“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.


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