For years I babysat for some neighbors, two boys and a girl who lived a few houses down. I grew close to the family, especially the daughter, who loved that I have thick, curly hair just like hers. Of course, the kids grew up and didn’t require watching, but we kept in touch. When the girl became a teenager, I was preoccupied with my first full-time job and college. We didn’t speak as often; I didn’t know she was struggling.
When she was 13 and home alone on November 30, she took her own life with one of her parents’ guns. My high-school sweetheart told me the news after my shift. I battled depression for over a year afterwards, wishing I had been a better, stronger teenage role model when I babysat her and that I had been there for her when she needed help. The holidays are always hard now. I had my first child this year; I’m hoping that making the holidays special for her will help distract me more than when I’d try to do holiday things on the weekend with my nephews, in previous years.