This blog was written back in 2017. I thought I’d repost it as Darkness into Light committees all around the country begin to meet up again to do their trojan work in organising their local 2019 walk which takes place again this year on May 11th. Sadly, since writing, there are more families tending to their raw visceral grief due to the loss of a loved one by suicide.
My good friend Mary and her family have found themselves in this landscape of heartbreak and grief very recently. Pete, a son, father, husband, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin and friend has been lost to so many people who loved him. The beautiful light of his presence in the world gone. They are bereft without him.
So this year where ever you live and in whatever way big or small, support your Darkness into Light walk. Support those in need of help, walk in remembrance for those no longer with us and support those left behind, walk beside them in their lives even for a short while.
There are many sayings about the breaking of day: ‘How the darkest hour is always before dawn’, ‘New day and new beginnings’ and such like. This time last week, I was hanging beautiful art work in preparation for the Darkness into Light Walk. Then, later on Saturday May 6th 2017, I got up again in the middle of the night (along with hundreds and thousands of others at over a 150 different venues) to participate in the Darkness into Light Walk at 4.15 am.
Darkness into Light is a movement against suicide. It is the main fundraising event for Pieta House who support people who are in distress. Pieta offers free counselling to those suffering from suicidal ideation, those who have been bereaved by suicide and people who are engaging in self-harm. Darkness into Light creates awareness about suicide and self-harm. It highlights the devastating effects on families who suffer the loss of a loved one by suicide and provides them with support. It gets people talking. It gets people talking about the things we Irish as a nation prefer to keep behind closed doors. It gets people talking about mental wellness, mental illness and gets out the message that ‘It’s OK to not be OK, and it’s OK to talk about it’.
The symbolism of the Darkness into Light Walk is easy enough to understand. From the gloom of night we walk into the breaking of a new day. Our route is beautifully decorated with tealights which radiate hope and tranquility against the darkness. Banners and illuminated signs guide our path. The atmosphere is never as solemn as I expect. In an uniquely Irish way, this walk is a social event. There is an atmosphere of camaraderie among the participants who are all ages, shapes and sizes. There is something about walking together at an ungodly hour that raises the spirits of many.
It can be easy to not remember the stark reality for many people involved in the organising of and those participating in the Darkness into Light Walk. Their reality is that the hope they had for their loved one is gone. It was quenched the day their loved one died by suicide. So they work very hard at getting everything set up at local level (and believe me there is an amount of work to be done, an array of logistics to be worked out whilst keeping everything ticking over in their own demanding daily lives) and they walk with hope. The burning hope that in volunteering their talents, time and energy and encouraging others to do so too maybe another family will be spared the anguish and heartbreak they had to suffer and endure.
They walk in remembrance, they walk tending to the constant shadow of their grief not only on the Darkness into Light walk but in their daily lives and they are a beacon of hope to the rest of us. They are a beacon of hope for us all as they enable us all to do a little good and to be a little better.
Their efforts draw out kindness and generosity from all from corners of the local communities, from the local businesses who sponsor the post-walk refreshments to sponsorship for the lights for the signage. From the sign makers and the school children who provide the fabulous art work, to the fire brigade service, the outriders, the stewards,the volunteers serving post walk refreshments and the runners & walkers without whom the walk would not happen. Then there are just those special individual magical moments and acts of kindness that warm the heart. Goodness breeds goodness and kindness begets kindness.
This was my third Darkness into Light Walk. My second walk in the Carrick-on-Suir venue. My very good friend lost her beloved sister and her family lost their beloved sister, mother, daughter & aunty to suicide eight years ago. They were instrumental in bringing the phenomenon that is Darkness into Light into our local town for the first time last year and again this year. I do a lot of talking & walking with my friend but this 5km (and the 10km in June’s Dublin Mini Marathon) are amongst the hardest she ever has to do.
There is a bittersweet poignancy attached to the whole event: the joy that it garnered so much support from the community is tinged with the sadness of her loss. She wishes that there was no need for it in the first place. But a need there is, so my friend Mary puts on her game face, goes without sleep (for many the night) and becomes a beacon of hope. A bright, beautiful & inspirational beacon of hope who I so admire. An everyday hero and an everyday warrior and yes in my mind one in a million.
The challenge for us all is to remember that although we may not be a ‘Mary’, we can embrace the The Darkness into Light message of Hope: ‘The finish line of Darkness into Light is where the journey starts’. So, in whatever way you can, be a small beacon of hope for someone else today.