Since 14-year-old Jordan Venable returned to school following her father’s death by suicide in November, she has spent a lot of time talking to school counselors and using their offices as a place of solace.
“I can just come in here and talk about it when I need to,” she said quietly. “I just kind of talked about it a lot until I realized that he wasn’t coming back.”
Jordan’s mother, Aimee Venable, said her former husband had struggled for years with depression. They divorced in April 2007, but she had hoped they might reconcile eventually, she said.
“Neither of us wanted it,” Ms. Venable said of the divorce, “but we didn’t know what else to do.”
Keith Venable, 32, died in November after taking 60 pills as he sat in his truck in his father’s driveway in Marion County, Tenn., Ms. Venable said. She has been honest with her four children about their father’s struggles and has urged them to talk to her about their grief.
“I wanted them to know that we have to work this out, we have to get through this,” Ms. Venable said. “We’re going to feel everything. We’re just all going through it together.”
When Jordan thinks about her dad, she tries to remember things that make her smile: family trips to theme parks and his fear of Ferris wheels that provoked good-natured teasing from his wife and children. But she also feels overwhelmed at times by grief and anger at the loss of her father, Jordan said.
“I don’t think he realized what would happen, because he just left us here,” she said, her voice breaking.
Jordan, an eighth-grader at Heritage Middle School in Ringgold, Ga., said her mother was open with their friends and family about her father’s death. Jordan was never put in a position of having to tell anyone how her father died, she said.
“I would rather her than me,” Jordan said. “It’s kind of hard to talk about it.”
After her parents divorced, Jordan and her three siblings would spend weekends visiting their father in hotel rooms. He took them to theme parks and out to eat, and they always had fun, Jordan said. But she knew her dad was struggling.
“He lived in his car,” she said. “He was always taking depression pills.”
As the oldest child in her family she tries to be strong for her mother and siblings, Jordan said.
“They kind of rely on me more,” she said. “I kind of have to be there for them.”
School counselor Amy Knowles said an open-door policy is crucial in helping Jordan return to a life that is forever changed by her father’s death.
“I can’t fathom the loss she has had,” Ms. Knowles said. “All I can offer is listening and encouragement. All we can do is listen and love her.”
The pain her family is in has made her more sensitive to the troubles other people face, Jordan said.
“Some people say you can call them, but they don’t mean it. I know to say that and really mean it,” she said.