Let’s Decode Suicide
Suicide is a terrible way to die and it leaves a residue of pain, unanswered questions, anger and guilt for those who remain behind. It is still something we do not speak about but, rather, whisper privately amongst ourselves. It is something that will not go away despite our best efforts to hide it.
We are told that suicide is on the increase worldwide. It is important that we, God’s people, are not afraid to ask “Where is God in the tragic and painful aftermath of suicide?”
Ron Rolheiser OMI writes an annual column on suicide on his weekly blog. He offers some wonderful insights but also says that some things need to be said over and over; this is especially true when it comes to suicide. There are multiple victims when a suicide takes place – the person who dies but also the loved ones that remain behind. Fr Rolhesier offers a few thoughts that can, hopefully, help those who are left behind to process what has happened and begin to deal with the heart wrenching emotions that accompany suicide.
First, suicide is an illness. We are made up of body and soul – either can snap. Nobody calmly decides to commit suicide and burden their loved ones with their death anymore than anybody decides to die of cancer, a heart attack or stroke and cause pain to their loved ones. Nobody who is healthy wants to die. Suicide claims a person against their will – it is the emotional equivalent of a heart attack, cancer or a stroke. The victim of suicide is a trapped person, caught up in fiery, private inner chaos that has its roots both in their psyche and bio-chemistry.
Therefore suicide is a desperate attempt to end indescribable pain – the victim is wounded, raw and too bruised to have the necessary resources needed to cope with life. The emotional immune system of the victim has shutdown and, like cancer or any other disease it is a horrible way to die.
It is a sickness that cannot be cured despite all the love and care and professional services we offer. Like the drugs we administer for cancer which are not able to overcome the cancer cells and eventually the cells claim life so our stringent professional efforts, love and care sometimes cannot overcome the pain lodged deep in the heart of another. The heart and soul loose the battle.
Second, for the loved ones/friends who are also victims. Jesus, in the Gospel of John (14:1), says “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still and trust in me”.
Do not spend too much time second-guessing as to what you may have done differently or how you may have failed your loved one, how you could have prevented this tragedy. Guilt is a strong emotion after a suicide. Insensitive people sometimes attempt to blame others for the tragedy. There is often unfinished business.
Focus on the words of Jesus “Do not let your hearts be troubled” because with suicide, as with any other illness, we can love someone and still not be able to save them from physical death. Suicide picks its victim in such a way so as to exclude others, their love, care and attentiveness. That’s how the illness works. Let the words of Jesus, rather than words of guilt or blame, be uppermost in your hearts and minds.
Third, we should not worry how God meets a suicide victim. After the resurrection we see how Jesus, more than once, goes through locked doors and breathes love and peace onto the disciples who are locked up in fear. God’s love and understanding, unlike ours, goes through locked doors, descends into hell, and breathes peace where we cannot.
Victims of suicide will awake on the other side to find Jesus standing inside their locked doors, inside their fear, pain and chaos, breathing peace and gently saying “Peace be with you!” Jesus goes through the walls of the heart which, often, we fail to penetrate.
The Jesus we meet in the scriptures has a special affection for those of us who are too bruised and wounded to be touched – that is exactly where he chooses to be. Any faith that connects itself with a God worth believing in doesn’t create undue anxiety as to what will happen when God meets a bruised, wounded struggling heart.
In the Apostles Creed we say …he descended into hell… Some people are perplexed by this statement. It tells us that there is not place that is out of the reach of God. God can descend into hell, go through our locked, sealed doors and where God is, there is love and peace. The locked, sealed doors of the hurting heart for which life has become too much is certainly not out of the reach of God.
The words of the English mystic, Julian of Norwich, also offer comfort and promise us that we will, one day, see our loved ones again free from the abyss their hearts once inhabited: And all shall be well. All manner of things shall be well. Updated from June 2012