by Donna Gibbs
As the struggles in our world continue to escalate, so does the rate of suicide. What used to be only occasionally heard of has now become an epidemic. It is a rare person who has not in some way been impacted by suicide. For far too many, suicide has hit too close to home. It’s personal now.
Some of you reading this blog right now feel that your world has stopped. Someone you love has committed suicide. You can hardly process this tragedy. And you don’t know how you’ll ever survive.
While I can’t possibly cover everything related to processing the complexities of a suicide in the confines of this space, I will address three issues that often times create a challenge for those left behind.
1) Because the ramifications of suicide are so wide-spread, we think of suicide as the most selfish act a person could take. And while it is true that the ripple effect of suicide is immeasurably enormous, it is important to understand that the person who takes their life is not intending to be selfish. Your loved one didn’t intend to bring you harm. But their thinking was irrational, and their judgement warped. Whether they made an impulsive choice, or one that was well-thought out, their intention was simply to get their pain to stop. They felt trapped by something – a mental illness, a crisis, a diagnosis. In their mind, suicide was the most reasonable solution. Clearly, they were unable to consider all of the consequences to those around them. But to conclude they were just being selfish is likely an inaccurate and incomplete assumption.
2) Those who lose a loved-one to suicide have great concern about eternal consequences. “Is suicide the unpardonable sin? Is my loved one in hell as a direct result of taking their own life?” The answer is no. The bible is clear that the only unpardonable sin is the rejection of Christ. Suicide is not a rejection of Christ, though it is evidence of a critically incorrect conclusion regarding Christ’s love and power. Yes, suicide is a sinful choice; one that can be forgiven.
3) Guilt is the most common emotional experience I’ve seen in those who have lost a loved one to suicide. If you have recently lost a loved one to suicide, you are naturally analyzing your most recent conversations with them. You are also picking apart your responses and comments. Your actions and inactions. When something unthinkable happens, we naturally look to place blame. And with a suicide, the easiest place to put that blame is sometimes with ourselves. We question ourselves, “Why didn’t I see this coming? I should have .” (You fill in the blank). Guilt is a relentless bully driven by “What if’s” and “Should have’s”. And when it comes to suicide, it is a false guilt that is experienced. Beating up yourself may seem easier or more honorable than feeling anger at your loved one who took their life. But the reality is this: you would have never handed them that gun, or given them those pills. You would never have made that choice for them. They made the choice. Therefore, the responsibility for that choice is theirs. Not yours. As painful as this is, allow them the responsibility for the choice they made. And release yourself from the responsibility of a choice you would have never made for them.
If you are struggling in the aftershock of a suicide, and contemplating suicide yourself, please reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In addition, there are Survivors of Suicide Groups located all over the country. You can also reach out to a trusted friend, pastor, or professional counselor. You don’t have to walk this journey alone!
To learn more about how to cope with the tragedies of life, visit: www.becomingresilientbook.com
Donna Gibbs, co-owner of Summit Wellness Centers, PLLC, is author of the recent releases, Silencing Insecurity and Becoming Resilient. Donna has authored numerous other books, and is commonly featured on radio broadcasts across America, and occasionally internationally as well. Donna has been providing individuals and families the hope and help they need for twenty years as a national certified counselor, board-certified professional Christian counselor, and licensed professional counselor supervisor. A member of the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), she is a leading professional provider for Focus on the Family, Christian Care Network, r3Continuum, FINDINGbalance, and Samaritan’s Purse.
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