Content Warning: This piece contains mentions of suicide.
Last month, Active Minds lost a force.
I met Sue Cimbricz just a handful of months after she experienced the most extraordinary loss anyone can endure: the suicide of her oldest son, Sam.
From the moment I met her and was let into her world and her story, Sue astounded me. Shadowed by her grief, Sue turned all her energy into remembering. And she always did it with the most extraordinary creativity and devotion.
In this field, we often discuss if – and when – it’s healthy for suicide loss survivors to get involved in prevention work. We all want so desperately to help those around us, partially in hopes that it would have helped our loved one, too. But for most of us our grief is too overwhelming, and the pain is too great for our involvement to be a healthy one. But not for Sue.
Starting less than a month after Sam passed away and continuing every fall thereafter, Sue, her son Zack, and their devoted friends and family led by the incredible Sally Marx, organized a “Spike Classic” 5k race to honor Sam, to support Active Minds, and to promote mental health for all young people.
But once a year turned out to be not enough. From the moment she could, Sue put her whole self into this field while also working and keeping up a vibrant personal life. After getting to know her just a handful of times, there was no question but to bring Sue onto the Active Minds Board of Directors in 2015. And, to vote her as our Vice Chair in 2017.
Throughout that time there wasn’t an event, an engagement, a meeting, or a conversation that Sue didn’t join – with all her heart. Her friends and family became Active Minds’ friends and family, and our biggest supporters. Even after being diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer in early 2019 leading to her death on January 18, 2020, the only Active Minds commitments she missed were literally on the days that she was enduring treatment. And I know how much she had wished to be at those too.
I have never met a soul like Sue’s. She was vibrant and spunky, and brought both pizzazz and heart to every encounter I had with her. She cared so deeply for young adults, for parents who were grieving and were trying to learn about their own kids, for her own sons Zack and Sam, and for her extended family at Active Minds.
Sue, your family at Active Minds misses you. We have forever changed because of you. Thank you.