Read the first page below or click here to read the entire essay: Maggie Pfutner – Those Who Get Left Behind
For most people, losing a friend or loved one is the most difficult thing that they will have to deal with in their life. When that person is an adolescent who may not have personally dealt with death before and especially a death from suicide, the process of grieving can become even more difficult and complicated.
In 2009, 4,630 young adults ages 10-24 died by suicide (“Youth Suicidal Behavior”). For each of these deaths a conservative estimate is that “as many as 6 to 10 survivors (persons close to the suicide victim) remain to cope with the loss” (Mitchell et al. 12). Most people can see that this is a tragedy, an epidemic, but to many, it is also just a number. Personally, I will never be able to look at this statistic without thinking that it would have been one less had the decisions that my friend, Cherelle, made that year been altered. In April of my freshman year of high school I lost Cherelle to suicide, and I have lived the past four years of my life affected by her choice in more ways that I ever would have imagined. While we were never terribly close, her choice changed the way that I look at just about everything in life.
While researching this topic, I came across a statement by Jane Wolfe, who spoke as both a professional who deals with adolescents and as a parent who lost her child to suicide. While addressing the effects the suicide of a student has on a school Wolfe writes, “For many of the students and teachers in the school, the concept of ‘normal’ has been changed forever” (5). I don’t think that Wolfe could have put it better because the suicide of a peer or a student is something that will affect the lives of numerous survivors, probably for the rest of their lives. Since the day that I found out about Cherelle’s death, I saw, and still see, changes in myself and in many of my friends who were also close to Cherelle. Personally, I would argue that the estimated 6-10 lives affected by each suicide is much too low, as I saw dozens of people grieving, devastated and forever affected by Cherelle’s death. Adolescent suicide is a tragedy in our country, and there is no question that something needs to be done to change that. However, what I want to focus on is those who survive the suicide of a friend or family member- the survivors that get left behind.