The day I heard the news of Kaitlin, it turned my world upside down. My children’s schoolmate had taken her own life. I was in shock. How could this be? I didn’t understand. I was so saddened, not only for Robin, Kaitlin’s mother, but for my own children and their schoolmates. Not even a moment of silence on the school intercom for sweet Kaitlin. She was so loved.
Not an ounce of counseling for the students…it was if it never happened. My own children had fallen into a deep depression andhad so much animosity towards the faculty. The stigma that comes with suicide is so wrong. Then, to make matters even more heartbreaking there was a string of suicides after…What could I do, Praying to my maker, I asked How can we make a difference? What can I do? How can we make children understand that there will never ever be another ever like them in the universe.
Hence the poem that comes on each ILovemeknot card…A single star in the universe is what you are…celebrate your oneness, shine before others, and be your own best friend! And now what? A piece of Jewelry called an ILovemeknot, which will help fund suicide awareness and prevention? But I didn’t know how to make jewelry…Only a vision…I prayed and ask my maker to guide my hands, and while I’m no expert, my hands were guided and each piece, no matter how simple, individually made with love. I brought the idea to Robin and she fell to her knees. She thought that Kaitlin was forgotten. And that is how Ilovemeknots and the Kaitlin Harris Foundation came to light in hope to bring hope to others.
Meet Robin Harris.
Sitting in that small room the hospital the doctors enter. Their eyes say it before their words – “We’re so sorry, there’s nothing else we can do.” Suddenly everything in life stops, she’s gone. The daughter we raised, loved, protected, nurtured and encouraged is gone. You just never think it can happen to you, to your sweet family.
On March 25, 2004 our beloved Kaitlin took her life. She was the middle child of five. Our Kaitlin was a delight and so easy to be around. Her kindness never showed the pain inside her mind. She made everyone she met feel like they were someone very special. She had a way of bringing light to all she met, so why suicide? Kaitlin was being treated for depression, yet despite all efforts it wasn’t enough for her that tragic day. As a mother, father and family – one word describes how we were effected – shattered. A million tiny fragments. The loss of child is by far the most painful loss. All the guilt, shame and anger at God for allowing this to happen. So many questions and so few answers.
Our journey lead us to try and understand the illness of depression in teens. We became advocates for our fragile teens. I started being asked to speak to teachers, schools and groups and share Kaitlin’s story, while offering resources for students, parents and caregivers. We wanted to bring awareness and offer hope. With the generous offerings of I Love Me Knots, The Kaitlin Harris Foundation was started.
For many years we went to the public and shared hope, help and healing through resources such as our grief support group for teens of suicide loss. Statistics show that this group of teens is at a high risk of suicide themselves. We offered equine therapy, as Kaitlin’s biggest passion was riding horses. Our hearts wanted to reach out to the suffering young people and give them the tools they needed to ask for help. Often our young people carry their pain in silence and then turn to unhealthy coping techniques.
Suicide touches every family. That smart, active teen could be carrying the burden of hopelessness without being noticed. Everyone says ‘She had everything. Beauty, friends, talent and a loving family.’ But she had a mental illness that clouded all of that. It’s so important that we don’t overlook these kids. Subtle changes in behavior could be signs of a brewing depression. Question your kids, stay close to them, get professional help and always offer hope for tomorrow.
As a family, Kaitlin’s siblings (three sisters and a brother) have grieved deeply and seen their own share of PTSD, anxiety and depression. Without a doubt their world has changed. Their family has been changed. I call it the empty chair. No family event goes without being aware that Kaitlin isn’t with us. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to always include Kaitlin, remembering those moments with her and sharing our thoughts on how she lived, not how she died.
Her siblings proudly share their loved for Kaitlin. The death of Kaitlin has made them more compassionate towards others, even in their careers, generous to help those in distress and enjoy the small things in life that are often overlooked. They acutely are aware that the small moments in life matter. They hurt/grieve, as many siblings do, in their own private way, often unnoticed or disregarded. Their journey has changed dramatically. I never forget that their grief is enormous, different than that of a parents, but in ways that change them forever. They are my heroes. They have had their challenges but they never give up. They honor their lost sister in all they do.
When something is shattered it is often time consuming to put back together, but it can be put back together with patience, persistence and purpose. The broken will have flaws, even blemishes, but with strong glue that broken piece comes back together. We as a family, have been broken. However, with love and purpose we show and share our scars to share the message of hope, help and healing. Lend a helping hand and an ear for listening, lend your time and your love to someone today. If you are hurting reach out to a family member, a friend, a teacher, your pastor or call 1800-273-8255 at The National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
As a family, our faith is how we find hope in knowing we will see our angel Kaitlin in heaven. So it’s not goodbye, it’s see you later, sweet girl.
Robin – you and your family are so incredibly strong and bring hope and light to so many others. We love you all and Kaitlin so much, we can’t thank you enough for sharing with us all <3 <3 <3