How It All Began
It was a typical Tuesday morning. My husband and I got ready for work. Our older three, ages 20-26, were in their respective places (Italy, North Carolina, and Massachusetts) getting ready to be a college student abroad, a college academic advisor and a high school ELA teacher. And our youngest, a high school junior, got himself breakfast (pizza, but hey, he made it himself) and caught a planned ride to high school from his grandmother. Before that Tuesday was over our 16- year-old son, Jeremy, was lying in the Intensive Care Unit, 100 miles from home, on life support. And life would never be typical again. It would be two days before he was declared dead. And another day on life support as we followed his wishes (on the learners permit he had recently obtained) to donate his organs. If this is difficult to read, believe me, it was much harder to live through.
Jeremy was beautiful and musical. He was brilliant and witty. He loved the woods, his German Shepherd Mike, ASL, his family and friends. He was very loved. And very loving. Nearly every hello and see you later from Jeremy included a really big hug and an “I love you.” His smile was ear-to-ear.
And that is how myself, my family and Jeremy’s friends became suicide loss survivors.
When Sharing Kindness began, a small group of family and friends were grieving the death of our beloved 16-year-old. Our intention was to help each other grasp the truth in the present moment: Jeremy had died from suicide. We learned so much, so quickly. We learned that suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people, ages 15-24. We learned that Jeremy’s friends were at increased risk of dying by suicide, as were we, his family. We learned that the stigma surrounding suicide made it difficult for some people who wanted to support us or Jeremy’s friends, it was difficult for them to acknowledge our loss and pain. Jeremy’s friends at Nauset High School needed support, and we quickly ascertained that Cape Cod had few resources to offer young people. The first Cape and Islands Suicide Awareness Walk was an action of solidarity in grief and a tangible support for these high school students.
Jeremy loved the wilderness. I am grateful to him, and for him, every time I climb up to his tree house or walk in the woods. I feel the sun and breeze on my face, I hear the birds, and I feel closer to my youngest son. Another gift from Jeremy: before his death I didn’t take the time to do this regularly, but he always did.
As Sharing Kindness has grown, we have focused on Suicide Awareness and Grief Support. We have partnered with schools and community programs, in addition to collaborating with other nonprofits, to educate, advocate and prevent suicide, including school Suicide Prevention policies. We want to eliminate the stigma around mental health, allowing those who struggle to reach out more confidently. Additionally, we are educating the rest of us on how to reach in, if we suspect that someone may be suicidal. We have reviewed and distributed best practice policies for print and spoken media around news coverage of suicide. We have also offered Grief Programming throughout the Cape, with curriculum developed and overseen by our licensed mental health clinicians.
In spite of the ending, and I would rewrite it if I could, I am grateful. I am grateful that Jeremy was born. I am grateful that he lived. I am grateful that he is my son. I am grateful that I am his mom. And I am grateful for 16 years. (Thanks to Tom Zuba for this, his book is Permission to Mourn).
Jeremy left us a note in which he said, “I wish I had more time to tell people I love them. I wish I had more time to make the world a better place.” Jeremy planted the seed for Sharing Kindness. Our wonderful Sharing Kindness family is tending that seed, and we are growing a thriving, healthier, kinder community. Please consider joining us.
Kim Mead-Walters, MD
Co-founder, Sharing Kindness, Inc.
Sharing Kindness, seeded from the shared devastation of suicide and grief, now tending a thriving community through empathy, education and courageous conversation.