UPDATE: Congrats! We reached $10,000 and I will receive a super generous $5,000 donation to help me further this project. Thanks for getting us this far. If you have yet to donate, please donate what you can in this final hour - it will still make a big difference!
Well, thanks to you and great supporters, we reached my original goal in just 72 hours and my project has been shared nearly 500 times on Facebook. The outpouring of support and encouragement has been humbling and inspiring.
The greatest news of all is that more men from across the country are contacting me to set up interviews. Your sharing of this project via email, Facebook and Twitter continues to be the best way I am able to link with similarly affected men, which is our biggest challenge.
Please keep sharing and donating what you can!
Thank you so much,
PS: Have you seen our new website, Fatherless by Suicide?
About Fatherless by Suicide
I believe stories are how we understand our world, our place in it and how we can enhance it. Surviving the suicide of your father is a particularly unique, tough world to inherit.
Fatherless by Suicide works to help address that challenge.
It is a collaborative storytelling project that will share how men whose fathers died by suicide have approached healing and their path to manhood in the absence of their biological fathers. Ultimately, the portfolio of audio interviews and portraits aims to reduce the shame and stigma around suicide, and improve our ability to better support the millions who live in the wake of it.
Why Me and Why Now
My father died by his own hand in Kansas on the morning of September 9, 1981. He shot himself five times in the chest. I was three years old.
Throughout my life, I’ve been growing into his name, genetics and mannerisms, as well as an unending, unanswered series of questions about who he was and how much of him – and his illness – I have in me. As the saying goes: like father, like son; I was afraid that his life narrative would inevitably be mine.
Despite being unconditionally loved by a dynamic, powerful mom and supportive community, I grew up ashamed being the son of a man who took his own life. I often felt guilty, thinking that my ‘terrible twos’ and I were somehow to blame. Mostly, I was angry with him for taking his life and leaving me fatherless with an avalanche of questions and sadness.
Though suicide is prevalent - it is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States - I have yet to talk with another man who has also lost his father to suicide. Thirty years of waiting for an opportunity to share with someone like me had its effect. I began craving to learn how other men have chartered their own path of adulthood and healing in the wake of the suicide of their fathers. I read books and scoured online, but I found the predominantly academic-focused material fell short of my needs.
I wanted to hear stories directly from similarly affected men and I wanted to learn from them. I also wondered how my younger self might have benefited from seeing men who were working through their emotions and challenges of not having a father in a society that excels at shaming suicide victims and survivors.
Then I realized I should stop just wondering and start doing. After all, I have spent the past ten years supporting advocates in harnessing the power of storytelling, technology and multimedia tools to advance human rights and social change campaigns. It was time to invest my skills and energy on the issue that most affected me personally.
So, dear reader, here we are. I've explored this project from every angle I know how to and I'm ready to move forward. I need to embark on this journey and I'm confident it's worth it. Now I’m taking the necessary step in asking for your support and participation.
Please join me to help make this project a reality.
What Your Support Will Enable
In this first, exploratory phase of this project, I am focused on addressing the biggest challenge - finding and connecting with similarly affected men. This is where you can make the most difference.
Once we connect, I will set-up interviews with folks who represent the geographic and cultural diversity that makes the United States so incredible and unique. Traveling by motorcycle from August through October, I will slowly zigzag across the United States and capture audio interviews of survivors’ stories and take portraits of each collaborator holding something of their father’s.
After completing the interviews, I will edit audio interviews and weave them into an audio series featuring stories and insights from collaborators on their journey to define their manhood, find healing and, perhaps, embrace fatherhood. Additionally, I will curate and feature a portfolio of collaborators' portraits and excerpts of their stories online.
[Though I have other hopes for this project, such as inviting online story submissions and finding an exhibition space to install a multimedia experience to display the portraits of interviewees alongside snippets of their audio interviews, I'm keeping focused on the immediate steps ahead. If this phase goes well, maybe another Kickstarter campaign in the future.]
How to Participate
If you’ve lost your father to suicide, I would love to meet you, hear your story and share it. See below on how we can get started.
If you know someone who has, please send this to them now along with a personal note and encourage their participation.
Connecting with similarly affected men is the biggest challenge we face. Please do all you can to spread the word about this project - sharing on Facebook and social media, as well as emailing your friends (best) and any groups you may be part of (bereavement, faith or support groups, for example).
On a personal note, I’m making a special call for men who, like me, were under the age of five when their father passed because those of us who were toddlers or infants share a similar reality: we don’t remember our biological fathers. Let's talk.
Share Your Story
If you’re interested in collaborating with me on this project, please fill out this short form and I will be in touch!
In order to participate you must be:
18 or over;
- Willing to sign a consent form; and,
- Willing to have your portrait taken and voice recorded*.
* If you would like to participate but wish to remain anonymous, we can take steps to ensure your anonymity as well as take a portrait that will not reveal your identity. I'm happy to discuss, so please get in touch. Feel free to email me at FatherlessbySuicide@gmail.com as well
How Your Investment Will Be Used
I have spent my career working with human rights organizations, making the most out of little. I take pride in my thriftiness and skills to optimally leverage your generosity.
My budget boils down to five categories:
- Travel, accommodations and meals: 50%
- Equipment: 15%
- Interview transcription and website maintenance: 15%
- Fees (Kickstarter and Amazon fees): 10%
- Backer reward fulfillment and postage: 10%
I will be using my own motorcycle and gear, and will budget travel with a focus on getting to know couches and campsites. Feel free to message me if you have any questions on the budget!
[Update: Though we have reached my initial goal, please your generosity and investment will still make a huge difference. Read more here.}
I'm trying to get creative with awards and will work to enhance your options; but, I am hoping that your generosity will be driven by the idea of this project and confidence in my ability to see it through. In addition to heartfelt thanks and appreciation, acknowledgement on the website, creative postcards and letters, meet-ups in a city near you, I also am offering up my proven skills as rewards:
- I'll write and record a one-of-a-kind banjo instrumental song ($250 investment)
- I'll sew a child in your life a one-of-a kind creative monster or doll ($500 investment)
- I'll officiate your wedding. I've done quite a few, and have references you can chat with ($1,500 investment)
Questions, Ideas and Feedback
If you have them, I'd love to hear them. Start the conversation by emailing me at FatherlessbySuicide@gmail.com
Risks and challenges
This project is totally reliant on the participation of other men who want to share their stories and insights. I'm betting there other other men out there who, like me, would like to talk with others who lost their father to suicide. Additionally, I'm assuming they also see the value in sharing their own story and hearing others' perspectives with hopes it may help them, but may also help thousands of other young men who may be grieving the loss of their father and trying to find some inspiration, support and insight to harness.
The hard part is finding them and I'm hoping you (and social media) can help. This is my biggest challenge and it is certainly non-trivial. It is the one that keeps me up at night.
The other challenges and risks are real - from travel delays and logistic hiccups that come with such a project, to the very real need for conducting the most ethical, thoughtful interviews possible. Though I've spent a bulk of my career training human rights advocates to interview individuals, often under great trauma and stress, I am not a psychotherapist, nor do I pretend to be.
That being said, I take great precaution and responsibility for doing this project with the utmost care and attention to the mental health of all involved.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (31 days)