This week was the one year anniversary when we lost two members of our church from a murder suicide. These two beautiful spirits, for whatever reasons, ended up leaving this earth plane early. To say it was a complete shock to our church community is an understatement. We knew that they were having their challenges and many of us tried to help them, but no one knew the extent of the darkness they were experiencing to have caused them to make that split second decision of no return.
A few months before that, we lost another beautiful soul when she took her own life on the side of a country road. Again, we knew she was having her challenges, but no one was aware of how bad it was until we received the news that she had left us in such a tragic way.
Suicide is a very hard issue for many to understand. Some people believe that it is a very selfish act and that the person was only thinking of themselves, or that all they had to do was snap out of it. Those are very judgmental beliefs because until we have been in their shoes, we do not have a clue as to the extent of what that person was experiencing. When someone is in that deep dark abyss with no sign of the light at the end of the tunnel, they lose all hope, and it only takes a split second of extreme despair to end it. I always say never take away a person’s hope because that may be all they have left. We need to realize that people who commit suicide don’t really want to die…they just want their pain to end. Many are feeling so depressed and hopeless that they really believe that everyone would be better off without them.
So, how can we help those who seem so lost and hopeless? Love them. Be there for them. Listen to them. Help them. Give them hope. Get them professional help if needed. Some people just need to know that someone cares. If all you can do is send a card saying you’re thinking about them, then even that can make a difference. Be very careful of what you say and please don’t say “All you have to do is….” Your words should be kind, compassionate, and loving. There are many stories where someone was contemplating taking their life, but all it took was one person to let them know that someone cared and they changed their mind. I learned that early when I had a college friend confide that before she met me, she was going to kill herself. I didn’t have a clue, and I didn’t do anything except to be her friend.
How can we in churches help our members and attendees through their dark periods? Stop judging! Stop criticizing! Stop demonizing! There are many who quit going to church for these very reasons! The sole purpose of those of us in the spiritual communities is to love unconditionally! People in darkness need to feel that their very lives and feelings matter and that they are loved, cherished, and wanted regardless of who they are or what their issues are. When the church community in particular condemns and demonizes people just because of a difference in beliefs, and when some church leaders (and some politicians) actually say that certain people should die and that we’d be better off without them, regardless of the issue, this is extremely unconscionable!
If you’re one who is struggling and having a hard time hanging on, I wish I had the magic words to help you hang in there and to let you know that you are loved, appreciated, and valued JUST AS YOU ARE! This will pass, and once you get through it, you’ll be a stronger and better person because of what you experienced and then you can be there to help others because you understand! You can be a great success because you did go through the darkness!
I leave you with the great lyrics from the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone:” “When you walk through the storm, Hold your head up high, And don't be afraid of the dark, At the end of the storm is a golden sky, And the sweet silver song of the lark. Walk on, through the wind, Walk on, through the rain, Though your dreams be tossed and blown, Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart, And you'll never walk alone…You'll never walk alone.”
Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper, March 6, 2015.