One person dies by suicide every 13.7 minutes in the United States, according to the American Suicide Prevention Foundation.
You never think your family will become part of such a heartbreaking statistic. From the outside, my uncle’s life seemed perfect — lots of friends, a terrific job and a family who adored him. My mom’s fun-loving, talented brother had everything to live for. How could he have taken his own life?
Mental illness was not a subject anyone discussed back then. People were expected to be OK or at least pretend they were. As family members tried to make sense of the senseless catastrophe, my uncle Bob’s painful struggle through a dark valley of depression began to unfold. His beautiful wife, four small children, mother and sisters were left to pick up the pieces of their broken lives.
The collateral damage caused by suicide is immeasurable and can last for generations.
What Do I Do Now?
If you have suffered the loss of a loved one by suicide, you are not alone. In the devastating aftermath, survivors often feel guilt and shame as they question themselves.
Could I have done something to prevent what happened?
Were there signs I should have seen?
Grief after suicide is indescribably complicated. As I look back, there are three things I wish someone had told my family:
•You may never understand why your loved one died the way they did; but it is not your fault.
•Don’t go through this by yourself. A care pastor or professional grief counselor can help.
•Remember the goodness in your loved one’s life, not just how they died. Over time, journaling and saving photos can help you refocus on memories of happier times.
Last spring, Pastor Rick and Kay Warren’s hearts were crushed when their 27-year-old son, Matthew, took his own life. Matthew had fought a relentless battle with depression most of his life. Here is the beginning of the story of how the Warren family is getting through.
God’s Plans Are Greater Than Our Plans
Suicide and depression are not just modern day problems. They have existed since sin entered the world.
Jonah 1:1-17 tells the story of a man who could not see a way out of the raging storm in his life. Jonah reached a point of desperation where he believed the people around him would be better off if he were no longer in the picture. Thankfully, God had a better plan.
God always has a better plan than ending your life. When you are tempted God promises to provide a way out, no matter how strong the temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, the time to act is now. Depression, anxiety, a family history suicide or a traumatic life event can increase intense feelings of helplessness. The pain you feel is real, but suicide is never the solution.
If you or someone you know is considering harming themselves, seek immediate treatment. Call 911, go to the local emergency room, or call a local crisis response team. You can also seek 24/7 support through National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Beth Marshall, author of “A Time to Heal, a grief journal.” Beth’s new book, “Grief Survivor, 28 steps toward hope and healing” comes out this summer.