I was about to get into the shower when Luau came to find me. I normally would have kept moving as time was short, but something in his voice stopped me cold. There was a quiet urgency in the way that he said my name. Something wasn’t right.

“I don’t have any details,” he said, “but I need you to know. There was another one.”

A second teenage girl in a Boston suburb had taken her life in as many weeks. A second beautiful young girl who should have been getting up to go to school, trying to figure out what to wear, quarreling with a sibling, scrambling to turn in a project, looking forward to seeing a friend, getting ready for the game .. was gone.

I went to Katie. “I need to talk to you about something,” I said.

I told her what had happened. I told her that I wanted her to hear it from me and not via text or Instagram or the never-ending stream of chatter in the hallways at school. I told her that I needed her to know – to know that being a teenager can be hard. That emotions can get big and scary and that hormones can magnify them and that there might come a time where she feels hopeless.

And I needed her to know – to know that hopeless isn’t real. That there is never, ever, ever actually a time where there is no hope. And that because of that, that there is never, ever, ever a time in which suicide is really the only option, the only way out.

I needed her to know that she could always talk to me or her dad but that if there were ever a time at which she felt like she couldn’t, that she has so many other people in her life to whom she can turn. That she is never alone and that shame can never keep her from seeking help.

“If all else failed,” she said grinning, “I could always move to Nebraska where I don’t know anyone and just start a new life.”

I smiled back at her, “Yup, there’s always Nebraska.”

I told her that I didn’t want to scare her with the conversation, but that I thought it was important that we talk about it. I told her that I didn’t think that any of this would ever be an issue for her, but that .. well, I was fairly certain that neither of the two girls’ parents would have thought that it would be an issue for them either.

I began to well up. Those parents. By God, those parents. I just wanted to reach out to them. To hug them. To shout out the window and into the universe, “I’m so damned sorry.”

“I get it, Mama,” she said. “It’s ok.”

I looked at my girl. My beautiful, brave, smart-as-awhip, compassionate, creative, talented, hopeful girl. My girl who would leave in a few minutes to go get ready for school. To figure out what to wear, to quarrel with her sister, to turn in a project, a day late, as usual.

Just as those two girls should have been doing.

Won’t do again.

I want to scream. To throw something. To watch something shatter.

I want to break something that doesn’t matter to unbreak what does.

I want to Bring. Them. Back.

Did they understand the finality of all this? Could they have?

If only they could have believed in Nebraska.


To Katie and Karen, may you rest in peace, sweet angels.

To the families, there are no sufficient words. I am so, so sorry.


Teen Depression: A guide for Parents

For emergency help — National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK.

22 thoughts on “nebraska

  1. Thank you for handling this so well with Katie and,so importantly, for bringing this to all of your readers’ attention. Every cry for help MUST be taken seriously.

    Love you,

  2. What a beautiful article. A mom who took the time to sit her daughter down in the middle of what was probably a busy morning to let her know that there are other options! I have a 16 year old who was planning to commit suicide back 2 years ago and i will never forget her calling me hysterically as she walked out of the school in the middle of the day telling me she couldnt promise me that she wouldnt hurt herself when she got home. I called out local crisis team and flew home from work. She was put into an adolescent inpatient unit for 3 weeks to try to help get her mind cleared. That helped a bit but she still has moments more often than i wish where she will tell me how those feelings come back so strongly to her. I wish i could fix her. I wish i knew the way to get in that beautiful head of hers. But all i can do is pray everyday that she has the strength to push thru those things that break her spirit.
    So please keep up the great work of letting your daughter know that nothing is worth it.

    • She knew she could call you. She knew you would be there. She knew you would help. That’s everything. Thank you for sharing. Truly.

      Love to both of you.

      • You are right there. Her and i have had a tough road, but she knows that I am the one person who will ALWAYS be there for her as long as I am on this earth. And even when the Lord feels it is my time to go, I will continue on as her angel. Even now as I am at work she knows that she can text me about her schoolwork, as she does online school because of the horrible stress and anxiety she suffered in a brick and mortar school. She knows that I am here always, even when she is mean and nasty because of who knows what.

        Thank you so much for this blog that you are writing. You are a true parent writing about true life, not a fairy tale we all wish we could be in!!

  3. There is most definitely always hope…and Nebraska. This message must be driven home to our youth. I read about so many teen suicides…and it crushes me. Hope. Always.

  4. More years ago than I care to admit, my Mom sat me down and had the same conversation with me after a girl in our school had committed suicide. Words she said that day still live with me today – suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Nothing in life is forever, except death. There should always be hope. And Nebraska.

  5. My heart breaks for the families, and my heart worries about our own children. The stress that society puts on these kids! The stress that the kids put on themselves. They are still kids.

    Family and trust is so important, but I worry for all the families. . . . . because it is hard to say, I need help. But it is important that kids know that there are family members and teachers and community members that want kids to be happy and healthy . . . . we need to make sure every child knows that they have a fan club, no matter what.

  6. Your post today struck a cord within my heart. I have a 10yr old daughter in a RTC in Utah for these exact feelings…and others. But it started with thoughts of suicide. It started with her asking me to kill her because she felt there was no other choice. Thank you and thank Katie for Nebraska. I’m gonna have to talk to my little one and let her know “There’s always Nebraska”. Thank you for this post and please thank Katie for Nebraska for me.

  7. I’m still fairly fresh out of my teenage years and I can vividly remember the stresses that time period brought. My freshmen year of high school included the loss of three students within two weeks of time. Those months of mourning were rough on everyone.

    How you handled the situation with Katie is absolutely beautiful. I’m not a parent, but as a daughter I know I would have loved to have that type of support. That time in my teenage years proved it can be a difficult situation to cope with regardless if you knew the person or not.

    Thank you for being such a great mother and role model. Your posts have inspired me to, when it’s my turn, be the best mother I can be.

  8. Thank you for this post and for how you handled the whole talk with your daughter. There *is* always Nebraska, and your courage in making sure the people you love know that fact is just beautiful.

  9. Two weeks ago, a girl from my (very very small) hometown in Vermont took her own life. She was bullied, both at school and online. She took her own life because a small handful of people were mean and cruel. Some cowardly hid behind the safety of their computers. Some didn’t even know her – they just saw pictures she posted online and decided to call her ugly, and nasty, and that she should kill herself. Olivia took those words to heart. What Olivia didn’t see, nor will ever see, are all of the people who thought she was beautiful, smart, loving, and kind; the hundreds of people who poured into her high school auditorium to pay their respects; the teenagers who wrote songs in tribute of her life; family members who created beautiful slideshows to memorialize their sweet girl. She will never know the love that others had for her.

    As a mother of a 17-month-old daughter, I am scared for what she may go through as a teenager. I love your message to Katie that even when it doesn’t seem like it, there is ALWAYS hope. We need to make sure our children know that bullying another is NEVER ok. We must monitor our child’s social media, texts, and emails. We need to be the “mean parents” so that our children don’t turn into the “Mean girl (or boy)”. We need to teach them love, kindness, and respect for ALL human life.

    May those sweet souls rest in peace.

      • It definitely hit the community hard. Where did you grow up (if you don’t mind me asking)? I didn’t know Olivia personally, but many of my family members did. My heart aches for her family. If she could have only known the love others had for her. So very sad.

  10. Thank you for this and every post…you show us all how to be the best we can be. I don’t want to be flippant because this is such an important topic but I have to share. When I need/want to “throw something. To watch something shatter” that doesn’t matter I have discovered ice cubes. Started using this more than 50 years ago when I was in college. Throw the cubes, one at a time, as hard as you can. The shatter works! And you don’t have to clean up after yourself.

  11. These talks are so so hard. And so so important. I love that you can do this with her. I hope I can foster that kind of relationship with all my kids.
    Just keep talking. And writing. And you may see us in Nebraska too.

  12. What a beautiful, strong, loving relationship you have with Katie, A sophomore at our high school committed suicide the day after Homecoming. So hard to explain to your 14 year old why he seemed so happy at the dance but now is just gone. I’m going to share ‘Nebraska’ with my son and maybe his friends too. So they know that there are alternatives…

  13. When I was thirteen, I was so overwhelmed by life events and the crushing (then undiagnosed) clinical depression that I was suffering from that I felt as if the emptiness might swallow me at any moment. I did not believe in God or any sort of afterlife at the time, so death meant the end to all things.
    That concept seemed so warm and inviting, that I swallowed nearly forty pills. I, at the time, thought that not existing was better than the Hell my mind had created for me.

    A decade and a half later, I wish I could reach out to younger me, and hold that lost and frightened girl so tightly. I’d tell her that life was going to get a lot worse a few years down the road, but that she would emerge so strong on the other side. I would tell her the only chance life had of getting better would be if she kept kicking her legs to keep her head above water. I would tell her that while it is hard for a middle schooler to see it, she was never alone in that dark, horrible sea- her mother was always by her side, desperate to be the life preserver the young me so desperately needed. I’d tell her to open herself to that, because once she did, nothing felt more amazing than letting her Mommy help her.

    I see the young me in these poor children who thought that ending their lives was the best option, and it hurts me so deeply my soul aches. Life can be so unbelievably, indescribably beautiful that it pushes away the ugliness and hurt.

    If anyone reading this is hurting like I did, or like those others did, regardless of your age, KEEP KICKING. Reach, in any direction you can- up, out, or to me. Never, EVER, give up.

  14. This just made me start crying. At work. What a strong, smart, compassionate mother you are. You are so wise to approach this with your children. Not only to make sure this never happens in your family, but you have also just demonstrated a very strong compassion for a complete stranger and that stranger’s family. If we all showed more of that, perhaps these girls never would have felt so alone and desperate in the first place. Hugs to you mama. And my deepest respect.

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