My Catalyst through Chaos

Some find advocacy work as a result of an enlightenment they had somewhere along the way. Some instance where something touched them so deeply it created a spark that held them to a need for change. Others fall into advocacy work as a result of a life experience. I am the latter of the two. I did not plan a life of advocacy; my spark wasn’t ignited by an enlightenment. My spark was ignited by a very deep and confusing loss.

Almost four years ago, I lived a life that was not perfect, but it was good. I had what I needed and was what I valued most in my life: a mother. I won’t oversimplify things and say my life was without challenges because I had many along the way.  However, all my challenges, all my difficulties would pale in comparison to what I would soon experience. What I didn’t know then was that I would experience unimaginable pain, loss, confusion, and sorrow and all that combined would catalyze me into what I now consider my life’s purpose.

On January 7, 2018, I lost my firstborn son to suicide. His loss was the final swan song that came after years of battling mental illness. In one abrupt moment, the years of chaos and confusion were gone. In an instant, my life became divided into two books: before and after. 

What is a mother or rather a woman who had known no other life than being a mother first to do when the very foundation she stood on shook uncontrollably? I had been a mother since I was 17 years old. Not only was it the most important thing in my life but it also defined me. By definition, I was still a mother, the mother of two. That number always seemed odd to me because that was not my number, my number was three. The complexity of that alone was difficult to wrap my head around. I remember sitting in that ICU waiting room, not quite understanding what was happening. I didn’t understand where we had gone wrong, but I knew that in the blink of an eye we had become a statistic. I believe our family knew instantly that something needed to be done to prevent similar tragedies and so Tony’s Tribe was born. 

Over the last few years, we have worked diligently to advocate and work towards suicide prevention and awareness. Through our work, we realized that were not alone, that many other families were dealing with loved ones who experienced mental health concerns, had suicidal experiences, were practicing self-harm, were openly speaking about suicide and in some cases were attempting suicide as well. So that’s where our work began.  We began a grass roots approach to share Tony’s story and ours, in the hope we could connect with others who might be facing similar challenges. We wanted to give others what we ourselves didn’t have: awareness and education. Since that time, we have expanded our work to include resources and tools we feel would have helped us when we were in crisis or after our loss. Our goal always being to save lives, offer help, destigmatize mental illness and bring the complexity and difficulty of this topic to the forefront so that those struggling, and their loved ones, could be reached. 

The missions of Tony’s Tribe and AAS align  and my role as  the Loss Survivor Division Chair is an extension of that work. My hope is that through this platform, I can bring my experiences and strengths to AAS but more so join forces with one of the largest and oldest suicide prevention organizations in existence to work towards our common goal: a world without suicide.