Death Brings Pain
When someone dies, for whatever reason, it always causes pain in those who were close to the deceased. The amount, duration, and intensity of that pain depends on a myriad of factors, thus, each person will experience it differently. I’ve had several different experiences to illustrate this. When my paternal grandmother died it wasn’t a surprise; her life was slowly being sapped by cancer and dementia. In fact, her death, though sad, was sort of like a relief since we all knew that she wasn’t in pain anymore. But during my early 20s a friend’s wife died of a brain tumor. Her death hit me hard since she was so young and since we all thought her cancer was in remission. As a result of her death I spun out into a period of depression and serious doubt that lasted for months.
But one particular sort of death seems to bring with it unique pain. Suicide. When a friend takes his or her own life it raises up a bunch of different emotions — anger, frustration, sadness, grief, regret, and confusion. It’s hard not to play the “What could I have done differently?” game with yourself. In these situations I will start to feel guilty for letting our friendship lapse to some degree. I’ll wonder if I could have reached out more, cared more, prayed more, loved more. But intermixed with these regrets will be serious periods of anger over the selfishness of suicide. And right around the corner from anger will be some more regret followed by a dose of nostalgia.
Coping with the suicide of a friend or loved one is hard; there’s just no other way to say it.
Death Brings Opportunities for Growth
Thankfully, the death of someone close to you doesn’t get the final word. Those who loved the deceased, however they died, suicide included, have the chance to learn from the experience. In fact, in my life and experience some of the richest times of positive change in my life followed the death of a friend or relative.
After my paternal grandmother died I entered a time of grieving, albeit a relatively short one. Soon after her death I began college and started understanding what life had for me. My grandmother’s death helped me put things into proper perspective because during my first semester or two of college she was on my mind quite often. I would wonder to myself things like this: “What would Grandma think? Would she be proud of this or that decision?” Her death really helped me live well.
After my friend’s spouse died I grieved a lot and for a long time. I had never had my faith in God rocked as hard as her death rocked it. But after a slow process of recovery, spearheaded by my amazing wife, I came through my grief and was able to minister to the youth to whom I was called better and more maturely. I gained a greater love and respect for my wife and the others who helped me through this dark time. And I’m still thankful to this day that I went through this long period of doubt (not my first or my last!) because it has helped me understand the faith journey of others much, much better.
But standing in the wake of a suicide is different…or at least it seems different. So I’ll share what I’d like to learn from it: how to be more authentically connected to my friends and family; how to cope with regrets that have no possible solutions; how to stay better connected to friends and family despite distance; and how to love someone no matter what choices they’ve made.
God, grow us, guide us, and change us for the better through the deaths of those we love. Remind us that it was through the death of Jesus that all of humanity was given hope. Help us find hope in the now. In Jesus’ name; amen.