The moment I got the message on my phone, I felt a deep unease.
Amanda Grennan is absent from school, the automated text read.
Telling my colleague I needed to check on my daughter, I drove home with the unsettling feeling rising. She’ll be fine, I told myself, running through the events of the morning so far.
As usual, I’d left early for my job as a nurse, leaving 14-year-old Amanda asleep. She’d been fine the night before, maybe a bit worried about some incident with a girl she knew, but nothing she couldn’t deal with.
She’s a tough one, I thought.
A little sister to Shaun, 19, and with three step-brothers, she seemed stronger than them all put together. I’d been so lucky with her. She was smart, a great musician and artist, and never gave me any cause to worry.
So why didn’t she call to say she wasn’t going to school today? a little voice niggled. Opening the front door, my heart immediately started hammering in my chest.
I’d left Amanda a note: Can you turn off the heaters and let the dogs out. But the heating was on and the dogs were still inside.
Hands shaking, I half ran to her room and pushed the door open.
The cold of the room was the first thing to hit me and life suddenly slowed to an out-of-focus blur as I saw Amanda lying on her bed. As a nurse, I knew straight away she was gone.
I could hear my breathing. No. No. No.
And then, just as life had slowed down, it sped up again as my horrific new reality hit me, hard. I could feel myself screaming and Shaun came running out of his bedroom.
Scrambling to find my phone, I called an ambulance.
‘It’s too late,’ I was shouting as they told me to try and resuscitate.
Guilt ripped through me as I realised she’d been gone for hours. I was her mum. I’d pottered around making toast that morning. How could I have not known my little girl was lying down the hallway like this?
There was so much worse to come, though.mIn the coming hours it was quickly discovered Amanda had taken her own life.
‘What? Why?’ I screamed.
This can’t be happening, I thought as I hunted for a note. She wrote messages to me about everything. Where was her explanation? But there was no note.
The only explanation I have has been pieced together from friends and messages on her phone. She was being bullied. It’s as simple and as complicated as that. For months she’d been receiving vile messages telling her she was a waste of space and she should kill herself.
How could I not have known? I thought we were close. Even the night she died, I’d tucked her into bed with her teddy and said if anything happened to her it would kill me.
‘I know Mum, you don’t need to keep going on,’ she’d smiled.
But worn down by the bullies, she thought death was her only option.
I don’t drink enough water to cry this much, she messaged a friend in the lead-up to her death.
But nobody told me and how I wish they had. I could have helped. Her dad Scott, 50, could have helped.
Over the following months, I’m not sure how any of us stayed upright. The scale of the problem hit me when I discovered in the nine days between Amanda’s death, on August 10, and her funeral, three more kids in our area took their own lives. One was just nine years old.
‘This has to stop,’ I told friends. ‘There has to be a law, some consequences for bullies who cause people to kill themselves.’
I didn’t know how to make people listen, so I told my story on Channel Seven’s Sunrise as part of their Beat The Bullies campaign.
‘I miss her so much,’ I told Australia, sobbing. ‘You go from having a little person that you can hold and tuck into bed, to a wooden box.’
In the days that followed, I got so much support and heard many stories of horrendous bullying. One in particular stood out.
It was 4:45am and as usual I couldn’t sleep. Checking my messages, a 17-year-old girl had sent me her story.
I’ve been bullied since primary school, it read. I’d written a note to my mum and bought what I needed to do it, but then I saw you on TV.
She’d opened up to her mum as a result and now action was being taken in her school.
I’d got used to crying but as my tears fell reading this, they were different. I felt relief, even happiness that my girl had saved a life.
Going forward, I will keep telling Amanda’s story, and my own, because we need to do something. We can’t keep letting our children die. Action has to be taken against bullies and as I work to make that happen, I will feel Amanda right by my side where she should still be.
If you or someone you know is struggling, call Lifeline 13 11 14 in Australia or 0800 543 354 in NZ
Beat the Bullies
As part of their anti-bullying campaign, Channel Seven’s Sunrise wants The Alannah and Madeline Foundation’s eSmart schools program rolled out nationwide. It targets both teachers and parents to identify what the school is doing well, and where it’s failing. It then comes up with unique solutions. At $2.50 per child per year, it’s also affordable. Victoria has already pledged to roll it out to 100 per cent of its schools. To sign Sunrise’s petition, go to https://au.news.yahoo.com/sunrise/a/38831931/sign-the-petition-to-help-sunrise-beat-the-bullies/
This story originally appeared in that's life! Issue 15, 12 April 2018.