This is a hard thing. Lots of you have more life experience than I do, so I'm hoping for some advice.
One of my former students I believe committed suicide. He was a smart kid, brilliant actually. He was hard working and always had a smile on his face.
I got an message from his parents asking me to speak at a remembrance for him. He was only mid teens. I have to assume it was suicide, but this isn't confirmed. It was not illness. At first I got a call from my principal that he was "missing/lost." This did not end well however it ended.
The parents did not ask many former teachers, I might be one of the only teachers. I'm not sure how to approach this. He was a happy kid. That's how I knew him. He had everything going for him, could have gone to Harvard or any other school. His parents were wonderful and supportive. I used to work with him doing advanced math and physics and though he was an early teen at the time.
Any idea how to approach this? I don't want to mess this up. Thanks.
I am profoundly sorry this happened.
Concerning suicide; " It is a cause and effect world." Quoted by my minister after the suicide of a family member.
Anything said that will comfort the parents is right. Anything else is wrong. Accuracy is not important.
I'm not sure what will comfort the parents. It would be weird to say he was always happy, smiling, and had everything going for him, if this is how it ended.
Jan .... that is tough. I have done it several times for friends and relatives. I always try and keep it positive and speak of all the positive memories I have of the person and how they affected me and others around them. For my cousin's husband several years ago I spoke about several things I may have known about him that others may not have known ..... particularly that he had voted for Richard Nixon, although he was a dyed in the wool liberal .... got a few chuckles. At my cousin's service I talked about how he had taught me about science and physics by holding me down and burning my hand with a magnifying glass (with help from the sun) from a Crackerjacks box. Those are kind of silly, but things their friends probably never heard. You may know something about him others didn't.
I find it much more difficult to do for people that do not have a strong background of faith. Of course, that may not have been something that was shared and we may not know. We don't always know what is in someone's heart. You can always share a message of hope for those in attendance. I am not a minister, and it may not be our job, but we can all share hope and encouragement. Hope this helps a bit.
PS: Just read Bill's post and I agree 100% ...... most important of all!
Edited by - BanjoLink on 08/29/2020 16:51:03
Thanks so much. This poor kid.
I feel for you Jen it is hard giving a solemn address at such a sad moment and to say something eloquent for grieving hearts for the natural funeral ceremony the death by suicide makes it more difficult. You or his parents may never know what the young lad was contemplating and what was the catalyst to his decision, to end his life. Maybe a eulogy about loving one another and not be afraid of talking and the saying I love you to loved ones more because the only promise we have is the moment.
Thank the kid for the things he did.
For the things you are proud of him doing ( math/physics).
Thank him for his bright social outlook that was cheerful to all.
Always positive, never any contradictions ( even if there were.) Best left unsaid.
I'm just disappointed that we won't get to see the rest of it unfold.
"I remember him as a smart kid, brilliant actually. He was hard working and always had a smile on his face. He was a joy to have in class and I am so glad that I had the chance to know him. I will always remember the time when he -----(something you recall) ----- -----and I will always treasure his memory".
I am assuming that you are one of several speakers and are not having to carry the whole program yourself, but something upbeat like my above suggestion should suffice. Short is good as the parents will likely want this ordeal over asap. You won't be taking away any grief. You are just helping them get through this socially required public ordeal.
Thank all of you so much. I really appreciate it.
Talk about how you perceived him as his teacher, how teachers try to help their students find their way into adulthood, how you were sure that his personality and talents that made him special would pave him a way into a good future - and how you can't comprehend that he isn't there any more to walk his way through life.
I would not mention the suicide possibility. The parents have enough grief over his death without being reminded how he died. I'm with others: keep it short but upbeat as possible under the circumstances. I like Banjo bill-e's first sentence: short, kind, truthful.
Bill Eckles suggestion is a good one. I’ve given a number of eulogies and there’s no need to go near cause of death unless it’s relevant - something like the person asked for donations to whatever they passed from. Talking about how they enriched your life is great.
If it’s possible and appropriate I sometimes tell an amusing anecdote about the person or a short (clean) joke they liked.
Lastly, less is more. Know when you’ve said enough.
Approach it with love of your student, his parents and his friends. Approach it with healing.None of us are perfect so it cannot be expected of him. So no need to go there. We do not celebrate our imperfections. But there is beauty in all and that is a gift we are all graced with and that is what we live for. Bring that out because that should always be appreciated and treasured.
good luck. you will do great. You were asked because they knew that YOU knew.
Tell a story or two that illustrates him at his best. Say you'll miss him. Leave it at that.
having lived through this myself,, there is not much anyone can say that will comfort the parents right now. they will be going through a series of emotions starting with shock,, and lost feeling. it will last a while. if you have to speak,, just remember the lighter times with this student . just keep it as you remember him in life , stay away from as to how and why. many times we never know. you strike me as highly educated and a kind heart,,, use them both with this task. i will pray for you and the family.
I agree with Brian and Bill. Keep it positive and about your personal relationship with the student. Avoid anything that might relate to suicide, or his bright future, only about the time he was here. Funerals are supposed to be a celebration of the life of the individual, not dwell on the death.
I attended the funeral of a suicide victim a few years ago, and one of the speakers did nothing but dwell on the suicide and how she had wished he had reached out. It was extremely awkward. All the other speakers kept it light, telling stories about him that made us all smile or even laugh.
I understand what you are going through. I lost a very bright student to suicide several years ago, and then had his younger sister in class the year he killed himself. People who aren't teachers don't understand how close the bond becomes between teacher and student.
I agree with DC5.....we tend to forget who the service is for.....it’s for the living who are in various stages of grief. The attendees will want to know who you are....remember you were selected because it was felt you were important in this person’s life...which to me would indicate the student was in yours.....tell them why.
But also acknowledge the parents......funerals are very difficult ....full of emotion, and sometimes rage. In an odd way, many people attending and showing support for the parents is a type of gift....the gift of caring, it says....we are here and are trying to understand. I’ve spoken at a few funerals....it’s never easy trying to find the words of what you want to say.....many of the prior posters have given excellent suggestions.....many of which I wish I had at the time I had to speak. Sorry for your loss.
This is our second suicide this year (assuming, if it was kidnapping etc it would have made the news). Our high school is incredibly competitive and the other student was also brilliant and had everything going for them. I wish as a school we could take measures to address the stress and pressure. It's like they are already in college but are still kids, and the expectation is for them to go ivy and cure cancer or create the next Microsoft. This is the end result. I've seen the stress at this place for a decade.
I appreciate all of your suggestions. There are two or three other teachers who will be speaking, who I saw listed on an email, so I'll keep it short. I'm the only former teacher, so that was thoughtful of them to reach out.
Edited by - JMalmsteen on 08/30/2020 07:04:22
Quote: "I attended the funeral of a suicide victim a few years ago, and one of the speakers did nothing but dwell on the suicide and how she had wished he had reached out. It was extremely awkward. All the other speakers kept it light, telling stories about him that made us all smile or even laugh."
Good points, Dave. I know you know this Jen, but way too often speakers forget why they are there and tend to say more about themselves than the person they are there to honor. I first realized this a few years ago when I listened to friend do the introduction of a mutual friend who was to receive an award. If I didn't know better I would have thought the person doing the introduction was getting the award.
Ack this is so sad. There are almost 100 people on the Zoom. He's missed. Thank you all for your help.
I recently lost a dear nephew, who had been a drug addict for years, and we did try to help every way possible. He never believed he would lose his life this way, and actually ended up with a simple overdose that had gray ghose heroin planted in it (a recent trend in our area causing many overdoses).
I am only sharing the two thoughts that come to mind for me, that gave me solace. We live in a world that is both physical and spiritual. We can live in the heavenly spiritual part or be chased by the demons of this world... no, not little imps or creatures, but those things that affect our minds, sucha s drugs, alcohol, and even situations. Those are the demons. Once we lose our loved ones, there is some consolation to know they are not being chased by these demons of their minds any longer. They have finally found their best peace.
To this I can speak of the only two consolations for everyone else who may be affected by whatever demons of this world are coming after them. Let someone lead you to the spiritual side that is happy. Because 1. You always have value to someone, and someone is always praying for you. 2. This is investment. There are people investing in you and your future, no matter what demons you face.
For those affected, you have value and support. Someone is always investing in you, if prayers are all they can do. For the families, Keep investing in your loved ones. Help them shed the demons that chase them, even if only in their minds. And if you cannot,find another person to invest in. Do not let this moment go to waste. Learn from it.
Thanks my friends, for allowing me to rattle on. We don't always win the war, but sometimes the small battles are worth the fight.
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