Forgiving Yourself for Words to a Suicidal Friend

By K. O.:

 It can be terribly difficult to forgive yourself for words you said to a suicidal friend–words you can’t take back. Here’s some helpful advice.

 

man sitting on the grass from mf

Image by Darnok

A friend of mine who I’ll call Skip confided in me that he had a hard time forgiving himself for words he said in haste that he now can’t take back.

A co-worker of his that he referred to as Brad continually expressed his desire to kill himself. Brad was unhappy in love and had problems at work and seemed unable to heal from depression and self-hatred.

Again and again, Brad told Skip, “I’m gonna do it. I will. Life is one big pit.”

Skip got sick of listening to Brad. They could never have a decent discussion about sports or women or politics. Brad was a one-line conversationalist. After repeated incidents, Skip blew up one day. “If you’re so committed to suicide,” he told Brad, “go ahead and do it, bro. I’m sick of listening to you. All you do is talk. In fact, I dare you.”

Skip went home that day and was immediately seized with guilt. How could he have lost control so easily? Didn’t he realize that his friend was emotionally ill and needed support, not cruel words? Skip called Brad a few times after that to apologize and invite him out for sushi, but Brad never returned his calls.

A month later Skip got the news. Brad had hung himself in the bathroom of his apartment. Skip felt responsible. If only he had kept his mouth shut. He knew Brad’s suicide wasn’t his fault. We each make decisions for our own lives. But still, if only he had helped Brad instead of baiting him. If you face a similar situation here is some helpful advice (condensed) from www.bandbacktogether.com.

  1. You will probably feel that you could’ve done something more to prevent the suicide, but that’s not the case. You cannot assume responsibility for the actions of another. PERIOD.
  2. Forgive yourself. The suicide is not your fault.
  3. Talk to a photo of the victim. It may help to articulate the things you’d wished you could say to the person and to apologize for what you did say.
  4. If your feelings of guilt are prolonged, seek professional help.
  5. Let the anger out. Chop wood. Scream. Hit a punching bag. Punch a pillow.
  6. Take your grief one day, one second, one moment at a time. You didn’t have a choice or any control over the suicide, but you DO have the choice to live through the aftermath. Choose to live.

And most important, ask God to help you forgive yourself for the words you can’t take back.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9 the Bible).

 

 

Deeply Depressed

By Jeenie Gordon:

Families often deal with a deeply depressed member for years, which takes an enormous toll.  Fear and anxiety become a familiar part of life. As grief recovery ensues, and reality begins to take effect, people eventually realize there was nothing more they could have done. They cannot force a person to seek medical help or take medication. They cannot prevent suicide.

Let me share with you the following story about a pastor.

He was a respected leader in his denomination – a wise and godly man. Young men sought his counsel when they believed God had called them into ministry. “What are the pitfalls? How will I know for certain God has put His hand on my life? Where will I go for training?” were some of the questions he fielded. Beginning pastors asked his advice, as did seasoned men of God.

Yet, something went wrong. He became deeply depressed and lived in a black hole from which he could find no exit. Not willing to seek medical help, he and his wife struggled for years. His wife did not want to interfere by seeking help or even mentioning it to their family and closest friends. They both suffered in silence.

One cloudy day, he drove onto a long expansion bridge over a Pacific Ocean harbor, stopped his car in the middle, stepped out, and jumped.

Many pastors in his denomination believed suicide meant eternal damnation, but at his funeral, they began to realize this was an act of a godly man who was deeply depressed,  and in a moment of insanity, made an instant and final decision.

His dear wife breathed a sigh of relief because the days of deep emotional pain had ended. Yet, guilt haunted her.

I’ve explained to grieving clients that guilt almost always follows death, whether suicide or natural death. We have the irrational sense that somehow we could have prevented the death – that we didn’t do enough. The “what ifs” and “if onlys” become our nagging companions. Emotional health comes when, in time, we are able to accept God’s gift of relief – without guilt.

Often members of the family need to be in grief counseling with a Christian therapist, as well as join a grief support group to help in the recovery process.

 – – -

Jeenie Gordon is a licensed marriage and family therapist, speaker, and author of ten books. This excerpt was taken from Too Soon to Say Goodbye, Healing and Hope for the Suicide Victims and Survivors, and used by permission from New Hope Publishers.

 

Comfort for Grieving Counselors and Parents: You Came!

By Jeenie Gordon:

It is devastating for a high school counselor to lose a student to suicide, as it is for that teen’s parents. Thankfully God offers comfort for grieving counselors and parents.

 

Stock photo with teen model, by anitapatterson.

Joe was an extremely emotionally troubled student, who often came to my high school counseling office.  He quietly waited until I was available.  Over several years we spent many hours together as he poured out his heart. I listened.

When a week went by and I hadn’t seen him, I called his home to check on him. I was told he had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital ward.

Within two weeks, he was released and was again sitting outside my office. I looked into his vacant eyes. Having counseled three years in a psychiatric hospital, I immediately recognized the look of a very disturbed teenager. Why in the world did they release him? I thought. It is obvious this young man needs long-term psychiatric treatment.

“Hi, Joe. It’s good to see you. I’ve missed you,” I softly said. This time our talk was disjointed. Joe was in no shape to deal with reality nor capable of receiving encouragement. His mind was apparently in mass confusion. I felt at a loss as to how to help him

Two days later my secretary said, “Joe’s mother is on the phone and said it’s urgent.” Sadly, Joe had taken his life.

Tears streamed down my face as I related the news to my secretary, then headed to the principal’s office. He hugged and consoled me when I needed it so badly.

My mind screamed, What could I have said to stop him? What did I do wrong? O God, why, why?

That afternoon I drove to his parents’ home, a simple humble abode that was clean as a whistle. It reminded me of my home growing up.

“Oh, Mrs. Gordon, you came. You came!” Over and over Joe’s mother cried as I held her in my arms, our tears mingling.

A few days later, I felt the intense presence of God and His sweet Holy Spirit comforting me as I sat at the funeral mass. Even though it was in Spanish, my heart was in tune. As the casket was carried down the aisle following the service, the congregation broke out in praise songs to Jesus – a cappella. Without a doubt, I had the assurance Joe’s mind was no longer clouded, and he was finally set free.

This time, Jesus came.

For families of suicide victims, sorrow and emotional pain is beyond description. It leaves a destructive mark on those left. Suicide is never an acceptable path for the current pain of the person contemplating a way out.

For those left, the questions are enormous – ones which have no logical answers. Self-blame is common. Seeking out a professional counselor, speaking to a pastor, confiding in close family and friends, and possibly temporary medication can be helpful.

This excerpt was taken from Too Soon to Say Goodbye: Healing and Hope for Suicide Victims and Survivors, and used by permission from New Hope Publishers. ©Jeenie Gordon with Susan Titus Osborn and Karen L. Kosman. (See:  Our Team.)

Help Me Cope: My Best Friend Killed Himself

I am so sorry to hear that your best friend killed himself. Losing a friend to suicide is probably one of the most difficult things a person can go through.
This kind of grief is intense and can leave you feeling guilty and wondering what you could have done to stop your friend’s death.  Plus, it’s hard to stop thinking about your loss or to stop blaming yourself that this even happened.

 

 My Best Friend Killed Himself: Now What?

Here are some ideas to help you cope:

  1. Ask God to carry your pain, grief and even your feelings of guilt.
  2. Write down your feelings and memories about your friend in a special notebook, but don’t spend more than 15 minutes a day on this task.  It’s good to vent and express yourself, but if you spend too much time thinking about your loss, it may cause your feelings of grief to worsen. So try to find a good balance.
  3. Talk to a counselor and other adults about your feelings.
  4. Try to understand, then believe, that this really wasn’t your fault.  It wasn’t.
For help with guilt in survivors after suicide of a loved one, click here to read this free online book (PDF format):  SOS: A Handbook for Survivors of Suicide, by Jeffrey Jackson at suicidology.org. Here is an excerpt:
“Talking through your feelings and fears is essential for recovery from your trauma.Unfortunately, while your closest supporters may be willing to listen and share with you for a few weeks or months, there’s likely to come a time when their thoughts move on from the suicide while yours are still racing. This is why support groups are so valuable. Fellow survivors understand what you’re feeling in a way that even your closest friends cannot. Your fellow group members will never grow weary of offering supportive words and sympathetic ears.”

The author also offers this link through which you may find a local support group: Find a Suicide Bereavement Support Group at afsp.org (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention).

One day your pain will lessen, but even when that day comes, your friend will always live in your heart.

To read a letter that one mom wrote to her son who committed suicide, click this link: Suicide is NOT the Final Solution.
If you are hurting and you need to talk to someone, call a suicide hotline.
Here’s the story of how one teen coped with her loss when her best friend killed himself.
You may also find help from another one of our articles by clicking on this link:  The Effect Suicide Has On Loved Ones.

 

Guilt in Survivors After Suicide of a Loved One

By Deborah Lovett:

Left Behind: Do you feel guilt after the loss of a loved one to suicide?

Guilt in Survivors after Suicide of a Loved One

 

After my sister took her own life, the worst thing I had to deal with, besides the grief of losing my best friend, was the guilt I felt. If you are contemplating or thinking about suicide, you should read this article so you know what the aftershocks are to people you love, and who love you, whether you know they do or not.

If you have had someone in your life who has taken his or her own life and you are dealing with the survivors’ guilt, then read on.

The Bible says that the enemy comes to steal, lie and destroy. That is his only plan. He will do whatever it takes, and he is ruthless at it. If he succeeds at targeting a certain person into destroying their own life, his next plan is to succeed at their family through what is called “survivors guilt.” Suicides are “clustered” in a family for this very reason. Therefore, it is important to know and be informed in order to prevent the enemy from taking any more lives than he already has. The saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is correct.

The thing with survivors’ guilt is this: We are each responsible for ourselves to God. Yes, we are to help one another. So yes, there might have been something else you could have done or said, but you are not responsible for the outcome of someone else’s life. That is why we need a Savior. Jesus is the One who saves. Also remember, you can only give a person as much help as they are willing to accept.

I helped my sister by driving her around, praying with her, advising her, giving her money, giving her furniture to start a new life, praying for her, and loving her. Yet, after her death, I felt like I should have done more, I missed something, it was my fault, or in a word: guilty. Why? Because it is the devil’s plan. Again, he is strategic and he is relentless, he will use whatever ammunition you give him.

The great thing about the Holy Spirit is He is relentless too. He will come to comfort you and give you wisdom and guidance if you are walking in step with Him.

He brought me a verse after my sister’s death when I was dealing with the feelings of guilt that were both agonizing and completely paralyzing. The verse is found in 2 Corinthians 7:10 and it says:

 “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

I knew that my sister had a worldly sorrow that had brought death, and that I needed a Godly sorrow, a repentance for whatever I thought, felt or knew I had done or not done in regards to her death in order to find freedom. Jesus Christ died for our sins, past, present and future, those we did, think we did, or have been condemned by others into believing we did.

Christ has risen. We can have a new life with Christ that frees us from being someone else’s savior, including our own. We truly can celebrate resurrection and renewal every day of our lives!

If you are contemplating or thinking about suicide today, or have survivor’s guilt, remember why Jesus came: to save us from our sins, and to bring a true freedom from sin~ so that we can LIVE!

For help with guilt in survivors after suicide of a loved one, click here to read this free online book (PDF format):  SOS: A Handbook for Survivors of Suicide, by Jeffrey Jackson at suicidology.org.

The Effect Suicide Has On Loved Ones

By Susan Titus Osborn:

Rosen Georgiev / FreeDigitalPhotos.netIf you are depressed and considering taking your own life, please stop for a moment and think of the effect suicide has on loved ones, your loved ones, who are left behind.

The following poem, To Our Sister by Gary Sumner, sums up the feelings of a brother and the effect his sister’s suicide had on him.

We hate that thing you did.

It did not solve one thing.

We doubt you thought it through.

How could you plan such pain?

 

Your life was not just yours—

A part of it was ours.

The ones you left behind

Cruel emptiness now know.

 

We’d plans and hopes and dreams

Of times with you, dear one.

Events need not be grand—

Your presence was enough.

 

A future filled with joy

And days of happiness,

With loved ones all around

Were always wished for you.

 

Now do you hear the tears,

That come to us unbidden?

We ache to think of such

A future swept away.

 

This poem was taken from Too Soon to Say Goodbye: Healing and Hope for Suicide Victims and Survivors and used with permission by New Hope Publishers.

If you are depressed and contemplating suicide, there aren’t number of resources available as near as your telephone. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a free, 24-hour hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Your call will be routed to the nearest crisis center to you.

You can also dial the following National Suicide Prevention Hotline numbers operated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services:

1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)

1-888-SUICIDE (1-888-784-2433)

1-877-SUICIDA (1-877-784-2432) (Spanish).

Here’s a video that takes a look at the heartbreaking effect suicide has on loved ones.

 

Susan Titus Osborn is the director of the Christian Communicator Manuscript Critique Service. She has authored 30 books, her latest being Wounded by Words and Too Soon to Say Goodbye: Healing and Hope for Suicide Victims and Survivors, co-authored by Jeenie Gordon and Karen Kosman. Books may be ordered from New Hope Publishers.

 

 

Suicide is NOT the Final Solution

By Karen Kosman

The pain of suicide is like a jigsaw puzzle. No matter how we try, we cannot make the pieces fit together. Suicide is not the final solution. It only leaves a painful aftermath for the ones who love you. For that reason I share a portion of the letter I wrote to my son who died of suicide at the age of 23.

Dear Robbie,

Each year on your birthday, I stop and ponder what you may have become. What wonderful accomplishments you would have achieved if you’d chosen to stay. I wonder if you would have married and how many grandchildren you’d have given me. I’ll never know—you went away too soon. I miss your hugs. You always seemed to know when I needed one. I miss your smile; it always brightened my day.

 I felt a lot of anger when you left. It’s hard not knowing why you chose to leave. God impressed on my heart that I could be bitter, feel guilty, and show anger, or I could let go of those emotions—not with my own strength, but with His.

 I love you, Robbie, which will never change. But when I stand at your grave site, I can’t put my arms around you anymore. I have so many sweet memories, but I don’t have you anymore. At holidays and special moments with family, there is always an empty chair.

I am sharing your life and death with others in hopes that it prevents someone else’s son or daughter, mom or dad, or friend or relative from dying by suicide.

I know, if you could, you’d tell people that no matter how difficult life seems, it will get better. You always learned through trial and error. Robbie, your life had purpose, and I know that your suicide was your ultimate act of impulsiveness—but at what cost…

 Love,

Mom

For the suicidal individual who wants only to escape pain—there is hope. There are people who care, who have walked on the edge, but overcame. We want you live; to have a future.  Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Or dial 211 for help in locating essential community services, such as mental health services. The final solution is choosing to live and getting help.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

 

This blog post is an excerpt from Too Soon to Say Goodbye: Healing and Hope for Suicide Victims and Survivors and is used with permission by New Hope Publishers.

The following is the true story of Kellie Borden, who is glad she survived to realize suicide is not the final solution.