Trigger Warning: this post contains topics of suicide, as part of Suicide Prevention Month.
Suicide. . . Grief, Healing, and Hope
September is National Suicide Prevention Month. I have an all too intimate knowledge and experience with suicide. It has left behind an ugly trauma that rears a hideous head from time to time, attempting to erase life and suck away joy. As a therapeutic exercise for myself, I wrote the bulk of the post you read today on Thanksgiving 2020. That day marked 13 years since my son made a dreadful decision to end his life.
Recently, a dear loved one sustained life-altering injuries when struck by a truck as she bicycled home from work. Four days later a cousin died, minutes after arriving at the hospital with Covid-19. These events have caused a resurfacing of grief and trauma responses in me. Thus, the return visit to my Thanksgiving Day writing.
First, if you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, people who care and want to help you are available. In the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline day or night at 1-800-273-8255 and talk with someone who understands. Get online support at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org or to learn more. For helplines in other countries click here.
Suicide is a terminal choice of hopelessness. Those that end their life by completing suicide are unaware of the tragic ripples they set into motion. An implosion of shock stuns family, friends, co-workers, and others into immeasurable pain. A forever altered life seeps into the pain of the survivors who are left behind. It’s not our choice but a reality we are forced to enter.
The horror of waking to another day with life marching on all around, while my feet were encased in the quicksand of grief. I really didn’t know if I would or could survive another day. I wanted to scream at innocent people going about their life, “This can’t be!! You cannot be living as if nothing has happened—stop the pain is too great!”
Nightmares and dreams stole much-needed rest. This caused an involuntary fear or avoidance of sleep oddly, intertwined with the desire for eternal sleep. Hoping against all hope that maybe, just maybe I would wake up from slumber to find this new reality was only a figment of the mind in the most hellish nightmare ever. (Psalm 22:1-2)
I went through periods of accusatory thoughts and mind tormenting questions. They circled like a wake of vultures ready to pluck away the raw wounded parts of my psyche. What if. . .? Why. . .? I should have. . .? If only. . .? Essentially pointless questions that will remain unanswered.
I was compelled by a desire to cling to my son by touching what he touched, reading what he read or wrote, trying to make sense of what does not make sense. I spent hours in reflection, going back in time via photos, videos, and stories to mentally relive a time when he was still here.
During the same month, six years later my husband made the same irreversible decision. This led me into anger and questioning God (Psalm 28:1-2). I felt alienated, a bit shunned, by society. I was “that” woman, the one nobody wanted to be around or talk to because of their own discomfort. If they were to get too close maybe they would hurt too.
Eventually scarring in the heart began—the knowing, the resigning to the new normal. The post-traumatic survival behaviors began to wire themselves into my system whether I wanted it or not. Then came a day when I smiled or laughed, causing juxtaposed emotions of feeling good or normal for a brief moment and guilt about the sentiment.
Scarring and healing will come when we lean into our Maker and Redeemer. Our emotions can heal just like our physical bodies can. It’s not a perfect metaphor but our bodies heal with proper treatment, time, and attention and so can our emotions. If we break a bone, our body heals again with medical treatment or corrective surgery, time, and aftercare attention to the injury, be that restrictive use, rest, or therapy. In the best circumstances, returning to the previous state but in some instances, there may be lingering after-effect. A person may be left with some residual pain, loss of motion, and a scar.
In my experience, I can attest to residual pain following healing grief. The loss of motion or something like a limp can be equated to the altered state of life. I’ve learned to view my scars as a gift from my Lord. I wrote about that in Beautiful Scars. God knows unimaginable pain. While grieving my son, I was comforted by the fact my Heavenly Father’s son died too. He knows my pain. I had a choice to make. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but I knew in order to survive, I needed to trust the One who knows my pain even when I didn’t understand.
Today is a good day! A day to count blessings.
“Blessed be the Lord, for he has heard the sound of my pleading. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart celebrates, and I give thanks to him with my song” (Psalm 28:6-7, CSB).
Dear Father God, I thank you for the continuous healing you offer to all through Jesus. Lord, I pray for any who are struggling with thoughts of suicide. Send your Holy Spirit to their rescue, squelch that thought and plan of desperation. Open their eyes to see You. Give them the strength to reach out for help. Surround that person with loving, caring people.
Make us like You. Teach us to see others through Your eyes and hear others with Your ears through the power of the Holy Spirit. May Your love and grace flow through us. In the strong name of Jesus. Amen.
© Manette Kay
September 6, 2021
Thank you so much to Manette Kay for this informative post. Suicide prevention month is of course vital in spreading awareness. If you are affected by anything mentioned, please make use of the links provided. You are not alone x
You can read more from Manette Kay, by clicking here.