Jocelyn Albright Desmond left us a couple of weeks ago, and our community is still mourning along with her family over the loss of such a bright and engaged fellow citizen. We’re looking for meaning as we try to fathom the news that the W.A. Hough High School teen took her own life. Many of us are hugging our own children a little closer and wondering how to talk to them about her death.
On Friday, Jocelyn’s family issued a message of thanks for the outpouring of support from friends, their church and their children’s schools. As they mourn, family members also say they are encouraged by signs that people here – especially other teens – are learning something from the tragedy.
Jocelyn, 17, died March 15. The Davidson resident was a junior at Hough, where she loved track and singing. She also was active in Journey Church in Huntersville.
Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites have been filled with messages of sadness from young and old, as well as speculation about what happened – not all of it accurate. (One lesson here: Facebook and Twitter aren’t always reality.) The family has not spoken publicly, but in her obituary on March 17 they asked for donations to anti-bullying and suicide prevention groups. Davidson police are investigating possible cyberbullying, but have not reached any conclusions.
Jocelyn left behind her parents, Jaletta Albright Desmond and Alan Desmond, and her sister, Julia, who attends Woodlawn School. (Jaletta Desmond is a writer whose column “Life Happens” appears weekly on this site.) On Friday, they offered this message:
“We have been sustained over the last couple of weeks by prayer and the overwhelming love and support of our family and friends, both near and far. We have been amazed by the generosity and thoughtfulness of the community of Davidson, our Journey Church family, and the many people throughout the Lake Norman area who’ve reached out to show their compassion. We cannot begin to express our appreciation to all of those who’ve been so kind.
We are still mourning the loss of our beautiful and charismatic daughter, Jocelyn. We are already seeing how her life and her loss affected many people, especially young people. We are encouraged by the positive changes many teens want to make in their own lives and in the lives of others. It is our hope and prayer that her life and death will effect change in areas of society that require significant change, such as social media.
We continue to be grateful to those who are respecting our privacy and allowing us to mourn and celebrate Jocelyn with prayers, tears and laughter. We ask for that continued respect.”
Jocelyn is gone, but her death has brought a sort of community soul-searching. Many – both friends and strangers – have been writing on social media sites about what happened and the need to talk about bullying and suicide. Some have even recounted their own experiences.
Classmates at Hough honored her memory on the day after her death by wearing blue shirts. And they painted the school’s spirit rock with the words “Always in Our Hearts” and other messages.
Teachers at Bailey Middle School even wrote a column in a school newsletter offering parents tips for monitoring middle-schoolers’ use of social media.
We’re grieving along with the Desmonds. Any child’s death is hard to take, and those of us who haven’t endured such a tragedy can’t fully understand the loss. But we can talk to our kids and our friends about Jocelyn. We can look a little more closely at how our kids use social media and help them understand boundaries. And we can talk more, in general, about suicide and depression; not talking keeps us from moving forward.