By Judy Dunn, AndrewDunn.org
In December of 2006, I lost my son Andrew to suicide. Andrew was 23 years old. Since losing him, my world has changed dramatically, and I now accept that it will never be the same, nor will I ever be the same person that I was before his death. I am so grateful that I have my other son Robert in my life, and have really learned that the truly important things should never be taken for granted. As a parent, you take for granted that your children will outlive you – after all, isn’t that the way it is meant to be?
I have found over the years that I now really hear and evaluate quotes that I feel have great meaning to me. Here’s one that especially resonates with me:
“Sometimes the hardest part isn’t letting go, but rather learning to start over. “ – Nicole Savon
At the beginning of a suicide survivor’s journey, it is the letting go that seems impossible. But as the journey progresses, the starting over becomes a massive undertaking, and honestly, it’s quite scary. How do you start over, when you never envisioned your life without your loved one in it? How do you start over, when you will never be able to finish what ended too soon, with so many questions unanswered and so totally out of your control?
I think the only way to “start over” is to find a reason to go forward from the day that changed everything.
When a child is born, we measure their life in days, then weeks, and finally years; it is the same when they die, especially of a tragic death, like suicide. I remember counting the days from the hour that I found Andrew. First it was minutes, then days. Eventually it was weeks and now finally I count the years – the “Angel Dates.”
It is not an anniversary date that anyone wants to have on the calendar, and for us survivors, we need to find a purpose, a reason to live, to go on, to start over.
My reason has become a walk/run event that we (I am not alone in this need to make a tragedy into something positive) host on the day before Mother’s Day each year. The event raises funds for a mental health initiative to (1) reduce the stigma that surrounds suicide, (2) help create a place for others to come together to have a positive day remembering a loved one lost tragically to suicide or (3) perhaps to support a friend or family member who might be struggling with depression, as my son Andrew did.
We gave our organization, our initiative, a name and a face, a real person that was lost to suicide. We chose to use my son’s name (AndrewDunn.org) and at first we were questioned on that decision. There was fear that this was in some way glamorizing the act of suicide, which couldn’t have been farther from the truth. We just believed that you couldn’t ask people to stop the stigma, if we were afraid to tell the truth ourselves and hid behind a nameless, faceless cause.
This has become my new start, not where I wanted to be, not what I wanted to be doing, not a part of my life plan, and it definitely scared me to death as it is quite out of my comfort zone…but it is my new purpose, my way of starting over.
Now I will leave you with another one of my favourite quotes:
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” -Eleanor Roosevelt