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After These Kind Words, It Was My Turn To Speak and I was Already Crying

I was recently asked to speak to a group of sorority sisters, and the consultant who brought me in had witnessed my presentation four years earlier.  Four years.  You just never know who is listening when you speak to a group, but I always pray for at least one deep connection.  After hearing this introduction, I knew I had my connection from four years ago. 
Here is that introduction:

In September of 2016, my brother — my only sibling — died of an overdose. His two nephews, my sons, will grow up knowing him only through the stories that I tell them of our shared childhood and the many times he made me laugh.

About four and a half months after XXXX’s death, I attended Chi Omega’s Firesides with our chapter leaders. Dennis Gillan was the keynote speaker for that event, which was focused on mental health and emotional well-being.

As I sat there listening to Mr. Gillan’s talk that Friday night, I truly understood for the first time how people could walk away from immense crisis and unfathomable loss in a positive direction. I was especially touched by his honesty and his remarkable ability to take his own grief, turn it around, and use it to help others overcome theirs. I started to see that there was a light at the end of the dark tunnel I was walking through.

The morning after Mr. Gillan’s talk, I stood in line for breakfast in the hotel lobby. I looked up and saw him standing several people ahead of me. I debated whether I could hold myself together enough to talk to him and thank him. I thought I could. It turned out that I couldn’t. But as he hugged me and I wiped tears from my eyes, I realized that while I still grieved — and I still do grieve — my brother would live on in those stories I tell my boys and in whatever it was that I chose to do to use my own pain to help others. Mr. Gillan helped me see that there were still ways I could make my brother’s life matter.

Several months after Firesides, I joined the Board of Directors for Roads to Recovery, a local organization that provides support for people as they focus on and sustain their recovery. Mr. Gillan’s presence at Firesides in 2017 changed my life, and I will be forever grateful to him and to Chi Omega for that.

You never know who is listening… just never know.  Now I ask you—what’s your story that needs to be told?

#mentalhealth #suicideprevention #growth