Embracing Truth after a Suicide Attempt

From Karen Kosman, with Dr. Kevin Downing:

Truth Image courtesy of winnond FreeDigitalPhotos net

Excerpt from Too Soon to Say Goodbye: Healing and Hope for Suicide Victims and Survivors; used with permission by New Hope Publishers.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

Unforgiveness traps the heart, mind, and soul in an unrelenting cycle of grief. It touches the lives of both the young and old—a jailer of those who desperately need to be set free. It comes in many forms: regret, sorrow, hopelessness, revenge, and self-blame. Standing guard over unforgiving thoughts is anger, whose accusing taunts torment the mind.

The ability to forgive oneself after a suicide attempt is vitally important.

Embracing the Truth after a Suicide Attempt

 by Dr. Kevin Downing

A man, I’ll call him Jeff, who had been a patient in a local ER, came to see me for counseling.

“I can never own up to or explain why I attempted suicide,” said Jeff.

“You already are owning up to what you did by talking with another person about what happened, I replied. “Sharing what happened is the first step, and to do so in counseling is even better.”

He sat there a moment, then added, “OK, but too many people know about my attempt. I feel I have to cover it up, but I don’t know how.”

“Jeff, in your situation you are not going to be able to cover it up—and you don’t need to.”

“As your healing progresses you might find that you will make your suicide attempt part of your life story. It really is an incredible story that at one time you wanted to take your life and now you are in a far better place. It is a testimony of the grace of God in your life. It might become a tool to help other people. You have survived this dark night of your soul and since you did, others just might be able too. You can decide about these things later. For now you need to heal and spend time with safe people you trust. What to do and whom to share this information with will come in time.”

“I hear what you are saying. Dr. Downing, but I can never forgive myself for what I did,” Jeff said. “The guilt and shame I feel is something that I just can’t shake.”

I responded. “I want you to imagine yourself dragging around a giant ball of guilt and shame. Imagine that your burden is so heavy that you give in to exhaustion. But you are not alone. Your friends and God Himself show up and lift the burden. Together they carry it to the foot of the Cross. And there at its base, a powerful cleansing flow begins to melt away this weight of shame and self-condemnation.”

I paused and waited for Jeff’s reaction. When he didn’t respond, I continued, “There is only one place for guilt, and that is at the foot of the Cross. We cannot forget, and that is why we need forgiveness.”

Then I challenged him, “If you really hate what you did, then hate the self-condemnation that could drive you back to another suicidal depression. Propose in your heart to hate so much what you did that you will not allow yourself to harbor the seeds of self-hate that could force you back to the same place.”

“I ruined my life by trying to kill myself,” Jeff persisted.

“Black-and-white statements are rarely true. This one is definitely not true. Your life is not ruined. You survived. Victorious songs are filled with many verses of nearly giving up­—but you haven’t.”

Jeff learned not to take his depression lightly and to take better care of himself. He changed his routine to include physical exercise, a men’s accountability group, prayer, reading the Bible, and periodic counseling. Over time he embraced God’s grace. Jeff forgave himself and found the ability to share and encourage others with his story.

Embracing truth after a suicide attempt can be difficult — yet the truth is: Jesus Christ can wipe away shame, create new hope and offer a fresh start. Ask Him and he will give you new life!   See: 2 Corinthians 5:17

Words: a Lifeline to a Suicidal Person

By Karen Kosman:

Sometimes an encouraging word can be what a suicidal person needs to hear.

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in setting of silver. Proverbs 25: 11

 

Hope image by Stuart Miles FDP net

Is it safe to say that words make the world-go-around?

It’s true that words are powerful and make impressions on our hearts, minds and souls. They can be used to tear down and destroy our self-esteem, forming a destructive foundation for the rest of our lives. Depression, behavioral problems, and physical illnesses are often direct outcomes of emotional abuse—often resulting in invisible scars.

For those trapped in a pit of depression negative self-talk chips away at their ability to reach out and think logically. They have forgotten how to touch, how to cry, and even how to laugh. They do not really want to die, only to escape the pain that rages within them.

Often others don’t know how to react to someone they know is severely depressed. They may feel it best not to say anything negative, or encouraging. But this action only isolates the suicidal person more. However, kind words can seem to a depressed individual like a lifeline of hope.

As a training coordinator for new phlebotomists I experienced opportunities to reach out to the brokenhearted at the hospital where I’d worked for many years.

One day at the hospital, I went with a new phlebotomist to assist her. To my surprise a guard sat outside one patient’s room, but I had no idea why. I went to the nurses station to inquire and learned a teenage boy had attempted suicide, and his parents hired the guard to watch him.

As we entered the room, a pale, sad teen looked up. He said, “It won’t do any good you know?”

“Tell me,” I asked, “what won’t do any good?”

“The guard. I’ll go home sooner or later.”

“Is your life that painful?” I asked.

“Who cares?”

“I do.”

His eyes softened and he smiled.

As I left his room I determined to visit him later, but the opportunity never arrived. The next day he was moved to another facility.

Often I thought of this young man and prayed others spoke encouragingly to him. It only takes a moment to reach out to someone hurting.

Encouraging a suicidal person to seek help demonstrates to them that you care. Listening to them sends the message that what they have to say is important.

This story contains inserts from Too Soon to Say Goodbye: Healing and Hope for Suicide Victims and Survivors and used with permission by New Hope Publishers.

Suicide as an Option is Never Good

By Karen Kosman:

Suicide as an option for ending pain and depression is never good.

There are always alternatives that can open the door to change and hope.

 

Life preserver image by cbenjasuwan FDP net

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

At the age of 13, Louise fell out of her dad’s boat. She knew how to swim, but the icy cold water took her breath away, and the thick reeds, growing up from the bottom of the lake, wrapped around her legs. She panicked as she gasped for air and gulped water. Hopelessness and doubt kept her focused on fear, and she could not free herself. She fought to stay above water. Silently she prayed, God help me!

Suddenly she felt someone beside her—a man pulling the reeds away from her. He said, “Louise, you are safe now.” He gave her a shove toward shore.

To her surprise, just a short distance away from where she had struggled, her feet touched the ground. There she found loving, compassionate people ready to help her.

Louise thought, What would have happened if I hadn’t cried out for help? What would have happened if a stranger hadn’t cared enough to swim out to help me? In the murky water I couldn’t see the bottom of the lake. Safety had been only a few feet away.

So it is with the throes of depression. The suicidal person can’t see through the murkiness of her or his pain to know that safety lies only a short distance away.

Suicide is never a good option. It does not solve anything. It brings an abrupt end to the resources that could have brought relief, completion of fulfilled dreams, and the return of happiness.

There are a number of mental disorders that cause chemical imbalance in the brain and may contribute to suicidal behavior. However, they can often be controlled with medication when prescribed and overseen by a psychiatrist. Although these illnesses are often treatable, some emotionally desperate patients will choose not to live.

Often external circumstances such as job loss, financial disaster, loss of a child, failure in school, or marital problems are blamed for suicide. However, these events may act only as triggers.

For many the turnaround came when they called out in distress, “God help me.” These words are often the beginning of a path to recovery for those contemplating suicide. God becomes to them a safe harbor. In seeking  help from professionals (support groups, pastors, family physicians, and Christian therapists), they explore the reasons behind their pain. With the love and mercy of a sovereign God, they grab hold of a life preserver—the choice to live.

Lord, my God walk with me on this journey. Help me to set a goal for my future. Teach me to believe that I still have a purpose in life.

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

Journaling After My Son’s Suicide

By Karen Kosman:

 Journaling after my son’s suicide helped me cope with grieving.

 

Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18

 

Two years after the loss of my son I found my grief once more resurfacing. I thought I had moved on and tried to push the feelings away. But, the tears flowed anyway, and I realized that grief has its own time schedule. “Lord, give me the courage to go on.”

I began dreaming about Robbie. In one dream, cliffs stood high above the beach where houses overlooked the ocean. Beautiful pine trees surrounded the houses, and a wooden staircase led down to the shore. Below on the beach I sat on a log. In the distance my son approached. I called to him, “Robbie, I want to tell you something.”

Instantly he vanished.

A few weeks later I shared my reoccurring dream with a close friend. Cynthia was an author and inspirational speaker who dealt with human emotions all the time in her ministry. I knew she would understand.

“Karen, I believe this is part of your grieving process. Tomorrow is your day off. Why don’t you call a Christian counselor? Therapy can help you deal with your feelings.”

Cynthia thought for a moment before continuing, “I have a condo in Oregon. Why don’t you and John spend your vacation there this year?”

“We’d love to, Cynthia, and I’ll think about the counseling.”

The next morning I made the call to begin my counseling. In therapy I found permission to express my fears, anger, and doubts. I also told of my hopes for the future. My counselor suggested I keep a journal.

Between therapy sessions, I journaled. Then I wrote about my dream, only I changed the outcome: I sat on a log and watched Robbie approach, but this time he sat down next to me. I looked into his eyes and said, “I miss you. I felt angry at you for leaving the way you did. I even felt angry that God hadn’t stopped you. I didn’t understand the depth of your pain, and that made me angry at myself.”

As I wrote those words, I felt my anger being lifted. Tears fell as I continued to write. Goodbye, son. I love you. I’m not angry anymore.

But, in my writing, unlike my dream, Robbie stood up and smiled. Then he walked back down the beach. He stopped and turned to wave. I waved back and felt the freedom to let go.

During my next session, I shared my story with my counselor. A few days later, over lunch, Cynthia read my journal. She smiled and said, “I think you’ll find that beach when you visit Oregon.”

I didn’t understand what she meant until John and I arrived at Cynthia’s vacation home. The condo was surrounded by pine trees and sat on a cliff, overlooking the ocean. We climbed down a wooden staircase to the beach below.

“Lord,” I prayed, “this is the beach in my dream—but I’ve never been here before!”

A gentle breeze touched my face, and I relaxed as the waves lapped onto the shore. I realized that God knows all things. He knows my coming and my going, my thoughts and my dreams. He sent me my dreams to help me to let go.

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

 

He Loved to Sing: a Son Lost to Suicide

Karen Kosman:

A mother grieves as she recalls memories of a her son lost to suicide.

 

Image: anekoho / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: anekoho / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

Karen remembers a special time when she and her husband walked on the beach after a heavy rainstorm. The sun broke through the clouds at sunset, and rays of light formed a cross upon the water. Sandpipers scurried along the seashore. The air felt crisp and smelled fresh God’s creation displayed serenity after the raging storm.

Those left behind after the suicide of a loved one often experience an emotional storm before light can shine once again on their hopelessness. They search for understanding. The weight of their grief causes a sea of uncertainty as they are tossed to and fro on their emotional waves, searching for a safe harbor.

He Loved to Sing “Jesus Loves Me”

Our minds play tricks on us when we are grieving. There were times I felt certain I heard my son’s voice. And then I’d remember our last phone conversation—the last time anyone talked with Robbie. Like a tape that had been recorded, my mind replayed our conversation over and over again.

I must have missed something in his voice, something that might have made a difference. He’d called on Thanksgiving. I’d convinced myself that Robbie was homesick and that accounted for the lack of joy in his voice. “You will be home for Christmas,” I told him.

The more I’d wrestled with the question—“Why?”—the deeper I sank into a pit of despair. Family and friends who tried to comfort me could not reach far enough into my prison of despair to pull me out.

At Robbie’s memorial service, I sat in the church where Robbie had gone to Sunday school and thought of how he loved to sing “Jesus Loves Me.” Yet, I also remembered how he’d refused to talk with others. People labeled him shy, but in my heart I felt sure it was because of his speech difficulties. Colorful arrangements of flowers, including a beautiful bouquet of red roses, stood side-by-side at the front of the church. As I looked around this warm, familiar building, echoes of the past replayed in my mind.

Although I heard every word the minister said, I journeyed back in time. . . .

Robbie was three, standing on our couch and looking out the sliding glass door at the rain falling. He announced, “De sky is crying.”

“Why?” A sob escaped my lips, and I felt my husband’s hand touch mine.
Yet I moved onto another memory, Robbie’s fifth birthday party in the park.

“Happy birthday, Robbie,” I said, as I knelt down to kiss him. When I tried to smooth down the hairs on top of his head, that stubborn cowlick stood back up. I smiled and asked, “Would you like to open your presents now?” His brown eyes grew huge as he looked over the pile of presents. His expression was serious as he thought about which package to open first.

Returning to the present, I stifled a sob, and thought, if only . . . Within seconds Brother Stanley’s words penetrated my heart, and I listened intently. “It’s not for us to judge, but a time for us to remember God’s mercy . . .”

O, God, I need you. Please help me to accept what I cannot change.

Suicide of a Sibling

By Karen Kosman:

One who lost his brother shares how suicide of a sibling impacted him.

 

Image: sattva / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: sattva / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. – 1 Corinthians 16:13

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

A Day I’ll Never Forget, by Geoffrey Palmer:

Surrounded by the cresting waves, I wade out into the ocean with mounting anticipation. Then I dive under the water. The ocean underworld has become to me a place of refuge, a place of mystery, a place of beauty, a place to lay aside painful memories. When I scuba dive, my dreams of becoming a marine biologist allow me to focus on my future.

Usually, time in my underwater world passes too quickly, and I need to return to the surface. A small sand shark passes by gracefully. I pause. You’re not a giant, but you’re a fine specimen. I watch it glide off.

Moments later my head breaks through the surface, and I swim to shore. There I take my scuba gear off and head for my car.

Refreshed and feeling at peace, I plan my week. On the drive home I think, Scuba diving is expensive, but I can’t wait to go again, maybe Saturday. Oh, yeah! This is an important week. I’m going to speak at a local high school about Jason’s suicide.

Suddenly, my mind struggles with a nagging fear that’s been eating away at me. For months Mom’s been speaking with a ministry called the “Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention.” She pushes herself so hard that I worry about her getting sick.

I pull into our driveway and park. When I enter the house Mom announces, “Geoffrey, the administrator at the high school you were scheduled to speak at has cancelled. He didn’t want the students thinking that suicide is an option.”

A wave of discouragement washes over me. Then anger surfaces. “That’s stupid! Those students need to know that it’s okay to ask for help.”

“I know, but that’s the way it is for now. We won’t give up.”

I nod, still feeling the weight of my disappointment, then go into my room to dress for school. I have classes at Fullerton College. I don’t want my life to end like Jason’s. I don’t want to hide away in my room and push people away. Life has its problems, but I don’t want to give up. I want others to know that there are answers, and that help does exist.

Quickly, I slip into a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. On my way out I grab my baseball cap that has the black ribbon pin trimmed in gold—a pin representing my grief. A short time later, I pull into my school parking lot, park, and jump out. I head for my chemistry class to redo a lab demo I’d had trouble with.

When others ask me about the pin I tell them. “It means I’m grieving for my brother. Jason shot and killed himself last January. He was my big brother, 11 years older than me, but we had a great time together. We loved sports—played basketball together and roughhoused. I knew he fought depression, but I still can’t believe he did what he did.”

I share my brother’s story to encourage others to ask for help.

My thoughts flash back to the day I’ll never forget—the day news reached me of my brother’s suicide. It had been a typical day with no thought of disaster looming ahead. At work a friend and I were preparing the soccer field for the kids we coached. My cell phone rang and I answered, “Hi, Mom, what’s up?”

I could hardly believe what she told me.

“What happened to Jason? He did what? Okay, okay, I’m on my way.”

My friend saw the look of horror on my face and asked, “What’s wrong?”

“I have to go home. Something’s happened to Jason!”

If I could send my brother a message it would be, “Jason, you are missed.”

Always in my heart will be this question: Jason, why did you do it?

In this YouTube video another young man sings to the brother he lost to suicide. 

The Club No One Wants to Join (Child Suicide Loss)

Karen Kosman:

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

Nancy Palmer on child suicide loss, her adult son’s depression and suicide, and how God helps her cope:

 

Image by Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image by Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  I belong to a club no one wants to join. Its membership is too costly—the death of a child.

I closed my journal after writing these words. My mind reflected once more on that day my life changed forever.

My 30-year-old son, Jason, had been living with us for several months. We’d had an argument. I knew he suffered from depression. Finally, I had confronted him and pleaded. “Jason, no one loves you as much as I do. Please get help!”

“I don’t need help! I’m outta here!” he shouted as he stomped off to his room to pack.

Jason had become skillful at hiding his inner turmoil from friends and family, but I knew all the signs of Jason’s depression. He had struggled on and off most of his life. The intensity of his emotional state this time frightened me. No matter how much my husband, Bill, our sons Bill and Geoffrey, and I cared; we could not control Jason’s choices. He needed professional help, and he had to be the one willing to seek it.

A Christian psychologist had provided me with a list of therapists that Jason could see, but he refused. Jason was separated from his son, and his son’s mother. She didn’t know how to deal with Jason’s depression and had left him. Jason’s 3 -year-old, autistic son certainly needed his daddy. I hoped and prayed that his son would be the reason Jason might change his mind and seek help.

Wandering into Jason’s room after he left, I felt shocked to find his most cherished belongings—items he’d never left behind before. I tried to convince myself that he’d be back, that he’d announce, “Mom, I am ready to seek help.”

The insistent ringing of the doorbell finally broke through my resolve not to answer the door. A chill ran down my spine as I faced a man I did not know. Suddenly, my eyes fell on Jason’s driver’s license attached to the stranger’s clipboard. My heart sank, and I knew even before he asked the question, “Mrs. Palmer, do you know a Jason Palmer?”

“Yes, he’s my son.”

“We have some bad news. May we come in to speak with you?”

Inside my mind agonized. Noooo! Just go away!

With no way of erasing the dreaded news, I invited the man and his female companion inside.

“This morning a woman heard a noise. When she investigated, she found Jason’s body in a park. He shot himself.”

I went into shock and felt strangely detached. I heard a hysterical woman crying, “Not my baby, not my son. Oh, Jason, Why? Why would you leave loved ones? Why would you leave your son?”

Suddenly I realized the hysterical woman was me. Reality hit. Jason would not be coming home.

Today I still don’t have an answer to my question, “Why?” Yet I have found a renewal of hope by volunteering for a ministry on suicide prevention. This gives me a reason to keep going. I work with the knowledge that we cannot stop all suicides, but saving just one life is worth the effort. I speak whenever I can to tell young people about mental illness and that it’s OK to ask for help.

Am I still grieving?

Absolutely! Some days I wonder how I can go on. I miss Jason so much.

Yet God walks with me in my grief. My family and friends work with me in an untied effort to reach out and help others. And although none of us has found an answer to our “Why?”— we see God making a difference.

Have you suffered a similar loss? Find more articles here on Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. You also might be helped by visiting this site: Love Truth: Hope After Suicide.

Grief and Suicidal Thoughts: Loss of a Baby

By Karen Kosman:

Sometimes grief and suicidal thoughts go hand-in-hand, and the loss of a baby may seem too great to bear. But God is there to comfort you.

 

grief, suicidal thoughts, moses basket

God can heal your broken heart–even after the terrible loss of a baby.

My body ached and my heart throbbed with sorrow. Surrounded by family and friends we stood at Kim’s gravesite, all eyes resting on my baby daughter’s small casket.

The wind blew softy against my cheeks as my tears cascaded down. I looked at the grief-ridden faces of my husband, daughter, and son.

How do I help them to go on? How do I say goodbye?

Briefly my mind traveled back to the first time I held Kim. I’d marveled at her tiny, delicate features and auburn curls on top of her head, highlighted with gold streaks. Back in the present I questioned, How do I go on?

As the days turned into weeks my emotions vacillated up and down. At my lowest point of grief I questioned why God hadn’t taken me instead.  Each day depression robbed me of joy. I questioned how I could believe that Kim is in heaven and feel so grief stricken and depressed.

Home alone, one morning, while cleaning my kitchen I found a package of forget-me-not flower seeds shoved at the back of a drawer. On the back someone had written Kim’s name. I immediately went outside and planted them. A few weeks later their blue blossoms filled the garden.

I allowed myself to embrace our precious moments with Kim. I realized as I listened to my children’s feelings how much they needed me to go on. We began praying together and talking about our feelings—talking openly began healing our hearts.

We stayed busy. Working on school projects and home projects brought back normal routines. The days became easier. We counted the many blessings Kim’s life brought to others: My mother accepted Christ and was baptized because of the love she’d witnessed from our church family. Friends began to tell me things like, “Kim’s short life made me ponder about my own life and eternal destiny,” or “I value life more.” But one comment really touched my heart, “Kim’s life made me realize how precious every moment is.”

The shortest verse in the Bible is found in John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” At the lowest point in my sorrow I remembered this verse.

Yes, Jesus wept for the heartache and loss Lasarus’ family and friends felt at his death.  As I thought about the compassion of Christ I felt comforted. I began to realize God understood my grief. As the oppressive blanket of grieve began to lift, joy came back into our lives. I am grateful that I had God to lean on in my sorrow and thankful I didn’t give in to my fleeting thoughts of wanting to die.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

My daughter’s life, although brief, had purpose and still does. I am grateful for the precious gift God granted us in Kim.

Helping Students Understand Suicidal Thoughts

By Karen Kosman:

 When talking to teens at a high school, we discussed suicidal thoughts, but also how unique and special each of those teens are.
teens by Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos net

Image Courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

An opportunity opened for me to speak to high school students, in special needs classes, about suicide. I spoke at 4 different campuses. As I entered each class room I was introduced as a speaker and author. I set my books on stands so the students could see the titles. I noticed that they looked apprehensive. Some nervously wiggled in their seats. Silently I prayed, Lord, please open their hearts. Help them to know that I am here because I care.  

I began to share about some of the challenges I’d had in school and later in my adult life. I noticed that they were listening intently.

When I said, “Do you realize that each one of you are special?” I noticed several sat up straighter. I walked over to a student and said to her, “Do you know that no one in the world has the same set of finger prints that you do?”  Then I walked over to a young man with tattoos on his arms and said, “Do you know that no one in the world has the same design in your eyes as you do?”

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalms 139:14

At that point you could hear a pin drop it was so quiet. I knew then I could talk about my son whom I’d lost from suicide.

I brought them into the presentation by asking questions: “What would you do if a friend told you they wanted to die?” Several responded to my questions and listened closely to how to get help for depression and suicidal thoughts.  Throughout my entire presentation one student keeping saying, “I need your book, Too Soon to Say Goodbye.”  Before I left that classroom I signed a book and gave him one. The students wrote letters to me. The young man whom I gave a book to wrote:

Today I learned what to do when you are suicidal. I am a Christian and I really feel bad that so many want to die.  At one time, I wanted to commit suicide, but when I gave my life to my Father -God my life got better. I want others to know that their lives can get better, too. I know that I can win those lost souls and teach them that God changes lives. Please, stop and think before committing suicide.

Another student wrote: Today in my 6th period class we had a guest speaker. She’s written a book about suicide. We learned it is okay to ask for help when depressed. Life can improve and the future can be good. You need to live your life. We also learned how important it is to listen to friends that are talking about committing suicide and tell someone that can help them.

I have no way of knowing what has taken place in each student’s life since that day, but their letters continue to touch my heart. Every time I read them I pray for each student. We all have problems to work out, but we also have the hope that those problems have solutions. Each day we live is a gift.

See this video with Kristin Anderson: Suicide Interrupted, about a failed suicide attempt which led to a life change in this young woman.

A Parent’s Suicide

By Karen Kosman:

Photo by Anita Peppers

The loss of a loved one by suicide causes deep pain and struggles for families left behind–especially a parent’s suicide for children who only understand that Daddy or Mommy is no longer there to tuck them in bed, to hold them, to play ball, or to help with homework. Activities, no longer possible, that once seemed normal create a deep yearning in a child’s heart. Often they are too young to ask questions. People who are in a position to work with children can be a light that shines through their darkness. One such story is about a Sunday school teacher, named Jeanne Pallos, who started a special class for hurting children.

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

Erik’s Papa’s Suicide

Jeanne Pallos

I knew about hurting hearts and how God could use safe, loving, caring people to bring healing. He had done it in my life. In return, I longed to reach into the hearts of emotionally wounded children and minister with God’s love and grace. So I started a class at church for children with hurting hearts. The staff knew I wasn’t a trained counselor, nor did I pretend to be, but they agreed to allow God to direct me.

Erik’s mother pleaded with me to let him into the class. “He’s seen so much pain in his short life,” she said. “At five years old, Erik lost his dad to suicide. He needs to be in your class.”

Even though Erik was only eight, and the other children were 4th through 6th graders, how could I say no? I thought, Love and support is what all these children need. “I’ll be happy to take Erik into my class.”

The first week, a shy little boy, with his head down, walked into the classroom. We sat in one large circle, and Erik took the seat next to mine. Although I knew the personal tragedies in each child’s life, I never mentioned them. I vowed never to pry into a child’s heart.

Erik rarely spoke, but at the beginning of each class, he scurried to sit next to me. One week I asked the children to make collages depicting people and things they loved. We searched through magazines and collected pictures. Then the children disappeared into their own private worlds as they cut and pasted pictures and words onto large sheets of paper.

Since Erik was the youngest, I often helped him with projects. As we sat pasting a picture of a father and son tossing a ball, he said, “Papa liked to play ball with me.”

Erik had never mentioned his dad before.

“That must have been fun and made you very happy.” I silently prayed, Thank you, God, for working in Erik’s heart.

The next week, during the class activity, Erik whispered to me, “Papa used to read to me.”

“That sounds so special,” I replied. “I’m sure your papa loved reading to you.”

A few weeks later, just before Christmas, our church held its annual memorial service. Families brought pictures of loved ones to display on a table and wrote the deceased person’s name on a list to be read. During the service, each family walked forward to light a candle.

I walked forward and placed my mother’s picture on the table. Suddenly, I noticed Erik walking towards me. He looked up at me with expressive eyes.

“Do you want to see Papa?” he asked.

“Oh, yes,” I answered, taking his small hand. “I’d love to see your papa.”

Together, we found Papa’s picture—a snapshot of a man and a child secured in a cracked frame.

“Is that you?” I asked.

Erik smiled.

“I can tell your papa loved you very much. Do you want to see a picture of my mother?” I asked.

When the evening ended, Erik’s mother took me aside and told me the details of the suicide. “Erik’s dad and I were separated. He lived alone. One evening he phoned and threatened, ‘I’m climbing onto a chair and making a noose. I’m going to kill myself.’

“I pleaded with him, ‘Please get some counseling. Your kids will always need you.’ Then I heard a thud, and the conversation ended in an overpowering silence.”

I wanted to say something comforting, but couldn’t find the words. As I looked into her eyes, I saw sadness, but I also saw determination. Widowed, and left with three heartbroken children, she’d not given up.

Had my class touched Erik’s young heart? Could the love he received in a few short weeks bring healing for a lifetime? I knew it couldn’t, but it was a beginning.

Erik loved his papa, no matter how he had died. That’s all that mattered. Erik now needed me and others to listen, care, and affirm this love. This little boy had a lifetime to deal with his papa’s suicide. For now he needed help in treasuring his dad’s memory before it faded away.

See this touching video, Grief Through The Eyes of a Child, from The Child and Teen Program of Hospice & Palliative Care of Western Colorado. It includes stories from kids about Camp Good Grief to help children cope with loss.