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.
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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.