Walk Out Of The Darkness For Emma

Emma Jane von Euler was a beautiful, bright and articulate 17-year-old.  A talented musician with an outgoing personality, she was a caring daughter, sister and friend to many.

On June 17, 2009, Emma killed herself.

Emma von Euler

Westport — where her father Peter teaches 5th grade — and Fairfield, where the von Eulers live, were devastated.

Her mother Nancy — writing on a blog she created to preserve Emma’s life — described a “tsunami of destruction that swept up family, friends, teachers, ministers, mentors and neighbors.

“All of us struggled against the current of guilt, pain, shock and bewilderment,” Nancy continued.

For her immediate family, her father, sister and me, life as we knew it ended.

We will never fully understand why Emma ended her life; what caused what must have been an incredibly deep sense of despair and hopelessness; or why she couldn’t reach out to us or to the many other caring adults and professionals she had in her life.

But let’s face it, answers, even if we could find them, won’t fill the incredible hole in our hearts.

The von Eulers established a scholarship in Emma’s name.  It’s awarded annually to a Fairfield high school senior who plans to continue studying music in college.

Recipients are talented, sure.  But they also show a “kind and generous spirit, and a desire to help and inspire others.”

In other ways too, Emma lives on.  This Saturday (October 22), there’s an “Out of the Darkness Walk” at Sherwood Island State Park.  The event raises money for research and education programs to prevent suicide, increase awareness about depression and suicide, and provide support for survivors of suicide loss.

The sponsor — the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention — helped the von Eulers tremendously in the months after her death.

Emma von Euler

It’s not the 1st walk in Emma’s memory.  Just weeks after her death, high school friends formed a team.

“It was one of the many ways that kids showed us they knew best how to respond to the tragedy,” Peter says.  “They took action in a positive way.”

The teenagers asked the von Eulers to walk with them.

“At first we were reluctant,” Peter admits.

“We were struggling, and not feeling like being very public.  But we wanted to support their initiative and bravery.”

Though extremely hard, he says, “we followed their lead.  And it helped us — a lot.”

The von Eulers participated last fall too.  They’ve formed a team again this year.

They hope others will join them, as they walk out of the darkness.  Into the bright sunlight.

In honor of their beloved daughter — and all the too-many-other victims of suicide — so that no other family will have to march again.

(To participate in this Saturday’s Sherwood Island walk — or make a donation in Emma’s name — click here

(Contributions to the Emma Jane von Euler Music Scholarship may be sent to PO Box 682, Fairfield, CT 06824.)

For a moving video tribute to Emma, click the YouTube video below:

5 responses to “Walk Out Of The Darkness For Emma

  1. http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=171562892926350
    We will also be walking for Johnny..a vibrant personality and a kind spirited soul. no one understands the demons they carry but we can help others before its too late. Please join us in the quest to help prevent suicide and reach out to those who have lost a loved one. Your support is needed now more than ever.

  2. The Dude Abides

    Suicide among 15 – 25 year olds is high, the third leading cause of their premature death. Tragic story. Very courageous of the parents to somehow comprehend the enigma and do something about it despite their terrible loss.

  3. I have been thinking about this issue for decades and have come to conclusions about some suicides, especially like Emma’s. She and people like the guy the Yellow Ribbon Project is in honor of, have no indication of doing anything like this and then something sets them off and they can’t handle it. It’s a Sudden Severe Emotional Response Syndrome… a name I made up and would be happy to give anyone else credit for that can help people identify this in themselves, to know that this might happen. Role playing should be taught in the schools to prevent this. The Yellow Ribbon project suicide was a young guy about 22 or 23 who killed himself after finding out his fiance was going to marry someone else. If people were taught that this is a syndrome (and just about anything can be a syndrome), and they can recognize signs of this Sudden Severe Emotional Response, they can be given the tools to prevent something tragic. There are two types of suicides, those who talk about it a lot and eventually do it, and those for whom it comes out of the blue. Pass the word. SSERS. We can make it happen. I bet we can save some lives.

  4. I am not sure placing a label on it accomplishes anything. I had a neighbor’s child who was a cheerleader at University of Texas and blew her head half off when her boyfriend dumped her. I think communication is the key and open door opportunities via phone or wherever young people feel comfortable getting help. Many may knock “heliocopter parenting” but there is enough reasons these days. I will walk.

  5. It’s only to help people themselves recognize that this is a phenomenon that can happen. The kid who killed himself after he found out his girlfriend was going to marry someone else killed himself soon after he found that out. He woke up that day thinking it was just another day. It will certainly save lives to help people recognize symptoms in themselves. This is serious and no one wants to look at it. The problem is, you can’t interview these people after the fact. It most certainly is happening and this is something that can be done to prevent it. Why not try it?