Being Boston: Family uses own loss to help remind others they are not alone

ABINGTON, Mass. — An Abington family has turned their devastating loss into a mission to spread kindness, making and handing out blankets after losing their mother to suicide.

Family, friends and strangers came together in Abington to spread kindness or save a life. But the production lines of volunteers have made thousands of blankets for people who need reminding they're not alone.

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"This event means to me that you’re not alone. We all get to be part of something together. It can help change a life," said Angela Varney.

It's how this family powered through their darkest day.

Anne Marie Varney, a mother of three, was silently battling depression for years. The silent battle ended March 2015 when Annie took her own life.

"And you don't even see it coming. You don't even know what you're doing. You're like, it can't be real and now you have to tell people and talk about it," said Annie's aunt Barbara Buckley.

Lost in their own pain, Buckley and her nieces Angela, Christina and Mia searched for a way to heal from the shock of a suicide. They planned to make and distribute 35 comfort blankets in honor of Annie's years in the world.

"When we started this, we didn't think it was going to get this big at all," said Angela.

"It was something that was going to be small, and then it just.... exploded," said family friend Lisa Palmer.

Nearly four years later, more than 4,000 blankets have touched lives in 20 states.

"We come together to make these everlasting hugs because I think that's what my mom really would have wanted," said Angela.

Now, Annie's legacy is the powerful message they receive after someone gets a blanket.

"I think you saved my life...." said Buckley.

A legacy ironed on to every Annie's Kindness blanket:

"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, honest accomplishment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
Anne Marie Varney passed away on March 30, 2015. She was an amazing person who had some much love in her heart. She would want you to know that everyone deserves kindness and love. This act of kindness is to honor Annie's life and to show how quickly kindness can put a smile on anyone's face. We hope this blanket forever keeps you wrapped in love and surrounded by kindness."

"No one should have to hide their pain like my mom did. And we just want everyone to know that," said Christina Varney.

During this past weekend's blanket-making event, they made about 150 blankets which will go to various organizations and individuals in need of an everlasting hug.