Some of you have wounds like scrapes, like road rash after a bad fall from a bike. Those wounds are ugly and hurt like hell and are visible to all but they scab over quickly. These are the luckiest of you. You have felt the pain and you will never forget, but you probably feel a little better already and you’ll feel much better soon.
Others of you have wounds like bruises, which turn lurid colors and invite people to ask how you’re doing. These bruises hurt when you poke at them but sometimes you can go a few hours without thinking about the pain. You too are lucky, as the bruises will fade eventually.
The hardest injury to bear is the puncture wound. These wounds are not so visible but the damage can be catastrophic. Maybe your heart is punctured and every memory is fresh pain. Maybe your lungs were hit, and you still can’t breathe deeply. Maybe it feels like your very brain itself was lanced, and you still can’t fall sleep without troubling images floating behind your eyelids.
And some of you have all of these injuries. Some of you still feel acute pain and it seems like nothing is helping - you can't sleep, you've lost weight, you cry a lot, nothing seems like fun. If this sounds like you, I’m begging you to ask your parents to let you talk to a professional. Grief counseling might save your life. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. You don’t need to be suicidal to call. If you need someone to talk to, who won’t mind if you cry a little, or a lot, there are real-life angels waiting to pick up your call, every single minute of every single day.
What worries me the most, is that many of you, especially the closest friends of Alex and Calvin, are heading off to college in days or weeks. You’ll arrive there, with your scabs and your bruises and your puncture wounds and no one will be able to see them. The new friends you will meet won’t want to hear about the accident. They don’t know you, and this isn’t their tragedy. They will want to embrace college, and all the drinking and partying and lack of parental control that comes with it.
I can’t tell you how to handle that. Each one of you will need to figure it out, and you will. Don’t panic when something triggers a terrible memory. You have a whole community of support back home – don’t ever forget that – and you have friends sprinkled like stars across the country and the world, sitting in their dorm rooms, feeling what you feel. Call or text each other and when you see those faces on your phone – PICK UP! You will need each other more than ever in this first semester of college, especially these first few weeks.
Only time can heal the scrapes and the bruises and the puncture wounds. Let time do its thing, take deep breaths when you feel awful and know that you are so, so loved.