Dear Teen Me,
I remember how it feels, slumped on the bathroom floor, tears streaming down your face, trying to keep your sobs quiet so no one will know how much it hurts. Every day hurts. So much. And for good reason. You miss him. Your big brother. The one who used to pick up when you fell, the one who steered you toward the cool comic books, the one who you would pester non-stop. I’m sorry he’s gone. So, so sorry. Suicide. The one word no one says to your face, but you hear it everywhere behind your back. You feel their eyes on you, watching you, waiting to see if you’ll follow in his footsteps. But they don’t know how strong you are. You don’t even know how strong you are. The day he chose to end his life, the day you regret not saying something profound to him, not saying much of anything at all to him, that day will always hurt. In fact, most days will. For a long time. His birthdays will pass. So will yours. You will face milestones he never reached, like your first date, your sixteenth birthday, your High School graduation. Eventually, as time goes on, you’ll reach the day when you realize you’ve lived longer without him in your life than with. You’ll forget the scent of his soap. The way he looked when he smiled. The sound of his voice. You will keep the memories of walking home with him from school, playing video games, arguing over almost everything, and staying up all night that one Christmas Eve, playing with all your new toys. You’ll always wonder why. Your parents will tell you he was sick with a disease no one knew about until he was already gone. You’ll sneak around them and read his last words for yourself and spend years trying to decipher them. You’ll spend the rest of your life wishing and wondering “what ifs” and “if onlys”. And you’ll spend so much time asking why. Why him? Why your family? Why you? Why does this happen to anyone? Even now, as an adult, I can’t answer these questions for you. What I can say, however, is what happened to him wasn’t your fault. You were eleven years old. There was no way you could have known, nothing you could have done. The guilt you have is a normal feeling, but you have to let it go. Guilt. Sadness. Loneliness. They drive you. Don’t let them. Take the wheel back. I know it seems easier to disappear into the unfeeling haze of alcohol, drugs, and boys, but these distractions won’t do the trick forever. None of those things can heal the gaping, open wound in your heart. Time will help. Your friends will too.
In your late teen years, you’ll try to find solace in love. That ends up exploding in your face. But it’s okay. It will all be okay. He wasn’t the right boy for you. When you’re ready, the right person will show up in your life and turn everything around. He’ll help you cope, help you heal, help you remember the good and keep what little you still have of your brother alive in your heart. The love of your life will be there for you. A man you won’t be afraid to lower your walls for. And will you be surprised by who he is, because you’ve already met the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with. Sadness will not always be a part of your everyday life, but not a single day will ever go by when you don’t think of the brother you lost that one day in May. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, but it helps. I wish I could jump in a time machine and hug you, teen Lisa. To tell you everything will be okay. To give you that concrete proof you’ve always needed before jumping in or believing something you aren’t sure about. The next time the pain bubbles up so bad you think about not going on, just remember your mom and your dad. They need you as bad as you need them. You’ll keep each other going, you’ll keep each other alive. When your chest feels like it might explode, and your hands beat against the dingy bathroom floor, I’ll be there with you, stroking your hair and drying your tears, promising you everything will be all right. Love always, Lisa P.S. Pay attention in English class. You’ll thank me someday.
Lisa M. Basso was born and raised in San Francisco, California. She is a lover of books, video games, animals, and baking (not baking with animals though). As a child she would crawl into worlds of her own creation and get lost for hours. Her love for YA fiction started with a simple school reading assignment: S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. When not reading or writing she can usually be found at home with The Best Boyfriend that Ever Lived ™ and her two darling (and sometimes evil) cats, Kitties A and B.