Tween death tragedy

I’ve pondered long and hard over whether to write this one. Because it’s not my story. It’s not my tragedy. But it is affecting my family and it’s making me think and that’s why I’ve decided to write it.

Absent-mindedly scrolling through twitter as I do, I came across a news story. I froze. A 12 year old girl had died. A 12 year old girl from my son’s school. He’d told me that a girl in his class was very ill in hospital, that ‘some of the girls were crying’. I called him to ask her name. Although I already knew.

We both read the story on screen. Me with tears pouring down my face. Him repeating ‘That’s very sad, that’s very, very sad’ and asking me how it could have happened. How could it have happened? How could I answer that?

Reading about any child’s death (or any parent’s, or indeed pretty much anyone’s) is heartbreaking and makes me cry. A child in my own son’s class is almost impossible to comprehend.

My son is a boy of few words. A lot of the time he is silent. It’s either that or talking about crazy MI6 spy plots or ways to make money. Or complaining about his brother and sister or having a go at them. This girl wasn’t his friend. He had barely even spoken to her, but her death has, understandably, affected him.

He wanted to look at the flowers outside school over half-term. We don’t buy the local paper, but he brought it home from Grandma’s house and wouldn’t let it go into the recycling bin.

He came home from school on the first day after half term and reported that their tutor, the deputy head, all of the girls and some of the boys were crying. He didn’t cry, but crying isn’t his style. He was one of the few who didn’t cry when he left primary school.

There was a memorial assembly for her, with A LOT more crying. He told me about the music. About her mum and dad being there. He called them by their first names not ‘her mum and dad’.

This is the boy who hardly speaks, but this stuff is all in his head and he is sharing it with me. At night I hear him sharing even more with his brother. More detail about the music, the crying, what people said.

It’s made me realise there is a lot more going on in his head than I sometimes give him credit for, that just because he doesn’t speak much it doesn’t mean he doesn’t think or doesn’t care.

But it’s also made me think about life and death. How that little girl was there and then she was gone. A happy, healthy girl, with a family and friends who loved her. The descriptions in the paper make her sound like exactly the girl you would want for your own daughter (actually, they make her sound a lot like my daughter). A beautiful girl who was hard-working, well behaved, well loved and talented. A girl with everything to live for.

What if that was my boy, or my girl? When my son talks about his ridiculous spy plots or his far-fetched money-making schemes, I need to try to not get irritated by him. Maybe that girl had irritated her mum and dad too. Because most kids do, after all. I know that he only has to fall and cut his leg and my irritation is gone in a flash. Totally forgotten. All I can think about is how much I love him and how I want to make him better.

For that family and others like them there is no making things better. But their sad story has made me realise my son cares more than he lets on – and that I need to remember how much I care about him. Because life can be cut cruelly short.

In memory of my son’s classmate. We made a donation to the children’s hospital in his name.

I took the decision not to name the girl in this post because I haven’t asked her parents’ permission to post and also to protect my own son’s identity.

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. Oh gosh Sarah, this is terrible. It really does make you realise just how fragile life can be – there one minute and gone the next – in the blink of any eye, it would seem. So tragic. I think your son’s reaction and feelings sound very similar to my children’s – they don’t wear their heart on their sleeve (the exact opposite) but as you say, our children actually are ‘thinkers’ and it’s so lovely that he is beginning to share this with you. I am sure this is a tragedy that he will always remember, even if he wasn’t close to her. Someone died at our school and it had a lasting effect on me 🙁

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  2. Oh wow, how horrendous. Just imaginable. Those poor parents. A friend of mine died in her teens (i’m now 35) and I probably think of her 3-4 times a week, every week – probably more than I do about my Daddy (died when i was 24). There’s something about children’s deaths that… oh i don’t know, just doesn’t bear thinking about. Well written and I pray your son continues to talk about it – what a brave young man xxx

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  3. A difficult and shocking one for a 12 year old to understand and deal with. It happened to my son too. They process things in different ways to us but it does affect them and for the first time make them think perhaps they are not invincible.

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  4. such a sad story, it is heartbreaking hearing of anyones passing but like you say when they are close to home it is even more so, I hope your son continues to talk to you and his brother. There was a little girl only 4 who sadly died suddenly after menegitis, just before christmas at my youngest school last year, in the year below him. he although very young talked about it and still does occasionally 🙁 x

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  5. Oh my goodness, I just read about this. It is so tragic. I’m completely touched to read that she was an organ donor and had saved the lives of 4 other people. What a horrendous decision for her parents. I’m sorry to hear your son has been affected. I’ve no advice I’m afraid. Just hugs. Xxx

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  6. Thank you very much, everyone. Really appreciate your comments.
    Pressie – that’s both scary and amazing that you still think of your friend that often. A girl in my class died age 12 too, but she had cancer and had been ill a long time. Her parents spoke at old school when my son left – I was in bits, worse than everyone else, because I remembered.
    I’m glad he’s got his brother to talk to – he prefers talking to his brother rather than me. x

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  7. There are so many awful stories, and whilst they are scary, it’s useful to stop and think about life more preciously than we usually do. I’ve had something this week that has made my daughter talk more than usual, and I was amazed at her levels of perception and emotion. It does sound like your son is dealing with it in the best way possible.

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  8. I think he is, thanks very much. It’s amazing how our kids can grow up and surprise us. Glad your daughter is dealing with things well.

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  9. We have to the learn the lessons somehow, and you could share his sadness and guide him x.

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  10. Cherish each moment with your loved ones! My daughter was diagnosed with and multiply disabled by brain cancer twelve years ago when she was two. Praise God she is alive, but it is not always easy. Although I have come to accept it, I will never understand why.

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  11. So sad,it always upset me when you hear of someones child has died. Makes you just want to hug your own child and wrap them up in cotton wool 🙁

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  12. It is very sad. My brother was killed when he was 6 and I almost 3 – so all of my parenting has been wrapping them up in cotton wool. I guess it’s one of the main reasons I’m a SAHM mom.
    I hope your son is ok, are the school offering counselling?
    I see the community have been very supportive in donating to her fund xx

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  13. Thank you very much, ladies.
    So sorry to hear about your daughter, Sylvia. I’m certainly doing my best to cherish my kids and the time I have with them.
    Sorry to hear about your brother too, Pinkoddy. How awful for your parents and you. Bound to affect your decisions re your own children. Son seems to be OK. I am grateful he didn’t know her better than he did. Not sure about counselling, they may be offering it to people who were closer to her.
    Really appreciate all of your comments. X

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  14. This is so so sad Sarah, we had a similar situation recently our next door neighbours son (ages 14) took his own life and it took months for Beth to actually be able to deal with it, she couldnt comprehend why. Tweens and teens are filled with so many emotions. xx

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  15. It’s awful, isn’t it? Must have been really hard to have it happen so close to home. Teens and tweens certainly have a tough time.

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