I recently had the opportunity to volunteer at the Out of the Darkness walk in my community. These walks are to raise awareness for suicide prevention, however, they seem to double as a way for those who are struggling with thoughts of suicide or those who had someone die by suicide not feel as alone in their journey.
Last year, the walk in my area was about a week before the one year anniversary of my mother dying by suicide. My dad and I wanted to go, and we were so overwhelmed by what we saw. This was our first time ever at something so big, and it was great. There were so many people there, and while what we shared with them is a tragedy to each of us, it showed that none of us are alone. There were people there of all ages, of all relations to their loss, of varying time periods since their loss. We participated in the walk and it helped change how I thought about my own loss. I wasn’t alone anymore.
This year, I was able to help as a volunteer and worked the informational American Foundation of Suicide Prevention table. Because of this, I was able to interact with a lot of volunteers and participants. I could field questions they had and provide them with a lot of great information. However, I think the best part of me being in that position was that there were so many people that were so fresh in their loss and some were even openly upset. I was able to comfort them. It was amazing to feel like I was making a difference for that one person and that they were so brave to be there.
The walk didn’t have favorable conditions this time. It was terribly windy, cold, and it started raining sideways. For a while, it seemed like people weren’t going to show up. As time progressed and registration opened, crowds of people made their way through the rain to sign in. It was amazing to see how important this was to people. It also gave me a sense of pride that all of us were here despite the awful weather. Those left behind after a suicide are sometimes ostracized by others, while others slap the label of “survivor” on us first. But we are survivors. Braving the storm or not, we still take that title and we run with it. It becomes a reluctant part of our identity, and we push forward motivated by that. People talked about the weather there. Some said it was the tears of those that had died; others said it was the tears of the survivors. I think both statements were a great way to look at it and a great motivator for us all to keep pushing forward.
If you are interested in participating in an Out of the Darkness walk near you, you can find more information here.