When Vonnie Woodrick lost her husband Rob to suicide in 2003, she was faced with a series of decisions. How would she move on? How would she support and raise her three children as a young widow? How would she talk about Rob and honor his memory? These questions had no easy answers, but Vonnie found herself longing for one thing in particular: understanding. The stigma of mental illness loomed large over Rob’s death and made healing difficult. But Vonnie found the common assumptions surrounding suicide to be false. Rob was not “crazy.” He did not choose to take his own life. He was in agony and only wanted the pain to end. His death was a direct result of his mental illness. Why didn’t more people understand this?
Over a decade later, Vonnie and her children created the nonprofit organization i understand to help others enduring this same grief and loneliness. Since its founding in 2014, i understand has become a haven of compassionate comfort and a powerful voice in the movement to change the way we talk about suicide so that it can be seen for what it truly is: a terminal effect of mental illness, rather than a deliberate choice.
This is the story of how love transformed Vonnie’s brokenness into hope—not only for herself and her family, but for anyone struggling to emerge from the darkness of suicide.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Mariel Hemingway Preface 1. Letter 2. Fairy Tale 3. Tragedy 4. Grief 5. Hope 6. Healing 7. i understand Growing Up in the Shadow of Suicide Afterword by Doug Meijer
Vonnie Woodrick is the founder of i understand, a nonprofit organization created in 2014 in loving memory of her husband Rob, who lost his battle with depression in 2003. Woodrick is passionate about comforting those affected by suicide and changing the conversation around mental health. She has previously been published in Woman's World and is a monthly contributor to Women's Lifestyle Magazine.
“I’m very grateful for my friendship with Vonnie and for her organization, i understand. My hope is that by sharing stories like this we can be more connected to each other and the struggles we face. Just as her story has touched my life, through this book it can now also touch the lives of others, near and far.” — Tara Lipinski Olympic champion figure skater
“Vonnie is an inspiration to anyone who knows her, and this book is the latest example of her heart, passion for others, and important work involving mental illness and dealing with the loss of love ones as a result of it. Her openness in sharing her personal story is a selfless act which promotes understanding of a completely misunderstood topic. She has changed the conversation in an important way, and this book is a great example of her tireless efforts to do so.” — Pamella DeVos fashion designer and founder of the evening wear line Pamella Roland
“For herself and her amazing family, Vonnie has taken the time to write down the story of her life and her life’s mission to make a difference in the world of mental illness and suicide with her organization, i understand, and in doing so she gives us all reason to step up and be honest about the families we come from. Not all of us have suicide or depression or even mental illness in our lives, but I can almost guarantee that there is some secret story about our past that we allow to define us. This book is an invitation to be brave enough to share our demons with others, so that we can let them go.” — Mariel Hemingway from the foreword
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