September is one of the happiest months for me. I was born in September. I was married in September and let’s face it, in New England; September is an incredibly beautiful month. But now, September has a very powerful meaning to me as well. It is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. Why has it not been so powerful before? Sadly the reason is because suicide had never affected me so closely. My beautiful, kind, funny, sweet niece Annie died of suicide. It has devastated our world. I think back on this now and I was so blind to think it could never happen to us. I am sorry I had not paid attention to this incredibly important subject more closely in the past. I am sorry to all those who have given in to their emotional pain. I am sorry to all their loved ones who have to somehow go on. I am sorry it took a tragedy to open my eyes.
Suicide is caused by a disease; Mental Illness. It’s caused by lies the mind tricks you into believing. Emotional pain is just as real as physical pain. If someone told you to hold a jar straight out in front of you and not to let go because your life depended on it. Then, over time, it was filled with sand, then pebbles, then rocks, then boulders. You would hold on for your life. You would do whatever you could to not give into the pain. But eventually, your arms will give in to the pain. This kind of pain is more powerful than love. If love could have saved Annie, she would still be here. She was so loved.
So how do we unburden those who are trying to hold these heavy jars of emotions? We listen, we are kind and we let those in our lives know they are never fighting any battle alone. We talk about depression, mental illness and feelings of suicide. We make people feel safe when they do talk to us. We show them that we care. We love them.
I have heard time and time again that suicide is selfish. I probably thought the same at one time in my life. But this is so further from the truth. My niece Annie was the most unselfish person you could ever meet. She adored her 3 beautiful girls. She would do anything for them. She did do anything for them. She loved me, with every ounce of her heart. I absolutely know – she would never hurt me. However, she gave in to the pain. Her pain was so incredible, her boulders, rocks, pebbles and sand – were too painful to hold out any longer. Pain won over love. She could no longer see the amount of love that surrounded her. She was blinded with pain. She was not selfish. She did not commit suicide, she died of suicide. I believe the stigma of suicide contributed to her not reaching out for help. She didn’t know where to turn, who to talk to, who to trust with her feelings, how not to be judged. Her mind convinced her that telling anyone how she felt would cause her more pain. How I wish the world looked at this differently. How I wish she knew how very loved she was. I wish she knew how we would have built a parachute with our arms and caught her, each and every time she needed us too.
This all brings me back to my point. Suicide prevention and awareness needs to be a dialogue every day. Not just in September. I am just one small voice in this big, big world. But, I will take my tiny voice and make it loud. It’s not emotionally easy to stay strong and start a conversation about suicide prevention & awareness. But, I will for Annie. I will be Annie’s voice as much as I can. And when I am weary, I know her girls will be her voice, my daughter will be her voice, my family will be her voice, her friends will be her voice – and this in turn, will educate others to keep the conversation going. Open your heart, open your mind, try to change the way you look at each other. Perception and assumption are such powerful and dangerous emotions. Be kind. Always. One kind word or gesture could save a life.
In Annie’s memory we have started a kindness campaign. It is called Annie’s Kindness Blankets. We donate handmade blankets to anyone who needs to be wrapped in love. You can find her story and our motivation behind these blankets at https://www.facebook.com/
Annie’s Aunt Barbara