A heartbroken father whose daughter died by suicide has challenged the girl’s bullies to attend her funeral to “witness the complete devastation you have created” in an attempt to prevent similar losses.
Tick Everett of Australia issued the invitation to 14-year-old teen model Amy “Dolly” Everett’s funeral on Facebook on Monday. “This week has been an example of how social media should be used; it has also been an example of how it shouldn’t be,” Tick wrote in a post that garnered 55,000 likes and more than 12,000 shares.
“If we can help other precious lives from being lost and the suffering of so many, then Doll’s life will not be wasted. I know for some suicide is considered cowardly, but I guarantee those people wouldn’t have half the strength that my precious little angel had, Doll had the strength to do what she thought she had to do to escape the evil in this world. However, unfortunately, Dolly will never know the great pain and emptiness left behind.”
He continued, “In saying this I have a couple of challenges. Firstly, if by some chance the people who thought this was a joke and made themselves feel superior by the constant bullying and harassment see this post, please come to our service and witness the complete devastation you have created. The second is for the strong ones, let’s stop the bullies no matter where, but especially in our kids, as the old saying goes. You will never know what [you] have until it’s gone.”
It’s unfair to judge from a Facebook post how this father truly feels, but his wish to find meaning in his daughter’s death isn’t unusual. There have been several high-profile cases involving victims’ families looking beyond their grief for a greater good.
In April, the daughters of a man who was shot and killed walking home from Easter dinner by a total stranger forgave him for taking their father’s life. “The thing that I would take away the most from my father is he taught us about God … how to fear God, how to love God, and how to forgive. Each one of us forgives the killer,” Tanya Godwin-Baines told Anderson Cooper.
And in 2013, the mother of an unarmed 24-year-old who was shot 10 times and killed by a police officer, said this to her child’s killer only days later: “You took a piece out of my heart that never can be put back. But I forgive you.”
Scientists who study well being say that people who forgive or otherwise let go of anger experience improved cardiovascular health, lower rates of depression (for women), and reduced feelings of anger.
“There are two types of forgiveness,” Everett Worthington, a professor emeritus at Virginia Commonwealth University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Decisional forgiveness means releasing anger toward that person; emotional forgiveness is a slower process of replacing negative emotions toward the person with positive ones, such as sympathy or compassion.” And the latter has been found to reap more health benefits.
Worthington points out that the grieving father doesn’t seem to be displaying either, instead offering something unique. “His actions can be defined as ‘restorative justice’ — he’s giving his daughter’s bullies a chance to redeem themselves and connect with society on a different footing. That’s a great social outcome.”
In the wake of tragedy, the speed at which some forgive or search for meaning may seem swift, but according to Worthington, being in an aroused state of emotion may prompt people to do just that. “People also want to behave in ways that fit their self-perception,” says Worthington. “If someone thinks of themselves as a caring person, they may forgive quickly to maintain their self-image.”
However, if the damage is too deep, it’s not necessary to forgive. “People can heal from injustices without forgiving,” says Worthington. “But if we can practice forgiveness like any other character strength, the more we’ll be able to thrive.”
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