Editor’s Note: In December 2019, The Apache Junction & Gold Canyon News published an article about Diana Granillo, who had just been presented with the Story of the Year award in the Middle School Category at the National High School Journalism Convention. That story, originally printed in the 2019 Cactus Canyon Junior High Yearbook, “Oro,” is presented here, with permission from the school and Amber Henderson, the subject of the story.
Watch for additional stories from Ms. Granillo in the pages of The News in the future!
In 2016, 1,310 people in Arizona committed suicide, but for seventh grader Amber Henderson, the only number that matters is one.
On Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2016, Amber was told by police that her sister, Kyleigh Henderson, had taken her own life.
“I woke up to my brother and sister coming into my room, and a cop followed them in. I was starting to freak out, because I couldn’t see her, and I had all these things running through my head,” Amber said. “We went to my grandma’s house, and we sat, for, I want to say, maybe 15 to 25 minutes, and then a man who says he’s the sheriff comes in and says that she had taken her own life that day. I just lost it.”
Asking the “What Ifs”
The shadow of grief and constant “what if” questions have haunted Amber since. She said she wonders if words left unsaid could have changed something. She wonders if a different action would change fate completely, yet she is left never knowing what the future could have been.
“After I found out that she was gone, I felt guilty, because prior to that, she had tried before, and I thought that I could have done something more,” Amber said. “There were days in the first couple of years where I wanted to sit in my room and just cry.”
Working Through It
Time hasn’t healed Amber, but with the support of friends and working herself through it, Amber has slowly begun to accept what happened. Life will never go back to how it was before, but Amber has learned to cope with life without Kyleigh in it.
“It’s still tough to talk about, but I feel like, with every year that passes, it’s not easier to deal with, but it’s easier to cope with,” she said. “I don’t think about it as much as I did the first year.”
“Now I know that there are people who I can talk to about it and I don’t have to feel like I’m just alone with these feelings.”
Years of Bullying
Amber said Kyleigh was in school and online. Even though the depression may have been preexisting, over the years, the words and actions of her classmates followed Kyleigh’s every move. Every taunt, every shove and every social media post was another step leading to her death.
“It’s not OK that they did that to her. These types of things happen, and it hurts everyone, like the family and the friends,” Amber said. “It just hurts everyone, and once they are gone, they’re gone. They aren’t going to come back. It’s over. Don’t brush it off like it’s nothing. Don’t act like it’s them overreacting about someone saying something.”
Writing to Remember
Amber will never forget the day when she sat in her grandma’s house and cried. The moment of sadness still haunts Amber, but she has developed her own way of coping and remembering the sister she loved and cherished.
“I try to remember her as much as possible. When I write my stories I try to give my characters some aspects of her personality,” Amber said. “She used to write poems to express her feelings, and I do the same thing, but with stories, and I just want her to be a part of that.”