Mountains, lake, and pine and fir trees, open sky, photograph of Glacier National Park for My Forever Son: Chronicling Grief, Hope, and Healing After Suicide Loss of My Son
Serenity in Nature

“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…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!”

Norman Vincent Peale, Excerpt from “The Healing of Sorrow”
River flowing surrounded by pine and fir trees with mountains in the distance Glacier National Park, photographed for My Forever Son: Chronicling Grief, Hope, and Healing After Suicide Loss of My Son
Tranquility, Glacier National Park

“When Someone is Too Bruised to be Touched”

“When Someone is Too Bruised to be Touched”
  By Fr. Ron Rolheiser
A few days ago, I was asked to visit a family who had, just that day, lost their 19 year-old son to suicide.
There isn’t much one can offer by way of consolation, even faith consolation, at a moment like this, when everyone is in shock and the pain is so raw. Few things can so devastate us as the suicide of a loved one, especially of one’s own child.

Montana Glacier National Park photographed for My Forever Son: Chronicling Grief, Hope, and Healing After Suicide Loss of My Son
A Brilliant Light in the Distance

Depression and Grief

There is no hell and there is no pain like the one suicide inflicts. Nobody who is healthy wants to die and nobody who is healthy wants to burden his or her loved ones with this kind of pain.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser


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. 

red rose in full bloom close up

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