Sculpted Into Understanding

By The High School Student

Sculpted Into UnderstandingYesterday was a very hard day. Today was worse. Why? A freshman at my high school committed suicide. I knew him — in fact, I talked to him yesterday morning. When I heard the first round of rumors last night, I thought, there’s no way this is true. Someone is spreading a seriously messed-up rumor. But I knew it was true when I walked into the school building and saw so many red eyes staring back at me.

I met one of my best friends at the same place we meet every morning. We went and stood at the end of the hall where our friend had had his first class of the day, and I looked at her. This is going to be the hardest ten steps of my life, I said to her. “I’m here,” she said, and we walked past the door that he would never walk through again.

That’s when I started bawling. I cried all morning, as did so many other kids around school. I ended up going to the guidance office instead of first period.

The counselor escorted another friend and me to an empty classroom where there were two women I’d never seen before and a few other girls. Those two women were counselors from other local schools, who stayed with us and talked to us all period. They helped us try to make sense of our grief and gave us what little information they had.

The six other girls in the room and I laid out our grief and anger in front of those two angels and they acknowledged it, even though to some people we are just lowly children and don’t need answers.

An hour and a half, a handful of tissues, and a lot of hugs later, I walked out of that room with the strength to support my friends and carry on. I hugged, laughed, cried, and most importantly, I dealt.

They were there all day — doing for others what they did for me. Sometimes I wonder how guidance counselors can do their job and not go crazy.

The grief in that room was so real you could have reached out and molded it with your hands — which is exactly what those two women did. We handed them our grief and they sculpted it into understanding. We handed them our tears and they made a reflecting pool. I can truly tell you I’m
OK; I’m not crying while I write this.

To think, they didn’t even have to do this — they comforted us out of the kindness of their hearts.

They weren’t afraid to tell us they didn’t know the answers to all our questions, and helped us come to terms with the fact that no one might ever know the specifics. Those two ordinary women shone light on a dark alley that most adults would step around and try to explain away. Thank heavens for guidance counselors.

Originally published as HeroicStories #566 on Nov. 16, 2004

2 thoughts on “Sculpted Into Understanding”

  1. Just wanted you to know – I usually get these by email. Today I had to read it on the site because the email format was messed up somehow, and the ends of the lines were not present. As far as the story goes – I battle with periodic depression, and I went through a time, many years ago, when I actually researched suicide and chose my method. I obviously didn’t go through with my plans, and I have found ways to help me cope with my periodic “slumps” – counseling, exercise, and writing being the methods I use most frequently – but having been close enough to actually research it, I understand some of the despair that people have felt. It can often feel as though there is no light, no hope, no encouragement, nothing worth anything to live for. While it is true that things can be difficult, the no hope, etc., is a false narrative. But when you are in the depths of depression and despair, that is all you see.
    “When the Shadow Sees the Sun; Creatives surviving Depression” is the name of a benefit book available on Amazon. It is a collection of short stories, essays, and poems from writers who have dealt with or are dealing with depression. The book is dedicated to Logan Masterson, a talented writer who lost his battle with depression, and published by Pro Se Press. We all donated our works, and all profit goes to suicide prevention.

  2. This story reminds me of an incident my junior year in high school.

    I entered the building one Monday morning at my usual arrival time. This was early 90’s, pre-Columbine, so you could enter anywhere. I usually entered at a corridor housing the gym, auditorium, and cafeteria.

    As soon as I stepped through the second set of doors in the vestibule, I knew something was wrong. Normally, by the time I arrive, there’s lots of energy and activity and noise echoing down this corridor from the classroom wings at either end. That day, it was muted.

    The other thing that caught my attention was our junior class guidance counselor calmly seated at a bench along the corridor. So naturally I asked him what was going on. (This was of course, pre-social media and the nascent beginnings of the public internet.)

    One of my junior classmates, not one I knew well, had committed suicide over the weekend. It was prom season, and my classmates’s girlfriend was a photographer’s assistant who was killed by a drunk driver coming home from working a county school’s prom just a week or two early. Aannnddd, we had just had the pre-prom don’t-drink-and-drive warning via a staged crash, which was far too close to home for him to bear. I remember seeing him upset and walking away early from the presentation.

    I was saddened to hear the news, but not grief-stricken enough to seek counseling. I do remember that classes became less effective as other students dropped out of class to grieve at home or take advantage of what counselors were there. And the overall mood wasn’t conducive to learning that day.

    I did not need them that day, but our counselors were on the ball just like those at the author’s high school.


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