I lost my dad when I was thirteen. My family was planning to go boogie boarding on a trip in Michigan. When we got to the water, it was clear that it wasn’t safe. My dad spotted two boys struggling in the distance—he swam out to save them. The boys returned, but my dad was drowned by the riptide.
My life changed completely. I had no idea what my future held.
I was lucky to have younger siblings, Amelie and Asher. They amazed me with their poise and maturity. At the same time, I was heartbroken for them. It’s unfair that I had so much more time with my dad than they did. I felt responsible for making sure they knew that my dad would be proud of them. We managed to stay strong as a family. My mom kept our family cohesive.
Socially, I felt a void. Our community is small and everyone knew about my dad. Back at school, I was the girl who lost a parent.
I felt a sense of belonging with her that I hadn’t felt since my dad’s death
One day my mom invited Isabel over. She was a girl in my grade who had also lost a parent. Talking to her helped me. I asked her questions about what to do with my dad’s old clothing. She gave me advice on how to deal with my mom dating. I felt a sense of belonging with her that I hadn’t felt since my dad’s death.
That experience led me to start my nonprofit, SLAP’D (Surviving Life After a Parent Dies). There weren’t any organizations connecting teens who had lost a parent. I wanted to bring people together because for me, receiving help from strangers was comforting.
Loss is ubiquitous.
A lot of people related to my situation or knew someone who did. And SLAP’D gave me a sense of purpose.
I still miss my dad every day. But I think he’d be proud of what I’ve accomplished. He’d be happy that our family has stayed strong. Even though he’s gone, I still talk to him often. Sometimes I tell him about my day—out loud. Speaking to him is a way to keep him with me.
Genevieve Liu is the founder of SLAP'D, as well as a seventeen-year-old high school senior at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. When Genevieve was thirteen, her father drowned saving two boys in Lake Michigan. Shortly after, she set out to create SLAP'D: the first social media organization for teens who have lost a parent, like herself, to find one another. In addition to working on SLAP'D, Genevieve is one of the leaders of her school's Model UN team, as well as an amateur and avid painter. In her free time, Genevieve enjoys spending time with family and watching movies.
Image Credit: Alex Garcia/The Verbatim Agency for OptionB.Org