Monthly Archives

October 2018

Why I Walk

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Throughout the fall the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention holds over 400 Out of the Darkness Walks across the country.  The money raised supports the foundation’s work in research, education, and survivor support.  Thousands of people write #whyiwalk essays, sharing their connections to the cause over social media.  Here is mine.

Full disclosure – I haven’t actually walked the walk, but on Saturday, will be my 4thyear working as a volunteer.  I’ll be at Central Park in Pasadena, CA.  I first helped in 2015 at the Santa Monica Walk.  It was a time in my life when I was just starting to really deal with my mother’s suicide – 30 years after it happened and my family stopped talking about it.

When I met my fellow volunteers, they introduced themselves and stated their loss.  I did the same.  Suddenly I was having open, uninhibited conversations with people who “got it.”  The dark clouds that hung over this part of my life started to part a bit.  Those conversations led me to seek out a support group, which inspired getting my family to open up for the first time for The Silent Goldens documentary.  Just having conversations about the project opened the door for people to share their stories with me.  Their pain always feels familiar.

The sense of community at these walks is what keeps me coming back.  The healing I’ve felt, and knowing I’ve comforted others keeps me coming back.  Being able to openly honor those we’ve lost keeps me coming back.  The overall feeling of hope and love keeps me coming back.

I found purpose through volunteering at the walks and became active with the AFSP Greater LA. It’s important to me to stay involved to give back to other survivors what they have given to me, and prevent who will, unfortunately, face suicide loss in the future never feel they have to be silent about it.

Find a walk in your area or get all the info for Nov 3rd in Pasadena!

The Kindness of Strangers

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I left my wallet with debit and credit card at a friend’s house and found myself with no cash this morning and no access to get any for a few hours.  Desperate for a Diet Coke, I scrounged up $1.26 in dimes and nickels and found a winning scratch off lottery ticket that I could redeem for $1.  My plan was to trade the ticket for the dollar can of soda and look for a snack I could afford.

When I asked how much the Hostess Donettes cost the cashier said $2 so I put them back and said “nevermind.”  He asked how much I had in the way that I understood I could buy them for the $1.26.  I said “it’s ok” and grabbed my can of Diet Coke.

At the register I asked to trade the can for the ticket then realized this gas station didn’t sell tickets so they wouldn’t redeem them.  He offered to take it anyway.  I told him there was no need as I had a dollar.  I nodded to the guy now waiting behind me to go ahead and began to count my change out.  Suddenly the guy who went ahead held out a $5 bill for me to take.  My eyes got watery at the unconditional generosity and compassion I was being shown by these men. I did refuse but thanked him and explained that I did have money, just not at that second.

I can now say for certain random acts of kindness do their job.  The one aimed at me, though not needed, made my day a whole lot better and gave me some hope for us all.  I will pay this one forward big time!



FUNdraising with Passion

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Never did I ever think I would be fundraising to do a passion project documentary. Throughout my career in TV production I had a few show ideas I took a stab at selling, but mostly I was hired to develop and execute a certain idea within a given budget. When I discovered I had a story, however, the passion was undeniable. Contrary to the way I am used to working, I now have the idea developed and am ready for production, I just need to raise the money.  It’s opposite world and I am not a natural fundraiser.

Asking for money for anything has always been difficult for me – even negotiating fair pay for myself, I am embarrassed to admit.  I found through doing fundraising for the Out of the Darkness Walks with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention I was able to ask because the money was not for me, but for a cause.  When I did it though, I was so touched by those who did donate.  Not just by the family and friends I contacted that generously supported me beyond my original goal, but those contributions from other people they reached out to who had been affected by suicide.  Some of them I knew.  All of them shared their connection with me.

That experience inspired me to create the page on The Silent Goldens website to memorialize donors’ loved ones lost to suicide and create a (hopefully) long list of people willing to be a part of the conversation on the subject. From the start I’ve been overwhelmed and, once again, extremely touched by each and every contribution.  It’s heartwarming on a personal level since this is a personal story, but it’s gratifying to have so many responding to the mission to normalize conversations around suicide.  Each donation gives me more confidence to ask for the next.

Support has come from all segments of my life – people from childhood, high school and college, bosses and co-workers from days gone by, friends and friends of friends and many other loss survivors. Many joined in on my birthday Facebook fundraiser and I truly got a rush of happiness each time I saw a name and now those I wasn’t in regular contact with are now popping up in my newsfeed again!  So bonus for me and thanks again to you all!

I was also humbled to have Carla Fine memorialize her husband with a donation.  Carla wrote a book No Time To Say Goodbye about her experience after his suicide and travels the world speaking about surviving this loss.  She led a writing seminar I  participated in at a survivor’s conference I attended.   She was the one that suggested I write a blog post about it for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s national website where it was published and went a long way to validating my documentary project!

This entire experience is helping me grow in many ways and I’m so curious to see where it leads and how the film and I can help suicide awareness spread!

A Spotlight on Suicide

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Most of my 25+ year career has been spent in a creative field – television production.  I only relatively recently discovered, however, the healing and help that creative endeavors can bring through developing my current documentary project,The Silent Goldens, opening the conversations about my family’s 30-year silence following my mother’s suicide.

Through my work with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, I’ve been lucky to meet many others who are using their creative talents to help themselves heal while spreading awareness, de-stigmatizing the subject, and starting discussions.  One such person is Kelly O’Malley, a fellow loss survivor and producer of A Light In Dark Places: Plays for Hope – five one-act plays chosen through an open competition with stories focusing on different aspects of suicidal struggle and loss.

Being a lifelong fan of the theater, I jumped at the chance to meet Kelly in the spring of 2017 when she was gearing up for the second season of performances with proceeds to be donated to the AFSP’s Greater LA chapter.   We connected instantly and I was thrilled to work with her again this year to talk to the directors about the basics of suicide prevention and safe messaging, bring educational information to the shows, and be part of some Q&A sessions.

Side note:  The plays are staged at the world famous Stella Adler Studio of Acting on Hollywood Blvd where Kelly studied.  The real deal school where she, Brando, DeNiro, and now I have graced the stage!  Even with all my years in the TV industry, hanging out backstage with the actors in that building before a show was the most “Hollywood” I’ve ever felt!    (Photo above – Kelly to the right of moderator, me far right.)

As a theatergoer, seeing the show back-to-back a few times allowed me to notice some nuanced changes in the performances as the days went on, and being a part of the whole experience allowed me to ask those involved about their artistic choices, creating a very interesting learning experience.

The play series and, the non-profit Kelly has started, are meant to raise awareness, open discussions, build community, and bring hope to those struggling – and she is absolutely doing it as evidenced by the very thoughtful questions brought up in the Q&As.  This was a remarkable event with powerful stories and a cast and crew who were all extremely dedicated to the material and passionate about the overall message of hope.  I saw many familiar faces from the first year I was involved and a number of people I spoke to had a direct connection to the cause, so were also using their creative talents to add their voices to the conversation.

Kelly’s hard work has impressively doubled the play submissions each of the 3 years to over 150 this year. I applaud and thank her and all involved in A Light In Dark Places: Plays for Hope, not just on behalf of my AFSP chapter, but as a survivor. These plays do a great service in allowing people to witness the deep pain so many others live with and how human connection – achieved through conversation –  can help. I am excited to see how her mission and the submissions grow in 2019 and am motivated and inspired  by what she’s done to keep pushing forward with my own project!