryan’s own internal struggle, I really do not know what others struggle with privately in their own mind and heart. AND NEITHER DO YOU. I caution all who read this to be careful about looking at anyone reacting to this tragedy with judgment or criticism because for all you know that person you are judging could have been considering suicide also and this has struck a nerve deep within. It may be utterly shocking for them to be here, alive to see the fallout from such a huge and tragically permanent decision. Don’t judge those you feel do not have the right to be affected by this. You do not walk in their shoes and do not know their battles. I saw Ryan oftentimes every day of the week, took trips with him, snapped many pictures of him, subbed his classes and hung out in the same geographical locations with him for 4 years and never saw this coming. While I was geographically close to Ryan often, [i.e. band room, Bay High campus, Tommy Oliver Stadium, bus trips etc] I was not in his inner circle nor was I close to him emotionally. I didn’t know the depths of his situation and yet had Ryan told me, he would have known very quickly that I and others around him CARED, adults and students alike. We might not have understood the whys or even understood how to help him, but it would have mattered to us. And Ryan’s death matters, even to people who did not know him. Parents who didn’t know Ryan will grieve for the loss his mother and step dad feel. Students who didn’t know Ryan but have siblings will grieve for the loss his sisters must feel. People who have suffered loss through suicide in their own families and communities will grieve along with us from a place in the heart that holds all the hurt from those other losses, even if they never even met Ryan. Reserve judgment and lavish compassion and kindness anywhere you can. We all need it, even those who remained strangers to Ryan at his death. I CARE enough to choose compassion and kindness even if I do not understand how we have come to the place we are in.
Students outside of our band family at Bay High School have been affected, too. Ryan’s choice has made a ripple in the fabric of our school and community that may defy understanding for weeks, months, even years to come. Some students have voiced fear and concern over being left out of the grieving process because they are not in band. I CARE, although I cannot control nor predict how the grieving process will unfold corporately at Bay High. If this is you, please talk to a teacher, or go to the office and tell them you are hurting, you are grieving and help the administration to understand how impactful Ryan’s decision has been to Bay High, not just to our band family. Bay High CARES, teachers, volunteers, lunchroom ladies, administrators, coaches and custodial staff ALL CARE. Please seek them out even if you don’t understand why you are feeling the way you do or are afraid of your feelings. Give them a chance to care for you hands on and in a real and tangible way. They will even if they don’t understand it, because they care. Chances are, they are hurting too.
A young girl stopped at my table at dinner the day Ryan was found. I did not know her nor did I see her until I heard this tiny voice say, “Are you finding comfort in food too?” I looked up, then at my son thinking she was a friend of his. He looked at me and I realized he didn’t know her either. I looked at her red shirt, then asked if she went to Bay High and was she referring to the events of that day. She said yes and the tears welled up. I stood up and hugged her tight, tried to make some jokes and introduced her to my son. She was not a band student, nor did she really know Ryan but she was hurting too. I was glad she reached out and tried to connect. I may never see her again but in that moment she knew I cared, I knew she cared, and sometimes that is going to be the best we can do for each other. Hug it out and grieve together. And that’s ok.
We were all robbed of the chance to show Ryan how much we cared until it was too late and the only ones who will know are the survivors he left behind. Hopefully, seeing the outpouring of care, love and concern over Ryan's death will speak to the hurting hearts of those who are quietly and secretly contemplating suicide themselves. Please don’t rob me or the people around you of the chance to show you how much we care by choosing suicide. It always is and always will be the wrong solution to the difficulties you are facing. Give hope and caring a chance.
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)