Our chapter of AFSP just wrapped our 2013 season of Out of the Darkness community walks, and I have one word that sums up my current state of emotions: burnout. My exhaustion comes not only from volunteering at these events, but because I am tired of seeing them grow each year. I know that growth will help increase awareness of suicide prevention, but it is also evidence that many more are still dying by suicide.
At the event in Bellingham this year, a team walked in honor of a man who was at the event last year. This man wore green beads to represent his personal struggle – and he slipped through our fingers. Of course there is no real way of knowing if our walks are saving people from acting on their suicidal thoughts, but loss is always present. This is portrayed in the memorial garden, which also grows bigger each year. You can see the emptiness on the faces of people painfully looking at photos of those who died, strangers and their own.
All of these things contribute to my burnout. When volunteering at these events you get so caught up in the tasks at hand that you need to put your own grief aside for the time being. It isn’t until afterwards that you feel like your knees could buckle and your nerves are fried.
For the past two years I have been volunteering as a board member with our local chapter, and I believe parts of it have contributed to my own personal healing. But recently I have been neglecting my own healing. How do you balance helping a cause in memory of your loved one and your own personal healing?