Ministering to Families of Suicide

By Linda Myers

Our hearts go out to the family of Pastor Jarrid Wilson who took his life last week. It is very difficult to navigate all the emotions associated with the grief of someone who dies by suicide. First, the family has suddenly lost a loved one and second, they died horrifically. Emotions range from guilt to anger to disbelief to shame to very deep sorrow.

LET’S TALK

Twenty-seven years ago we had a family member die by suicide. I remember wanting to lie about how my dad died. It was emotional enough to let people know he had died but trying to explain how he died was more than I could bear. I could see the shocked look in people’s faces and hear the stammering as they didn’t know what to say. All I could do the first few weeks was sit on the couch and stare.

Remembering back to that very dark period, these are some things that others did to help me deal with the loss of my dad by suicide.

For years I kept every sympathy card I received. The most helpful ones were from people who shared that they had lost a parent. (Not necessarily from suicide) Just knowing other people were able to still live their life after a death gave me hope that someday I might be able to come to a new normal.

A pastor friend of ours sent a letter reassuring me that suicide is not the unpardonable sin. People who die by suicide are not in their rational mind. My dad accepted Christ when he was in college. I will see him again in heaven.

The most comforting parts of the funeral were when the pastor mentioned my dad’s name and when he read scripture.

People let me know they were praying for my comfort. There were times that I could not pray. Either I didn’t have the energy for it or I was angry with God that He didn’t intervene.

On more than one occasion, I came home from work to a huge vase of flowers on my front deck. Of course, I cried but it brought color to my dark world.

My closest friends came over, often unannounced, just to sit with me in silence or if I did say things, they did not judge or try to fix things. They listened.

Some people bought Gideon Bibles in memory of my dad.

I know it is awkward for people to talk about someone who has died, but hearing my dad’s name or hearing stories about him was very comforting. It’s hard to explain how a loved one lives on in your heart but hearing that other people remember them is nice.

God was faithful in comforting me, also. Dad died on a winter day. We had even set records for the longest number of days we had snow on the ground. I remember praying and asking God to reassure me that I would not always feel so sad. Although it was snowing again, I whispered, “God can you send me a sign?” I thought back to the rainbow God had sent  Noah after the flood. Rationally I knew there couldn’t be a rainbow in the middle of winter, but as I took a step back from the window a reflection of light caught my eye in the corner. A prism had formed. “His compassions never fail.”

BEFORE YOU GO

We never know the depths of a person’s depression. Sadly, this is written on Jared Wilson’s site right now:

September is #SuicidePrevention month, and we want everyone to know that #YourLifeMatters!… We want everyone to know that God loves you, life matters, and you have a purpose in this world. Hope is here!

If you or someone you know may be suicidal, reach out to them. Let them know there is hope. Seek help. The National Suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255. It really is a matter of life and death.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. William Vermillion says:

    Thanks Linda. beautifully and powerfully and helpfully shared. Indeed our Lord’s compassion never fails

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Debra says:

    I’m going to share this with my friend her husband committed suicide last Tuesday night , he left behind a wife and two little boys . So sad too see them go through this. Thanks fir this article .

    Like

    1. So sad to hear that. We’ll be praying for them.

      Like

  3. Rod says:

    So how do you minister to families of suicide? My wife passed away April 21, 2018 by suicide and I’m still angry at God. The hurt is just as bad today as it was the day it happened. We were a good Christian family but I haven’t been to church since that day?

    Like

    1. I’m so sorry! I don’t believe all the pain will ever be gone until we get to heaven (Rev. 21). Time does help, but the loss affects our entire life. I’d encourage you to seek out some Christian counseling and connect back into the church.

      Like

    2. Linda Myers says:

      Oh Rod, I am truly sorry for the loss of your wife. I totally understand your feelings of anger. After my dad died I remember thinking if God is so powerful, why didn’t he spare me and my family from such pain. It took awhile to trust God again. It helped to read books about suicide and I went to a Christian counselor. The first year after Dad died was the worst. I took up journaling as a way to cope but I tell people if you dance, then dance; if you sing, then sing, if you exercise, then exercise. Find an outlet for your grief. Please know I am praying for you.

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  4. Karen says:

    I am a survivor of a failed suicide attempt 36 years ago. God showed me nothing but love and NO judgement. I firmly believe those who believe in Jesus and die from suicide are in heaven. As has been mentioned, they are not of a rational mind at the time of ending their life on earth. I know. “God may not have called them home, but He certainly welcomed them home” is a rough quote by Ruth Bell Graham.

    Rod, please do not try to go through this alone. Others really do care. God really is there for you with patience and more love and acceptance than we can understand.

    Debra, keep close to your friend. Linda has excellent, proven suggestions.

    Linda, thank you for being open and sharing so well.

    Liked by 1 person

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