About a month ago, I went through an unexpected trauma that profoundly impacted my personal life.
I’ve written previously, that 19 years ago, my stepson Chan ended his life. The foundation of Life as I knew it then, shattered. I’ve found this loss, while not to suicide, to be equally traumatic. I am not ready to write about it yet. I may never be, but do want to share that I’ve found myself revisited by anxiety, despair, symptoms of post-traumatic stress, and very real world challenges.
During this time, many have reached out to me with love and kindness … and that has made all the difference in the world. It is with the support of family and friends that I have been able to survive the last couple of months and grown a bit stronger each and every day.
The loss has reinforced my appreciation of our stand at the Alliance of Hope that “Kindness Matters.” We made it the first two words of our mission statement:
"Kindness matters. For those who've lost a loved one to suicide, it matters a lot. We exist to provide healing, compassionate support to those who are suffering through the lonely and tumultuous aftermath of suicide. Our services help people survive and go beyond just surviving, to lead productive lives filled with meaning and joy."
Since founding the Alliance of Hope, 8 years ago, I've read thousands of stories about suicide and loss which have been posted on our forum. I’ve observed great diversity in the personalities and paths taken to suicide, as well as the challenging emotions and circumstances of those left behind. As a clinician trained in the Western Medical Model, I can recite diagnoses and treatments, grounded in that model, off the tip of my tongue. But diagnoses and explanations or support, grounded in that model – have never seemed enough to me.
That’s even truer for me as I lean on the kindness of others now.
I look forward to breakthroughs in our conversations and research that address the real complexity of suicide and the role that kindness can play in healing the hearts and minds of those who lose hope. While I am not a scientist or a researcher, there is one thing I do believe. "Kindness” is one of the most important and most ignored aspects of suicide prevention and aftercare. There is no supporting research. I have no statistics … and yet I believe in my heart, that kindness can make all the difference in the world.
Ronnie Walker, MS, LCPC is the founder and Executive Director of the Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors