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Entries in Suicide (1)

Thursday
Sep192019

A Christian Response to Suicide

Note: This article is run to coincide with National Suicide Prevention MonthSeptember 2019. If you or someone youi know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or call 911 immediately.

Susan K. Stewart offers practical solutions to real-world problems. In this special Health UPGRADE, she encourages people to take a biblical view of a tough issue: suicide.

"'I tried to hang myself.'

"Shock does not convey my feelings," Susan says, "when my son spoke these words over the phone."

I (Dawn) recently tried to help a neighbor whose nephew took his own life. As I shared words of hope with my neighbor and her sister, I saw first-hand the deep, stigmatized pain in those left behind. I'm grateful for people like Susan who help us understand positive, biblical ways to address suicide and encourage others.

Susan continues . . .

I am the one in the family who remains calm during a crisis, falling apart afterwards. I tried to sound calm and collected. All I could manage “Why did you do that?”

This scene came flooding back when I heard over the phone just days ago, “Judy committed suicide.”

The family member who called went on to explain the circumstances, but I didn’t hear. My mind was back twenty years when I received the call from my son.

The shock of the news; the relief my son was still alive.

While I was processing the memory, the caller made another statement that gave me pause: “She was so religious. I didn’t think she’d ever do something like this.”

Yes, our loved one was a Christian. Yes, she did rely on God. Yes, she took her own life. Does that mean she wasn’t a “true” Christian? Does that mean she missed out on eternal life?

Why is it non-believers think believers won’t end their lives?

Why will some Christians condemn Judy for taking her life and also my son for attempting?

The church I grew up in taught suicide was an unforgivable sin because it is the taking of a life, murder, for which the person is unable to seek forgiveness. I couldn’t reconcile the love of Jesus with the shunning of families whose loved one had died at their own hand.

I later learned the only unpardonable sin is the blasphemy or, as it is translated in The Message, “when you reject the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 12:31). Total rejection of God.

If some churches teach the taking on one’s life is unpardonable, no wonder those outside the church think someone who is “religious” would not do such a thing. Why would a Christian do a such thing and not be able to be forgiven?

In Judy’s case, physical pain was so overwhelming even the heavy doses of narcotic prescriptions couldn’t overcome it. Her physical pain caused emotional and mental pain for which she was seeking relief.

What can we do to help believers and non-believers through the tragedy of suicide without guilt or condemnation?

1. Treat the family of a suicide victim as we would any other family grieving.

Prepare meals, offer to sit silently, pray with them, offer a comforting memorial service.

This family is facing a double burden:

  • grieving the loss of a loved one, and
  • reconciling the act itself.

They may be dealing with the belief their loved one committed an unforgiveable sin.

2. Understand the unique nature of the death.

Suicide is different than other deaths because of misunderstandings and stigma attached. The family members may be embarrassed or angry with themselves for not recognizing the classic signs.

Some families do not want the suicide revealed. While this sets up a veil of secrecy, which in itself may be destructive, we need to be respectful of their wishes.

3. Walk through the process

Immediately following the death, a police report will be taken. Family members and friends will be interviewed.

Having someone sit in support during this process takes the sting away.

Most cases of a suicide require an autopsy will be performed. Sometimes this process can take more than a month. There will be no body to bury for a long while. For some, this is an added burden to the grief.

Often not considered is clean up. Often that clean up will be the task of the family … an unbearable task. Someone may be needed to handle the details.

If the death is in the home, immediate family may need some place to stay. The offer of a quiet bedroom or a place for children to be comfortable may be welcome and better than staying in a hotel.

4. Help find support in the following weeks and months

Death by suicide isn’t ordinary. The grief is different.

Yes, loved ones will go through the various stages, but they may get stuck in the anger stage. Anger at themselves as well as their loved one.

Unanswerable questions are asked. Loved ones need the support of those who have walked the road. If a local group isn’t available, individual support may be needed.

I’m thankful my son’s attempt to take his life was unsuccessful. Although it was painful, the experience changed me.

"As God has comforted me, I am able to comfort others" (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

It isn’t necessary to have experienced a loved one’s suicide to help.

  • Learn how to help.
  • Speak to church leaders.
  • Seek God.
  • If called, step out in faith.

What would God have you do to support those grieving a loss from suicide?

Susan K. Stewart, Acquisition Editor with Elk Lak Publishing, is a teacher, writer, and speaker known for practical solutions to real-world situations. Her books include Harried Homeschooler’s Handbook: Finding Hope in the Havoc, Preschool: At What Cost?, Science in the Kitchen: Fearless Science at Home for All Ages, the award-winning Formatting e-Books for Writers. She brings her inspiring and encouraging messages to online and in-person conferences about homeschooling, writing, and editing. The Stewarts live in Central Texas with their three dogs, three cats, nine chickens, and a couple of donkeys. They have three children and six grandchildren. You can read more of Susan’s practical solutions at www.practicalinspirations.com.

Graphic adapted, courtesty of Richard Mcall at Pixabay.