Like many of my colleagues, I have spent a lot of time recently with people who have been bereaved by the death of a young person lost to suicide. I think especially of the many mums, dads and caregivers who have lost one of their children to suicide.
It is always humbling to see their passion for prevention shining through what many describe as unimaginable tragedy. Those who have lost a child to suicide don’t want anyone to experience what they have. None of them wants any other young person to go through what their child did. I always say, these people are PAPYRUS.
Like many of our trustees, the parents I have met in recent weeks are driven, determined and, despite evident heartbreak, hopeful of a society where suicide is no more.
I am clear why our founders were determined not to set up PAPYRUS as a bereavement charity. We all need to take time to grieve, to be sad, to remember, to recover. For many, there is an opportunity in grief to reach out and build a better future for others. PAPYRUS is about prevention.
Many parents and families who share their stories with us are determined to prevent future deaths. Each of them, in their grief, is active in finding life for others and for themselves. That is incredibly inspiring and life-affirming.
Grief is certainly the price they are paying for love. Often it bursts out in free-flowing tears or fierce rage. Often their grief is dogged determination not to take no for an answer, say from a politician who sends a stock reply to a letter, or a persistent challenge say to a social media platform which declares itself safe for young despite obvious evidence to counter that.
This is active grieving, which is tested every day, borne of memories of a loved one no longer here but rooted in a desire to give others life and hope.
That grief cannot be self-indulgent as its focus is on helping others – it has noble purpose and envisages a future for those who cannot see one for themselves.
Grief can also be quiet, gentle and not seen by others, but it is always there.
There is something so very moving about the parents I have had the privilege to stand alongside recently, and over the years I have worked with PAPYRUS.
I cannot fail to be moved by them. Finding a reason to live has become a daily task for many of those touched by loss to suicide, especially when grief is raw and new. Many of them tell me that that grief never fades; rather, some just find ‘a new way of carrying it’ – and that can change from one day to the next. Many of them say their real purpose is gone. Some report finding new purpose in the work they do under the PAPYRUS banner.
I have come to see how sharing a personal story enables others to share their own story, as and how they wish to.
Each of us has a story worth sharing.
That is surely a message we want every young person to know. They have intrinsic worth. Each of us does. No matter what our pain and circumstance, each one matters. Each life is worth living. Working alongside those who feel they have lost everything in losing a child is itself a lesson in living intentionally, living with purpose. I am challenged to do something similar.
When I feel tired and weary, when I feel broken or inadequate, I am challenged to find life – as do many of those amazing parents who find life despite their profound loss.
Some will have their stories heard and many will hear it. Some will whisper their story on our helpline. Some will brave their story being told during one of our training sessions. Some stories will remain in the heart. Many stories remain there for years. Some are shared with friends, others with strangers.
And those stories, that lived and living experience, the pain, the love and the impulse to find life, even in despair, make PAPYRUS ever-stronger and ever-more determined to keep going, to reach more communities and, working with them, to help save young lives.
Ged Flynn, Chief Executive
PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide