Left Behind by Suicide

Weep with those who weep. – Romans 12:15b

Over the past few weeks, several of my friends and loved ones have lost someone to suicide. Then yesterday I heard the news of designer Kate Spade‘s suicide. Every time I hear about someone losing a friend or loved one to suicide, my heart aches for them. That kind of loss brings a grief all its own. I know because I lost my mother and my sister to suicide six months to the day of each other in 1986.

We all eventually lose friends and loved ones. That is natural. But losing someone who has taken her own life is unnatural. How do you process that? How do you move forward?

I remember being shellshocked. Both times I received the news when I had no time or space to process it. The first time, I was on deadline at a major metropolitan newspaper; the second time, I was on my way out the door to pick up a friend at the airport long before the days of cellphones. 

Once I began to process it, the guilt set in. What could I have done? Could I have been more available? Could I have saved them? Then came the feelings of inadequacy. Did they not love me enough to stay alive? Was I a failure as a sister and a daughter? 

Next came the anger. How could they do this to the people who loved them? How could they be so selfish? Then came the nightmares – years and years of them. The images of what their last moments must have been like will never leave me.

I don’t laugh at jokes about suicide. I flinch when people casually jest about holding guns to their heads. I once begged off a jury for a murder trial because I knew I would see my mother’s and sister’s faces in the evidence photos. Suicide has changed the fabric of my being and our family narrative. Nothing can change that.

But God has changed me. He has allowed me somehow to be free of the proclivities that led to my mother’s and sister’s downfalls. He has made me His child and promised never to leave or forsake me. He has been there with me through my silent tears and my sleepless nights. He has helped me break generational chains and has given me hope that no one can take away. 

He has set me free from shame, from guilt and from anger, and He has replaced all that with joy in Him. Truly, though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me (Psalm 27:10). 

If you have lost someone to suicide, be patient with yourself as you cycle through the grief, anger and host of other emotions that will haunt you. But don’t do it alone. Surround yourself with people who love you, and seek a Christian counselor – a pastor, layperson or godly friend – who can help you navigate your way through the murky waters ahead.

Let yourself weep. But allow yourself to feel joy again. Suicide will change you, but let that change be for the better – for your sake, for the sake of the people you love and for the glory of God.