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Don’t be a d**k. Gosh, sounds easy enough, right. My husband and I have said this to our own kids. Blunt, honest a real approach to parenting. Maybe not parenting 101 or the Love and Logic approach, but at the core and with a stern voice, it is a message made loud and clear in our own home.

Treating people with disdain, hate and being a bully, NOT acceptable in our home and not acceptable in our family. Period. Have they done it in some form or fashion, maybe. If we had a slight inkling they bullied, we put a stop to it. Recognizing that our kids are not perfect is tough, but it is reality.

I know. You must be mortified right now thinking we are awful parents but the reality is, if we ever found out our kids were being jerks to anyone, we would say…don’t be a d**k. It would stop.

This week has been tough. Our community of 30,000 in the heartland of America lost a kind, sweet-soul to suicide. Heart-wrenching. I know. I have been through it. Losing McKenna reminded me of losing my brother Ryan. It brought back all the memories of the day Ryan died. The play by play, the agony and questions and fears.

What could we have said or done? If I would have called him or maybe even flown down to New Orleans to help him with his anxieties, his fears, his rejections. Still so many unanswered questions. Most questions we will never know in this lifetime.

There will be sadness,  then the anger and the rage will kick in. Not now, but it will. I was in that spot several months after Ryan’s death. I wanted to blame someone. It is true. Even a year later. After the shock and after the numbness wore off.

I had to do something with the anger or it would over power me. I recognized it, I dove into helping others through pain of losing a loved-one to suicide by forming a LOSS Team (local outreach to suicide survivors). I had to take the energy and emotions and pour them into something positive. To help others.

Still, people talk about suicide around me like maybe they forgot my only sibling died by suicide. That is okay. I don’t get angry, it is never meant to hurt me. But I am often puzzled by the fact that people want to blame one thing.

It was bullying? Yes, that is it. No, maybe it was depression? No, medication. Could it be ALL of the above? It is the mystery that we will never know. Really—never ever know.

I have gone over my brother’s medical records, thought about asking more questions of his friends and I thought—why? I would exhaust myself and anger more people around me. What would I really find. Nothing.

I had to find peace with it. I prayed a lot for that peace. My prayers are for God to give me answers only when I am ready. In His timing. Knowing I may never know in this lifetime. I am at Peace.

I do know the bullying factor is for real. Let’s face it, Cyberbullying is for real and taken it up a notch. I have seen it rear its ugly head and torment the kindest and sensitive souls. It increases the risk of suicide, not causes it but increases the risk. Real bullying. Not the kidding around and joking, but the mean awful spewing of hate that makes you cringe when you read it. The relentless nasty hate. It is for real. And IT-HAS to STOP.

Schools don’t tolerate it. If they know about it, they don’t tolerate it. Parents need to educate themselves about it. Ask your kid if they  bullied. Look them straight in the eye and ask. Take full control over the social media that YOU pay for and if you find out for one split second they are part of it, stop it. You ask them about drinking, smoking—sex. The bullying talk, on both sides of it. Do it. And the suicide talk. HAVE-IT…now! Let them know it is NEVER EVER the answer. NEVER. They are loved, and wanted and there is always, always hope. NO-MATTER-WHAT!

Parents, watch what you say at home. Your behaviors and language. How you talk and treat your spouse? Kids pick up on it, they smell phony from a mile away. The kid in school who refuses to work in group settings with other races and cultures. Is that opinion and learned behavior in your home accepted? If so, knock it off. What is your language of acceptance and love in your own home? If there is none, change it.

I am not naïve to say that there are never bad school settings or maybe teachers that would turn the other cheek at bullying and to that I say, knock it off. If you are an educator and have any positive influence on a young life what-so-ever you have an obligation to make bullying stop. You have an obligation as an educator to have tough conversations with THAT kid who is on the edge.

It may or may not make a difference but maybe you can sleep better at night knowing that you tried.

Burying suicide, mental illness and bullying under the rug will do no good. Not now. Not ever. Losing high school kids to suicide is rough and we have been brought to our knees. Losing community members is rough, all heart-breaking and preventable.

It takes a village to raise a child. YES. It takes a village to raise a good, productive member of our society. We have some work to do. Let’s do it. 

Renae Zimmer

My name is Renae Riddle Zimmer. I was born in Iowa and raised in Nebraska. I am a Midwest girl. I married my high school sweetheart, Dave Zimmer and raised two awesome kids. Nolan, 21 and Kamryn, 17. As we approach our empty nest years—we reflect a lot on our life—our kids—and being a part of the “sandwich” generation as well. Taking care of teenagers and aging parents. All the joys and difficulties that are ahead. We are solid in our faith—solid in our family and we love each other, support each other. I work a corporate job and travel. My husband is an educator and coach. We love to cook, garden, landscape, watch sports and enjoy our kids activities. We follow up college-age son as he runs cross country and track for Northwest Missouri State in Maryville, Mo. And support our daughter as she is in the last year of high school . Where did the time go?

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