CHESTERTON — Valparaiso resident Stacy Beeler lost both her husband and son to suicide.
Beeler honors their memory each year by taking part in the Out of the Darkness walk for suicide prevention.
This year’s event was held Sunday at Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve.
“It’s heavy,” Beeler said of the range of emotions she went through and continues to go through after the loss of both family members.
“Somehow the world has a hard time dealing with suicide. There’s never going to be a getting over it,” Beeler said.
Beeler was one of some 600 people who participated in the Out of the Darkness walk, many in teams whose T-shirts displayed the photo of a loved one who died by suicide.
Carly Petersen, of Valparaiso, organized the first walk eight years ago on behalf of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Petersen first became involved with the AFSP just a few months after her daughter, Kelsey, 15, passed away.
“This is how it started,” Petersen said, adding, “It’s saved a lot of lives.”
Money raised at the event goes to fund educational research and advocacy and to help survivors.
Beeler on the day of the event, wore a guitar-shaped badge on her shirt in honor of her husband, Matthew Beeler, who was 41 when he died and her son, Matt, who was 21.
The badge includes the slogan, Sixxstringsjunkie, in honor of her musician husband and “the boy,” in reference to her son.
“It gets difficult every year,” Beeler said.
Her husband battled depression then committed suicide on what will soon be six years on Dec. 28.
“When I lost big Matt there was months of cloudiness and disbelief. I had two kids and grandbabies so I got through,” Beeler said.
When her son committed suicide 18 months after she lost her husband, Beeler’s emotions ran the gamut since his death was so unexpected.
Her son, who was home on leave from the service, was a happy person who loved going to sports and musical events with his mom and who was a lot of fun, Beeler said.
“That was a whole different kinds of world shattering. You’re not supposed to bury your children. I still struggle,” Beeler said.
Pam Soto of Valparaiso came to the walk with her grandson, Amelio Salas, to honor the life of Kelsy Petersen.
Soto said Kelsy and her daughter, Marion Freeland, who will soon be 24, were best friends.
“It (the suicide) has affected everything my daughter has done,” Soto said.
Soto praised the blue skies and good weather for the event that included the release of hundreds of balloons into the air.
Those with a friend or loved one who died by suicide either wrote the person’s name on a slip of paper and put it inside the balloon or wrote a message on the outside of the balloon.
“They all shined down on us. We’ve never had a bad day for the event,” Soto said.
The event also included inflatable games for kids, a bake sale and silent auction.