“He was like a sponge and the ugly things that were said to him or his friends, he sucked everything up and never went to print anywhere.”
This is what Arina Odendaal says about her 12-year-old red-headed son Herman who took his own life last Sunday at his family’s house in Kestell in the Free State. In a letter he left behind, he said he felt alone, that he had no friends and that he was a loser .
It’s his hair, freckles and the no. 10-shoe he wore that apparently made him the target of bullies.
“It’s not just one thing that breaks a child. It’s sad for me that we had such an open relationship, but that he could never talk about it. ”
The Funeral service was held for Herman in the NG Church Kestell on Friday. “It was very painful to say goodbye to my child. But it was really nice service and a celebration of his life. ”
She believes that God spoke to Herman in that moment before his death and told him that his work on earth was finished and that he should come home now.
“He was a very special child and had a close relationship with God. He would never hurt or hurt others even if he was able to defend himself.
“So many friends sent letters and messages after his death. And so many of them said thank you for standing up against bullies on their behalf. He took many blows for them.”
The tree where Herman ended his life was cut down last Monday. A wooden cross was planted with pebbles, brought by Herman’s friends, which were packed around the cross. A grass-green twig now emerges from the trunk. “Here in the middle of the Eastern Free State where it is bitterly cold. Where it is ugly, raw and painful, there will be renewal and growth. ”
Odendaal believes that the isolation period due to the Covid-19 pandemic also had an effect on her son’s mood. He was a rugby fanatic and then the rugby year suddenly went away with it. School started again, but the classes were no longer the same and there was a lot of work. “One does not realize what the period of isolation does to a child’s psyche.”
Odendaal feels it is important to talk about what happened. “One must be honest about it and not sweep it under the rug. I do not think one ever gets over it. You can cope with it if your faith is strong and the Lord takes your hand and shows you a way. ”
For her and her husband, this road is an awareness campaign about bullying. She’s not mad at the kids who bullied her son. “I do not know who his bullies were. What they did to him comes from a dark place in their hearts which means they must also be in great pain. If you are hurting and do not have an outlet for it, you are going to hurt the next guy. It’s a vicious circle. ”
She wants to break that cycle. Children do not necessarily want to talk to their parents, teachers or counselor. “They want to talk to people their own age.” Odendaal will contact schools and suggest that they put in place a so-called “buddy system” where children in each grade are pointed out and wear a badge so that other children know they can talk to him or her.
“That friend is not going to tell everything to the teacher or mother, but can tell a teacher that there is a problem so that they can watch the child. There must be trust. ”
Odendaal is going to miss her son’s smile and the early morning coffee. “The corners of his mouth always pulled up when he smiled. He had extremely nice manners and was a extremely grateful child. ” He brought his mother coffee every morning before she had to drive to work.
“If I could, I would do anything to get my child back. I can not. But I can help other people. And by helping other people, it will bring healing to me and my family. ”
Listen when your children talk to you, says Odendaal. Notice when they suddenly start to become quieter and turn in on themselves. Or if things that were always fun for them no longer elicit the same reaction. Do not put too much pressure on your child.
“I always say: whether my child is a plumber, a doctor, an actress or a lawyer one day, it does not matter. As long as you are a good person who cares for others and has a good heart. ”