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Photo of Andrew Dunn's walk/run where people come together to find meaning in loss. Love leaves a memory. Celebrate lives well lived.

Finding Meaning In Loss

Judy Dunn knew of her son Andrew’s battle with depression from the time he was 15 years old. Unfortunately, knowing about it and doing all she could to help him wasn’t enough to prevent him from taking his own life at age 23. That day, December 12th, 2006, meant, “My normal will never be normal again,” says Judy.

andrew 2Early on in her grief she knew she wanted to ensure Andrew’s life meant something. “It seemed like such a waste. His life was far too short.” Along with family friend Brenda Baliniski, and with the support of her surviving son, Robert, they created the Andrew Dunn Walk/Run and andrewdunn.org. The first run took place on Mother’s Day in 2007, at Bird’s Hill Park, Manitoba, with more than 100 participants raising $13,500 in support of mental health education and awareness.

By 2010, the run had relocated to the community of Oakbank, Manitoba and was moved to to take place each year on the Saturday before Mother’s Day, with as many as 1000 people attending throughout the day’s events.

For Judy, remembering my son is less about his death by suicide and more about celebrating his life. “The choice to use Andrew’s name for the organization in no way is meant to honour a death by suicide, but rather to acknowledge a real person that was lost to suicide. In other words, we chose to put a face to our cause and not disrespect the real human lives lost.”

“The event first allowed for people who knew Andrew to come together and remember him, but it has evolved into an event for others who have lost someone or struggled with mental health issues to gather, to share, remember their loved ones and heal together. Our cause and event is most definitely not just about Andrew, but of course it will always be quite personal to many of his friends and family.”

Despite all she’s learned in the years since Andrew’s death, Judy does not want to be looked upon as an expert. “ I’ve lived the experience and can help others who may be going through the same thing.”

She hopes people are able to find helpful resources via andrewdunn.org and connect with the help they need. Funds from the organization’s events have also helped to support a resource centre in her community.

Photo from Andrew Dunn's work where people are trying to find meaning from loss. Come together as a community and help each other with their grief.

Honestly addressing the cause of Andrew’s death has also been part of the family’s journey, beginning with Andrew’s obituary. She discussed what should be written with Robert, who also felt the cause of his brother’s death shouldn’t be kept a secret.

“It didn’t mean he was weak, or a failure. The pain in that moment was too deep for him to handle and he thought the world would be better off if he was gone.”

Judy says she wants others to know they can share their burdens and seek help when they need to.Helping members of the community see meaning in loss. Together, we can make a difference in this world.

And for those families who are left behind, she has another message. “It does get better. I remember the first time I laughed after Andrew died, I cried right afterwards. It seemed wrong to still be able to laugh or be joyful after he was gone. It’s not disrespectful of your loss to find happiness again.”

The 13th Annual Andrew Dunn Walk/Run will be held on May 11, 2019 in Oakbank, Manitoba, Canada.

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