Left Behind: How the suicide of friends or family affects loved ones

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The death of a friend or family member is never easy, but when that person takes their own life, we may find ourselves asking, “Why? Could I have done something to have prevented this? Is this somehow my fault?” We’re left with the feeling of disbelief and anger. We may think of them as cowards, their actions as selfish, uncaring and hurtful. We try and look for clues to help us understand. We may seek counsel from other friends, family members or clergy. As believers, we want to know if the suicidal victim is in heaven, or to a worse fate than what they were facing here on earth.

This particular subject is a healing wound in my heart. You see, I had a friend of many years call me in January, 2015 to say good-bye. Her slurred speech made it difficult and frustrating to listen to. She had battled alcoholism since high school. Our conversation didn’t last too long. When she casually mentioned she was going to kill herself, I ashamedly  replied, “You’re drunk. You need to go to bed and sleep it off. I’ll give you a call in a few days” (hoping she’d be sober). We hung up. That was the last time I spoke to her. I’m embarrassed to admit I really didn’t want to talk to her if she was drunk, and most of the time, that was her state of being. Time passed. The following Christmas, I sent my usual Christmas card to her and heard nothing back. Terror set into my heart. I guess I just knew. She was big on Christmas cards. I had received one from her for more than thirty years. This year, something didn’t feel right. I called, but the phone only rang. No voice message. Again I was faced with the undeniable fear of the worst possible scenario. With the holiday season fast approaching, I became busy with all the festivities and celebrations. I would think of her from time to time, but continued to put those thoughts in a safe place for another time.  It wasn’t until March when I decided I had to know for sure if my suspicions were correct. She had never been a big computer person. She didn’t email or use face book, so I searched out one of her brother’s in hopes my intuition was wrong. At the end of the email I received from her brother, I felt my stomach turn inside out making my way to the bathroom floor, sobbing and vomiting with uncontrollable force. A flood of emotions erupted. I didn’t know what to do with them. I turned to God for solace. Immediately I felt a warmth around my shoulders and a calming sensation move from my head down to my toes. I knew it was the Lord’s comfort.  The last two months were difficult for me. I didn’t talk too much to anyone about what I was feeling since there was nothing anyone could do. I just held on to my faith and asked the Lord to help me through it all. Bring some closure, some peace. With the help of my Christian counselor, I was able to say good-bye to her this past week. This blog has helped me complete this grievous task.