After the shock , after the gut-wrenching pain, and after so many tears unnumbered are shed, then comes the aftermath, and for some, anger.
This anger was not my own, but the feelings of my dear mother-in-law, after the death of Janice, her daughter.
Janice was more than just my husband’s sister, she was a close friend. We were only one month apart in age, and had shared a lot of memories together over the years. The feelings I had, and were daily dealing with, were not those of anger but complete incomprehensible understanding.
How could Janice end her life like she did? How could someone who had dropped out of high school, then went on to become a forensic chemist, overcoming so many obstacles, just take that life and give it up?
I was the one who had answered that early morning phone call in the summer of 1988. My husband’s parents were out of the state, and so we were the ones called by the police to notify us of her death. I never could have imagined the words I would hear, and I could barely speak through my gasping sobs to tell my husband and our five children of her death.
We had to quickly pull ourselves together, and drive to her home some miles away in a nearby town. But before we could do that, my husband had to call his parents and tell them of her death. They had been away for a fun vacation to visit their other son and his wife. Now suddenly all that was changed. They would have to fly back with broken hearts, push back their grief and deal with travel arrangements as well as a funeral.
As we made our way to Janice’s home, it seemed darkness was enveloping us. We drove in silence. I was so grief-stricken, there were no words. She had for reasons I could not fathom chosen to escape from living. What had happened in her world that was so horrendous that she would choose death?
There was no warning, no signs. Or were there, and we failed to see them?
Janice, because of her type of work, was involved in solving crime through Forensic Science. This was a high stress occupation, and one that brought her into contact with DNA testing, which was in many ways then, a new frontier. Could this have contributed?
Janice was a super outgoing individual. She was married, but had no children, and was such a great aunt to our children. Our three oldest were very close to her, and now their lives were being torn apart as well. How could we ever explain suicide? There are no answers, only questions.
Arriving at her home, we tried to comfort her husband. It was a time I will never forget. I felt so helpless. Listening to the details of how she had ended her life — I kept wishing I’d wake up from this nightmare, but I couldn’t because it was real.
Suicide is to me the most devastating of all deaths. We are left with a big hole and no rational answers.
I can speak only for myself, in that you wonder, what could I have done? But in this situation, all seemed to be fine, and nothing seemed amiss. We can never know the inner pain of those we love sometimes, but God does and that brings comfort.
After the funeral, after the crowd leaves, and all the sympathy is extended, comes the aftermath.
I remember my mother-in-law sharing with me her anger at Janice. At first I was surprised, but she went on to say how selfish it is to take one’s own life, and the mess it leaves, and all the grief.
I had to assimilate this thought as I viewed the effect Janice’s suicide had on our immediate family. We were all, even our children, trying to come to grips with this violent departure of one we all loved.
Anger, guilt, fear, frustration, were just a few of the emotional upheaveals we were experiencing. She was correct in addressing the selfishness, but I was on another track. I had to find answers of a spiritual nature. Janice was a Christian. How did God fit into all of this?
After studying on this topic, I came to conclude this. Suicide is a sin, murder of one’s self, yet it can be forgiven. Those who have been redeemed by God, those whose sins which are past, present or future have been forgiven and through Christ nothing can separate us from Him, or keep us from being received into His Presence.
What would cause a Christian to take their life I do not know. But this I do know. In times of hopelessness, weakness, or mental illness the danger is real, and only God knows what takes place. So, my comfort is once again in the mercy of God’s Grace.
As we pick up those broken pieces, we can also gather up the good memories we hold dear and move forward. We are different now. We see more clearly the frailty of life. Let us not take for granted our loved ones, or others. Let us see them with eyes of compassion, and if God permits reach out if we see them sinking and pull them up to the mercy of God.