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I heard the front door open and ran to meet him.  The knots in my stomach had been swirling all day until my insides felt like a tangled mess of anxiety and pain. 

The look on his face told me what I needed to know.   What I had feared the most.

The silent tears that spilled down his freckled cheeks broke my heart in half. 

Taking him in my arms, as I had not needed to for years, I embraced my oldest and cried with him.  I had no chance of being strong at this moment.  No hope of providing comfort.  No words to say, except choked sobs of I'm sorry.  I'm so sorry.   

Never have I felt so helpless.   

Never have I been so helpless. 

I have no idea what it feels like to be him.  I did not move until the day I went to college.  And, even then, I went with my six best friends from high school as roommates.  I did not really learn how to make new friends until I was a married adult. 

I will never know what it feels like to be a sophomore in high school and sit alone at lunch.  I will never have to face class after class of stranger's faces or wander unfamiliar  hallways on my own. 

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I will never know the courage it takes to do such things. 

When we moved here, we gave them all promises of happiness and new friendships.  Not knowing that 95 percent of our congregation at church would go to a different high school.  Not knowing that the handful of boys he would meet in his high school would all have different lunches than him.  Not remotely comprehending just how hard it would be.

It's been a week and two days, and I still can't talk about it without tears. 

My heart aches for what he's going through -- how exposed and alone he feels each day.  I see the vulnerability eating him raw, and I see the walls he puts up to protect himself.  I see anxiety and worry on his face.  This is not the boy I know.  

But, mercifully, every day, it seems we gain a little bit of new ground.  Really, even an inch will do.  A friendly conversation with someone at football practice plants a glimmer of hope inside him.  Finding someone to sit with at lunch has been huge.  Faces are becoming recognizable.  Days are melting into routine familiarity.  We are slowly pulling ourselves out of the lonely despair of that horrible first day.  Thanks, in large part, to an amazing family who moved here about a month ago themselves, and who have kids that match up exactly to ours.  

It's been so nice to know we're not alone.  To have someone to commiserate with.  To have a shoulder (for me) to cry on.  To know it's not just us.  We're in the trenches together, this mother and I, helping our kids cope with some really tough stuff.  Going through battles like this creates an instant bond.  I am so thankful for her.  

I know the answer to this problem lies in persistence and time. 

But I would give anything to take away all the pain from my boy.  To ease his heartache and make his sweet, kind soul whole again.   He is doing an amazing job and handling it with grace.  I am so proud of my boy.  

I know he is going to be all right. 

But would it be so terrible if he was all right sooner rather than later? 


[SIDE NOTE:  In an effort to document monumental family experiences, I am writing about this personal experience.  I do so not to elicit pity or praise, but merely to help us remember the hard things that allow us to grow.  This is an intensely personal post for me, as it exposes one of my children's vulnerabilities in ways I am not accustomed to.  My vulnerability?  Up for grabs and there for the mocking.  But my kids are off-limits.  Please remember this and be kind.  There is a real person behind this post and he's struggling in an extremely real, and very huge, way. ]