After accepting an invitation to speak at this year’s Out of the Darkness Walk in Kansas City, I spent several weeks trying to figure out what the hell to say.
I rarely feel this way speaking in public, but this event is special. Like me, nearly everyone in attendance has lost a loved one to suicide, which, in theory, should make them easy to relate to. But knowing this journey as I do carries a weight of responsibility. It’s the furthest thing from “just another speech.” These are my people.
Potential themes bounced around my head before I settled on what I believe to be the central purpose of the event: making history.
When you ask someone at an Out of the Darkness Walk why they are attending, the most common response is: “I’m here because I lost _____ to suicide.”
That surface level answer obscures a deeper purpose we can accomplish on behalf of loved ones lost, survivors of loss, and those who continue to struggle. To me, it all comes down to history. Suicide is intense, and many people try to bury the cause of death along with the person they lost, hoping the intense feelings that go with suicide loss – grief, guilt, shame, etc. – will eventually go away. The past is the past, they say, and dwelling on it won’t bring her back. Technically, that’s true. The past is a series of things that happen, and we can’t undo them. But history is an evolving narrative based on knowledge of the past. We all have the ability to influence history.
In that spirit, I decided to use my time Saturday to rewrite an important piece of personal history. I hope it helps.