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When suicide strikes too close to home…

depression

 

His name was Bill Zeller. I read his story and there was just something about it that just struck me to my very being. I think suicide has had that effect on me. Lives snuffed before their time. I wrote a poem dedicated to him.

the dark passenger
 

scream, cry, numb

every fiber straining
to hold it all together.
but i can’t.
not anymore.
no one knows
not until the end
will they realize.
by then… too late.
emptiness swallowing me whole

until i am lost, never to be found.

truth hurts.
It wasn’t the first time that I’ve written on the issue. I have talked about Amanda Todd and Matthew Warren. I have talked about my friend’s suicide.

This topic has once again hit me in the face. The helplessness, the feeling of “I should have seen it,” and the unremitting guilt that you could have done something but don’t know what you could have done plays in the background of your daily life. You can’t shake it off. You know that it is irrational. There is no reason to blame yourself. But you still do. The endless game of “What if’s” play on repeat within your head.

Hug a friend, a family, a loved one, heck, even a stranger. Be nice even to those who are mean to you. We are all fighting a battle. Don’t forget to show your appreciation while you still can. Make sure that those who are important to you know that you love them.
We all need to make sure that we create safe spaces where people can speak openly about mental issues. The stigma still remains, even more so in Christian circles, it seems. I have known many godly Christians who have been diagnosed with depression (and other mental issues). Because the illness isn’t happening on the outside, I think it is easy for others to simply dismiss it or discount mental illness as something that is actually real. Mental illness is real. Way too real.
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Pensées on Suicide

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There’s just something about suicide that just hits me to my core. My heart just goes out to people who carry what must be such unbearable pain that they feel that the only way to make it go away is to choose death over life. I can’t even begin to think how isolating and how lonely that must feel. I know that some people think that it is the only way to escape the immense hurt they are going through. Some choose death not because they don’t think that life is not worth living… they choose death because life is simply too much for them to bear. Suicide notes usually tell the people they leave behind that they have nothing but utmost love for them and tell them not to berate themselves for what happened. It wasn’t their fault.

Once you factor in mental illness in the picture, it becomes an even murkier picture. Schizophrenics are prone to hear voices that tell them to commit acts of aggression against others, or even against themselves. The line between what is real and what is not real becomes blurred. The constant struggle can be burdensome. In that one quick moment when you lose that fight between reality and illusions, the outcome can be tragic and irreversible. As someone once said, “suicide is a permanent response to a temporary problem.” However, I just find pithy statements like that to be so cliché that it verges on useless. I find that statements like that tend to make something painfully real into something abstract. Suicide is tragic. Suicide is heart wrenching. Suicide is soul crushing.

When I heard what happened to my friend, I was shocked. I was speechless. Immediately, you think of your last interaction and wondered if there was something you could have said or something you could have done to be an encouragement or bring a smile to their face. When faced with the reality and cruelty of death, we are forced to remember the fragility of life. We are forced to think of our priorities in life and what matters most to us.

As a Christian, the reality of death also confronts us with the reality of the afterlife. According to the Christian worldview, heaven and hell are the two places where one might end up when we die. Suicide, in particular, makes us wonder where the soul might go. I think it is only important to remind people that in the end, only God knows the eternal fate of our souls. It is good to be reminded that it is not up to us to determine where others shall go. Whatever your thoughts may be on the matter, it is probably better for you to keep it to yourself. Since you’re not God, your opinion/speculation doesn’t matter at all.

To those left behind, suicide is extremely hard to bear. It’s hard not to blame ourselves for what we could have done to prevent it. What if I said/did something that drove them to do it? Why couldn’t they confide in me? Why did they think that this was the only way to fix the problem? I can’t even fathom the emotions that a grieving loved one feels. There are no words to adequately explain the depth of hurt and pain etched in their faces and engraved in their hearts.

To those who feel that suicide is the only option, I want you to know that it isn’t. There is help available to you and for you. Please talk to a family member, a trusted friend, or if needed, seek professional help. There’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to go through the loneliness alone. This world is a better place because you’re in it. Please don’t quit on us. You are loved more than you can ever know by the One who made you. God doesn’t make mistakes and you are not a mistake. You are the apple of His eye.

For the rest of us, let’s not be stingy with our praise and encouragement of others. Let’s cherish each other’s presence. We can never say “I love you” too many times. Let’s make sure that the one time we do say “I love you” is not the one time that the person can’t hear it anymore.

To my friend, say hi to the angels for me. May you rest in peace in the bosom of the God who loves you.

 

The Importance of Lament – Part 2

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” – Jesus, Matt. 5:4

Like so many people, I have been deeply affected upon hearing the story of Rick Warren’s son, Matthew, committing suicide. Rick Warren, in such an open and vulnerable way, shared an e-mail where he spoke about his brokenness. It was painful to read because death is always painful. I am reminded of a scene in Lord of the Rings (Two Towers) when King Theoden is at his son’s grave site and says “no parent should have to bury their child.” It is a reminder of the unspeakable anguish of what a parent feels when they lose a child.

In our culture, there is such a stigma about mental illness and suicide. These are the taboo topics that many in evangelical circles, or religious circles in general, don’t want to talk about. However, the more people don’t talk about it, the more people are forced to bear the pain alone. Losing a child is difficult (and that’s an understatement) but to heap feelings of shame and guilt on top of that doesn’t help. When someone dies from a terminal disease, we don’t deem their death as weakness or something that we must hide from others. Just because the illness happens in the brain does not make it less of an illness. I really hope and pray that our reaction to anyone’s death is one full of compassion and grief instead of sanctimonious platitudes of self-righteousness bereft of love and grace.

Death is devastating. As a Christian, it is but another reminder of the broken, fallen world that we live in. Death was not part of the original plan. It came as a result of sin. And so when we see it, our minds and our hearts are jolted back to the reality that the system is broken. While we long and yearn to see the day when there shall be no more death, that glorious day when God shall wipe away every tear from our eyes, we do not live in that dream just yet. Instead, we are thrust into living a nightmare that we cannot wake up from. And in this horrible place, we can do nothing but mourn. Mourn for the death of our loved one. Mourn for the sins of the world. Mourn for the life that is no more. Mourn for our broken dreams and shattered lives.

When we are humble enough to be honest with ourselves and with God, when we throw away our masks and in absolute nakedness present our whole selves to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Bible says that He will comfort us. He will give us consolation. He will give us a peace which passes all understanding. We cannot forget that the Lover of our soul experienced the touch of death Himself. He knows Death rather intimately. But He also knows that Death will ultimately be swallowed up by His victory. On that day, we shall rejoice more fully. However, today, when the promise of life looks bleak, He is there to hold our hands and weep with us. The tears shall pour forth. The confusion will remain.  And He will lovingly and graciously wrap His arms around us, and give us rest.

I hope and pray that we, as members of His body, would continue to lift up Rick Warren’s family in prayer. May He use us to be vessels of love, grace, and encouragement during such a time as this.

Wednesday Writings – Nov. 28

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Awhile ago, I wrote a blog post that was inspired by Amanda Todd’s suicide. She was a young girl who was bullied constantly and felt that suicide was the only way to escape the pain. The poem that I wanted to share today was also a tribute to a man I never knew but whose words have haunted me. His name was Bill Zeller. Before he committed suicide, he left behind a suicide note explaining why he did what he did. As I read it, my heart was just filled with grief and sadness that someone went through what he went through alone. He felt as if no one could ever help him. That is a terrible lie and an even more terrible reality to live out.

If you’re reading this and you’re contemplating suicide, I would urge you, plead with you, beg you, not to go through with it. The pain that you’re going through is probably unbearable and it hurts so much but suicide is not the answer to your problems. There are people who you can talk to, confide to, and they can help you. Also, there is a loving Father in heaven who loves you so much and sent His Son to die for you so that you don’t have to. There are various resources out there: people, communities, organizations that you can reach out to and who will do their best to help you go through what you’re going through. You’re not alone.

If you ever want to talk, please feel free to e-mail me or connect with me on Facebook and Twitter. I will be here to lend a listening ear =)

the dark passenger
 
scream, cry, numb

every fiber straining
to hold it all together.
but i can’t.
not anymore.
no one knows
not until the end
will they realize.
by then… too late.
emptiness swallowing me whole
until i am lost, never to be found.
truth hurts.