Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Sadness of Suicide

Suicide has touched my life again.

Until about 5 years ago, suicide was a distant concept to me. I had only known one person who had committed suicide and that was back when we were in high school and I didn't really know him well. It had made me sad that he had left a young wife and some angry and hurt family members but my life went on as usual. Over the course of the following 25 years or so I heard of others, but never anyone I knew personally.

Then, almost 5 years ago now, that changed. The husband of a friend took his own life. At the time, she wasn't a close friend, (now she is like a sister to me!) but because God works the way He does, my dearest friend and I were called into action. We got to the house before her husband's body was taken away by the funeral home. A part of me was simply in shock...why would he do this?? He had a beautiful wife, a nearly 4-year-old little boy, and a darling 10-month-old little boy. They had a lovely home that he had built with his own hands. By all accounts, at least from the outside, it made no sense. The other part of me just knew that we didn't need to worry about the "whys" right now, but that we had to focus on M and her boys and getting them into a safe place where they could find a moment of peace. Their life was shattered around them. 

We spent many, many months being there for her, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Some days we practically lived with her. Some days, we literally had to scrape her up off the bathroom floor. The pain that she felt was excruciating. The stages of grief were intense and due to the nature of suicide, we later learned, they often return time and time again. 

Over the course of the next year, several other suicides took place, including one across the street from my parent's house, while I was on the phone with my mom. Another wife and 3 children left behind to fend for themselves. 

What was happening? So much sadness. So much pain.

Then, last fall, my friend's (the same one whose husband had committed suicide) brother became suicidal and violent. He ended up killing himself by escaping a police car and throwing himself into oncoming traffic. 

So much more sadness. So much more pain. 

We know that in a couple of those cases, mental health was definitely a major factor. Questions linger though about why they were unwilling to seek help...even though help around our area is extremely difficult to find. But, even with the mental health issues, there had to be more. A deep feeling of hopelessness. 

I have known depression most of my life. I have even struggled with what many would call suicidal feelings. But, I have always weighed my current feelings against what it would do to my family, my friends, and even my testimony. Thankfully, I have chosen to not listen to the voices in my head that sometimes say the world would be better off without me and I would be better off no longer having to deal with depression. I give thanks to God for His protection over my mind during those times. But, obviously, sometimes God allows things that we just don't understand and it would seem that that protection isn't there for everyone. Of course, I don't believe that, but it would come across that way to many people. 

Now I find out that an old friend's 17-year-old grandson committed suicide last week. He was senior, preparing for military service, attended the local Christian high school, and was said to have a strong faith. I know that his grandfather certainly has a strong faith, but I'm sure that it has been shaken this week. No matter how strong your faith is, suicide gives it a powerful jolt. 

So the questions begin again...why would a young man with his whole life ahead of him bring it to an end? Why would he do it with his siblings in the house at the same time? Why? Why? Why? 

We may never know. But what I do know...this has to stop. 

We have to make it okay to say that we are depressed, that we are anxious, that we are fearful. We have to make it okay to say that we are tired of the fight of life. 

Christians need to stop throwing platitudes out there (and fighting over dumb things like coffee cups at a secular store!!). We need to stop making our children and our men hide their struggles. We need to remember that we all have temptations and secret sin and we need to make it safe for people to confess to others and not receive judgment but comfort and wisdom.

In many cases the church has become a place of judgment and condemnation instead of the safe harbor it is supposed to be. People put on a facade in order to present themselves in such a way that others won't know that they struggle, that their lives are perfect. We hide behind big hair and stilettos, just like the rest of the world. We hide behind business successes and a multitude of extracurricular activities for our kids and ourselves. We hide behind Bible studies and church attendance. 

Transparency has almost become a dirty word. Oh sure, we give it lip service and say that we should be transparent, but the vast majority of believers are scared to death of the judgment that can come following transparency. That needs to stop! We need to be real, not only for our sake, but for the sake of those in the next generation.

Something was bothering that young man so much that he felt he couldn't face life anymore. Some would call it selfish, he was only thinking of himself and not the pain he would leave behind, and there is a place for that thinking in the grief process, but his pain goes far beyond that. Truly, can a 17-year-old even fully understand the consequences his suicide would mean to his family, his friends, his school? Probably not. Not when his pain was searing him in ways we can only speculate about.

I pray for his family. I pray for their peace and comfort, for the anger that is bound to come. I pray that they will be advocates for other hurting and frightened children. I pray that we will begin to really think about what we are teaching our children about life and pain and hurt. We need to realize that kids are facing a future that, at best, is confused. Our world is willing to say men are women and women are men and even if you are born white, you can be black. Our world says that faith is bad and sin is good. Our world says there are no boundaries and yet, they put in place new and useless boundaries...boundaries that tell our kids (especially young, white males) that they are guilty until proven innocent). The world is upset down and we are fooling ourselves if we think it doesn't effect our kids, even our Christian kids. 

The only hope our world has is Jesus Christ! If we aren't transparent, if we aren't real and honest, if we aren't open we are only going to lose more young men and women to the sadness and pain of their minds. Jesus came to save and to give life abundant, but, sadly, even believers don't know how to tap into that abundant life and have lost ourselves to the trials and tribulations of the world. 

Put down the electronics, the phones, all the extracurricular activities and spend time with your family, your children, your grandchildren, and your great-grandchildren. Share who you truly are with them! Show them what God has done in your life! Take a genuine interest in theirs! Love!

Deuteronomy 6:5 (NASB)
5 "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Leviticus 19:18 (NASB)
18 'You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.

Matthew 22:37-40 (NASB) 
37 And He said to him, " 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart , and with all your soul , and with all your mind .'
38 "This is the great and foremost commandment.
39 "The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself .'
40 "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." --emphasis mine

Love! Love God first and love others! 

Stop getting so caught up in things like cups and just start loving!

Monday, November 02, 2015


This past year feels as though it has been lived in a near state of constant anticipation. 

About 14 months ago our son announced his intention to finally join the military. While the prospect was scary to me, I knew that he had wanted to do this since 9/11 and that he had almost enlisted several times but, for very good reasons, had not gone through with it. I also knew that if he didn't finally do it this time it would be a regret he would carry to the end of his days. I didn't want him to have that regret. 

So began our year of living with anticipation....the anticipation of getting all of their things dealt with--selling the house, moving all of their things into storage/our house/her parent's house. Moving themselves into our house when their house sold. The anticipation of the holidays--which we knew could be the last holidays we would spend with them for a few years. The anticipation of J completing his civilian job. The anticipation of the day when he would finally board the plane to California. The anticipation of his first (and only phone call...this ain't the Army, folks!) home that night. The anticipation of his first letter so that we would finally have an address to start writing him letters. The anticipation of his first letter (many weeks later) indicating that he had finally began receiving our letters. The anticipation of hearing how he did completing the many challenges placed before him. The anticipation of finally seeing an updated photo, either on FB or when the "video" finally came out. The anticipation of his completion of his final test...

The anticipation of getting on the road. The anticipation once we got there of actually getting to physically see him. The anticipation, once we saw him, of finally getting to wrap my arms around him and see him up close and personal. The anticipation of one more night apart. The anticipation of finally putting him in the car and coming home for 10 days.

The anticipation of putting him back on a plane for more training. The anticipation of his graduating from that training. The anticipation of his going to the next place for even more training. The anticipation of waiting until that training could begin. The anticipation of a quick trip home over the 4th of July. The anticipation of putting him back on another plane to head back to training. The anticipation of his finally starting the next leg of his training. The anticipation of getting to see him again over Labor Day. The anticipation of putting him back on another plane. 

Now...the anticipation of waiting to find out where he will be permanently stationed. And, so, we wait....

I pray for my son and his wife, the separation has lasted far longer than they were told it would. If I struggle with anticipating what is yet to come, I can only imagine what they are feeling deep down inside. 

Change, waiting, anticipating....none of those come very naturally for me. However, I am learning that those are the three of the biggest challenges of being a military family. 

Change...nothing ever seems to stay the same. One day you think it's going to go one way and the next day, orders have changed. Missions have changed. 

Waiting...the concept of "hurry up and wait" carries so much more meaning for us these days!!

Anticipation...there has yet to be one day since all of this began that we haven't had a heightened sense of anticipation, good and challenging. 

He ranks up today. I am very proud of the effort he has put in and the success he has been having. He had a dream and he is following through, despite the difficulty in being away from his wife, child, and the rest of his family and friends. Sometime this week we should know where his next stop will be. Maybe then this sense of constant anticipation can calm itself down into a bit more normalcy....but, I doubt it. We are now a military family after all and it comes with his job. 

So, I will do what God has been teaching me through this...I will trust Him, I will rest in His peace and the knowledge that He has this all planned. Without those things, I would never have made it through these first few months as a new military mom. I am so very thankful that the "Prince of Peace" goes before me and my son, his wife and daughter, and our family.