September 21, 2012

And Into the Light

My apologies about the photos.  I wasn't focused on documenting the day as much as I was on being present in it.

Life has been full of firsts since Mom died.  I went to my first support group at the beginning of the month.  It was a strange experience - sitting with these other people who had suffered a loss similar to my own.  Not the same loss, (because no one experiences it in exactly the same way) but there was still an uncomfortable sort of camaraderie.  Not sure it was exactly healing, but it wasn't terrible either.

I'm glad I went though, because it was in this meeting that I learned about the Out of the Darkness benefit walk that was happening in Ithaca just a few days later.  I decided I wanted to do something to honor my mother, to feel like I was helping.  So I signed up to walk.  I put a little note up on Facebook, just in case anyone wanted to donate.

I was shocked by the feedback.  Moved to tears, really.  The outpouring of support from friends was more than I could have ever hoped for.  And I know they wouldn't want me to make a big deal about it, but I'd like to list them here, so I'll forever have a record of how many people showed their love and support in such a tangible way.

Jim Aronson
Rachel Erickson
Bea Ward
Jessica Hernandez
Holly Flanagan
Allison Barnes
Leila McCarrey
Deb Black
Sarah Hawks
Megan Trueblood
Carly Maready
April Dickson
Carrie Todd
Kimberly (and Matt) Teitter
Andrew Marshall
Derrick Turley
Caitlin Jones
And the three anonymous donations which I will attribute to every person I've ever known.
Because you are often surprised by the people who will help you when you need it.
And the people who couldn't donate, but still sent a kind thought in my direction.
I felt those generous wishes as well.

If I had a garden and a butt-load of money, I'd install benches with your names on them.  That is how much your kindness and generosity mean to me.  Thank you, thank you - from the bottom of my heart.

So the day came for my first suicide prevention walk - and I was a bit of a mess.  As soon as we got there I broke into tears.  I cried because I didn't want to have to be there, honoring someone I hadn't wanted to lose.  We were given colored beads according to the reason we were there.  Gold if you had lost a parent, red for those who lost a spouse, white for the mourning parents, and blue for those who were there to raise awareness and make a change.  I cried when they read the names of all the loved ones we were there to remember.  Far too many names.  Cried to see their photographs on the memory quilts.  Smiling faces with troubled, weary eyes.  The first part of that morning was so very hard.

Then, we walked.

There is something quite healing about the walk itself.  Feeling the fresh air and the wind on my face.  Spending time outside with my family, moving in a direction, allowing my grief to subside as I focused on the beating of my own heart and rejoiced that we are all still here together.

During the walk I told Joe that sometimes I feel like I don't fit in this group of survivors of suicide loss.  Because unlike the sudden and surprising act that took so many of their loved ones - the way she left was much slower in my mind.  Almost an eventuality at the end of her steady, years-long decline.  We discussed that to really honor her memory, I'd like to do some meaningful work in the field of addiction.  For it was a combination of addiction and depression that plagued my mother for so many years, that eventually led to her premature passing.

We talked about planting a tree, about making final arrangements for a headstone, about how we could continue to honor her as the years pass, about how important it is for those of us still here to feel we have a connection to those on the other side.  She is fine, I know.  It's the rest of us I feel for.

After the walk, everyone's spirits were brightened.  We had hot dogs and listened to talks by the people who sit on the other end of that phone line - people who give their time because they really do care.  That was a strong theme of the day.  That people care, and there is always somewhere you can turn to find a listening ear and an understanding heart.  Over three hundred of us walked that day, and together we raised more than $13,000 for research, for outreach programs, for the hope that the future can be brighter than the past.  What a day!  It was hard and it was beautiful.  And it felt so good to do something.


  1. Whitney, we love you! Thanks for posting about the walk! We wish we could have walked it with you.

  2. I'm so glad you found that group and that walk! It sounds like it was a good experience. I'll be interested to hear what specific work you decide to get involved in. Love you!!

  3. I wanted to ask you how the walk went - thanks for sharing about it! It sounds like such a soothing experience to move forward with hope and purpose. Love you!

  4. It is so neat that you did this for your mom. You are such a strong and meaningful person. I just hope the best for you.

  5. Seems like a warm rain was appropriate for the event. I'm so glad you went and hopefully experienced some more healing, and I'm proud of you for wanting to do more. I just looked and found that these Out of the Darkness walks happen just about everywhere...