“When Someone You Love Dies from Suicide” by Michelle Herberger

“According to the CDC, each year more than 41,000 individuals die by suicide, leaving behind thousands of friends and family members to navigate the tragedy of their loss. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among adults in the U.S. and the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-24; these rates are increasing.” (The National Alliance on Mental Illness) Suicide occurs in the best of families as mental illness knows no boundaries.

Those left behind are often besieged with unanswered questions as to “Why did he/she do it?,” as well as “Wasn’t there something I could have done to stop it?”

The guilt and anger that is often experienced makes it one of the most difficult deaths to morn. Even when the death is viewed through the eyes of compassion, it is often accompanied by shame and can tarnish the memory of  the deceased loved one.

Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, wrote in his 2013 article, Struggling to Understand Suicide, that it is important to keep in  mind several things about suicide when seeking to redeem the memory of the one who died.

“Suicide, in most cases, is a disease, not something freely willed.” He speaks of the potential role that biochemistry  can play in suicide.

“The person who dies in this way, almost invariably, is a very sensitive human being. Suicide is rarely done in arrogance, as an act of contempt.”

Most often the person was suffering in a way that is difficult to understand. It is usually some time after the person’s death before one can get a sense of just how deep the wound from suffering was, thus making their death less surprising.

Finally, Rolheiser reminds us of God’s understanding and compassion that  infinitely surpasses our own. He  speaks of God’s “judgment that intuits the deepest motives of the heart,” a heart locked in pain.

These things will not take away the grief experienced by the loss of a loved one. Suicide leaves scars on those who survive. However, you can move through your grief and move forward, engaging in life again. Be gentle and patient  with yourself.

Find someone/s to talk with about your loss. Allow yourself to be loved back into life by others and by God.

More resources can be found through the National Association of Mental Illness and on Father Ron Rolheiser’s website.

“The Need for Hope” by Deacon Stephen Bowling

In probably my favorite scene from the 2013 movie Man Of Steel, our hero Clark Kent, recently revealed to the world discussed what the letter on his chest meant with Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Lois Lane.

Lois – “What’s the S stand for?”
Clark – “It’s NOT an S. On my world, it means HOPE.”
Lois – “Well, here . . . it’s just an S”s stands for hope

Oh, the power of perspective.

HOPE is something we call crave, but it means something very different for each of us depending on where we are. Folks who have lost their homes in a fire or tornado have a very different perspective on hope than those whose team is down by 3 going into the 9th inning. School kids who maybe did not study enough for a big test may hope for a snow day, however a person in a relationship filled with domestic violence often hopes for a very different turn of events on a given day.

HOPE is very different for each of us . . . but it is something we all need no matter where we might be.

The person struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide is very much in need of hope . . . one might argue that they have become “dehydrated” from lack of it. Those who have lost a loved one to cancer may also be struggling with a lack of hope, although in a very different manner as befits their unique situation. Both of these are very much “in a dry and waterless place” as the U2 song “Unforgettable Fire” mentions, but both also provide a powerful opportunity for those of us who care for the well-being of others to assist in bringing the life-giving water of hope to them. Neither of them are very well-equipped to find it themselves where they currently are. Perspective may make things different, but it is up to us to know what to do in both cases.

Hope, like water, is absolutely necessary for life. Fortunately, it also is something that is infinitely abundant as well and able to be carried to those in need by those around them . . . a role which all of us can assume just by being the people God created us to be.

Our challenge as followers of Jesus Christ is to learn to better recognize the multi-faceted seeds of hope present in the many situations of need around us, and to help our brothers and sisters who are thirsty access its wondrous properties. The best way to do this is through ever strengthening our right relationships with both God and each other. Relationships are the key to building and sustaining hope . . . and they are also the means of turning this world around us into a life-giving spring for those who thirst for a better day.