Ripped Apart By Suicide

Six ways to comfort those suffering the grievous loss of a loved one

A couple of months ago, a friend came to me and told me his father-in-law had committed suicide at the age of 74. This man was an upstanding Christian. Of course, it shocked the entire family. As I reached out to his daughters, I began to reflect on how the after-effects of suicide had impacted my own life. It was something I never felt I had the strength to speak out about, but God has continued to "nudge" me with the promise he will give me the strength to face my horrific memories.

Suicide is on the rise throughout our country today. A recent article in The New York Times notes that for the first time, more Americans now die of suicide annually than car accidents. The most pronounced increase in suicide has come from middle-aged men, a group in which suicides recently jumped by nearly 50 percent. Even more troubling, suicide is escalating in the Christian community, and when successful, the person initiating the act is not the exclusive casualty. The ripple effect drastically impacts family and friends, and can continue on for generations. The ongoing damage from unhealed wounds can be vast and relentless.

Tragedy strikes

I was raised in the Rocky Mountains of Montana where everyone had a gun just to survive. For hunting and keeping yourself safe from wild animals, guns were a must.

I was quite close to my two uncles: Jim and Darryl. They were like second fathers to me. I desperately needed strong father figures, since my own father was very unsafe—I was born into a family where sexual abuse was the norm.

At the age of nine, I was awakened from sleep by the sound of a door slamming, followed by high-pitched wailing. I ran to where the screaming and sobbing were coming from; it was my aunt Fernie in our living room. She was a mess. She was disheveled and had blood all over her. Evidently, my uncle Jim had put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger right in front of her. I was horrified and confused. About six months later, my other aunt Lil came over in the middle of the night screaming. My other uncle, Darryl, had decided to end his life in the same way. A few years later, my uncle Tom did the same. I wasn't witness to the gore of his suicide, but saw how it affected our family. No one ever talked about it. It was hush-hush; we all knew that to break that vow was to dishonor the dead.

Clearly, this was how my family dealt with pain. So when my life was a mess and I was all alone with a bottle of pills many years later, I kept thinking it would be an easy way to end the pain. If my uncles had done it, why not me?

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May 25

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