“When Someone Takes His Own Life”
Excerpt from “The Healing of Sorrow”
Norman Vincent Peale
In many ways, this seems the most tragic form of death. Certainly it
can entail more shock and grief for those who are left behind than any
other. And often the stigma of suicide is what rests most heavily on
those left behind.
Suicide is often judged to be essentially a selfish act. Perhaps it
is. But the Bible warns us not to judge, if we ourselves hope to
escape judgment. And I believe this is one area where that Biblical
command especially should be heeded.I think our reaction should be one of love and pity, not of condemnation. Perhaps the person was not thinking clearly in his final moments; perhaps he was so driven by emotional whirlwinds that he was incapable of thinking at all.
This is terribly sad. But surely it is understandable. All of us have
moments when we lost control of ourselves, flashes of temper, or
irritation, of selfishness that we later regret.
Each one of us, probably, has a final breaking point–or would have if
our faith did not sustain us. Life puts more pressure on some of us
than it does on others. Some people have more stamina than others.
When I see in the paper, as I do all too often, that dark despair has
rolled over some lonely soul, so much so that for him life seemed
unendurable, my reaction is not one of condemnation. It is, rather,
“There but for the grace of God”
And my heart goes out to those who are left behind, because I know
that they suffer terribly. Children in particular are left under a
cloud of “differentness” all the more terrifying because it can never
be fully explained or lifted.
The immediate family of the victim is left wide open to tidal waves of
guilt “What did I fail to do that I should have done? What did I do
that was wrong?”
To such grieving persons I can only say, “Lift up your heads and
hearts. Surely you did your best. And surely the loved one who is gone
did his best, for as long as he could. Remember, now, that his battles and torments are over. Do not judge him, and do not presume to fathom the mind of God where this one of His children is concerned.”
A few days ago, when a young man died by his own had, a service for
him was conducted by his pastor, the Rev. Warren Stevens. What he said that day expresses, far more eloquently than I can, the message that I’m trying to convey.
Here are some of his words:
“Our friend died on his own battlefield. He was killed in action
fighting a civil war. He fought against adversaries that were as real
to him as his casket is real to us.
They were powerful adversaries. They took toll of his energies and
endurance. They exhausted the last vestiges of his courage and
strength. At last these adversaries overwhelmed him. And it appeared
that he lost the war.
But did he? I see a host of victories that he has won!
For one thing — he has won our admiration — because even if he lost
the war, we give him credit for his bravery on the battlefield. And we
give him credit for the courage and pride and hope that he used as his
weapons as long as he could.
We shall remember not his death, but his daily victories gained
through his kindnesses and thoughtfulness, through his love for family
and friends, for animals and books and music, for all things
beautiful, lovely and honorable.
We shall remember the many days that he was victorious over
overwhelming odds. We shall remember not the years we thought he had left, but the intensity with which he lived the years he had!
Only God knows what this child of His suffered in the silent
skirmishes that took place in his soul. But our consolation is that
God does know and understands!”
Depression and Grief
Others can come alongside us for awhile, but our journey into the deep, dark night must be our own. Here, we rally against the darkness, awaken our soul’s deep slumber of the “normalcy” of everyday life, and do fierce battle with an enemy unseen. Grief torments, ruminates, is recursive and in the end, in losing a child to suicide, is unfinished. My son is a warrior son, and I, by default and through journeying my soul’s dark night in grieving losing Dylan to suicide, am a warrior mama.
One day, there will be reconciling and resolution, but it is I who must learn to walk unfinished here, finding, once again, love, meaning, and purpose in the walking out of my life’s journey. I walk with grief. I carry the weight of bearing deep sorrow in my soul. I am a survivor of suicide. No matter how “good” things get, no matter the profundity of my joy and happiness here, as is, as now, I will always be tinged and laced with the bittersweet.