‘Sometimes, there are no signs’
Capon Bridge teen suffered from an internal crisis
She was planning to dress up as Amelia Earhart for Halloween.
She was planning to continue with her watercolor art lessons in Winchester.
She was planning to celebrate her best friend’s birthday, and she’d even gotten her a gift already.
She was planning to have her parents pick her up a sub for dinner the night that she took her own life.
According to Gracie’s parents, Gracie was a quiet, kind child, never complaining about anything or anyone. Until about 2 months ago, Gracie seemed happy.
“She had a wonderful life,” said Teresa VanWay, Gracie’s mother. “She had everything that she ever wanted.”
Then the crying began.
“Over the past few months, we had noticed that Gracie started to cry a lot,” Teresa said. “I would ask her all the time, ‘Are people at school bothering you? Is there anything you want to change about your life?’”
Teresa and Tom, Gracie’s father, decided that their daughter would benefit from talking to a counselor due to her bouts of crying, crying that Gracie couldn’t seem to explain to her parents.
“Teenagers cry, and I don’t even believe she knew why she was sad,” Teresa said. “She couldn’t articulate it because she had no reason to be sad.”
Last Sunday, Oct. 27, Teresa and Tom asked Gracie if she wanted to go out to dinner with them, and she declined the offer, saying that she would rather hang out at home. Teresa and Tom said that they could pick her up something on the way home, and so they stopped at Subway to pick up a sub for Gracie.
When they returned, they found that Gracie had taken her own life.
“That was the beginning of our transport into hell,” Teresa said.
Teresa posted in a Facebook group about her daughter’s passing, and many comments showed that people in the community looked to bullying as the reason for Gracie’s suicide, but Teresa said that from what Gracie had told her before her death to what the police department said after their investigation at the high school, bullying was not a factor that caused Gracie to end her own life.
“What I want people to know is that Gracie died of sadness. That’s what killed my baby. Depression,” Teresa explained. “People want a tangible reason. They want to have an answer. They want to blame bullying and all sorts of things that they can point their fingers at, but you can’t point a finger at sadness. You can’t point your finger at mental health issues.”
The note that Gracie left indicated that her extreme sadness was the reason for her suicide.
Gracie had been in counseling for a month before she passed away, and the unexplainable crying was the only sign that she gave Teresa and Tom that she was suffering with depression.
“If you can’t put a name to it, how do you explain it?” asked Teresa. “How confusing for her, to have everything and be adored and yet have this immense, immeasurable sadness and not be able to say why.”
Teresa says that her and her family’s avenue of healing will be to pursue teen suicide prevention, and she urges people not to search for ways to place blame, but be aware that sometimes there are no real signs that a child is suffering. Sometimes, the reason for a child’s sadness is not an external crisis, Teresa said, but an internal one.
“I want parents, grandparents, anyone, to take a deeper look into teen suicide and support teen suicide prevention and not to wait for the signs. Sometimes, there are no signs. There weren’t any for us, except the crying, and what teenager doesn’t cry?” said Teresa. “I don’t believe that we could have prevented this. I am at peace with that.”
See Gracie’s complete obituary on page 3A.