September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. Our heart goes out to those who have lost a loved one from suicide. In today’s blog, professional counselor Jen Otero shares some ways to handle the suicide of a loved one in a healthy way.
Death of a loved one is one of the most challenging seasons that someone can experience in their lifetime. When that death is due to suicide, it can feel additionally complicated to walk through. Many, even within the church community, do not know how to address loss through suicide in a hopeful and biblical way.
As with loss of any kind, every individual will experience the grief and subsequent processing of their loss in different ways. While the stages of grief – denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – are all important and meaningful in healing from loss, everyone will move through them differently and may not experience all of them in their own journey.
When walking through this type of loss, it is vital to give yourself (or those that you know and love) permission to do a couple of things as they walk out their season of loss from suicide.
Please give yourself permission to:
Take the space and time to ask the hard questions about God’s character and His goodness.
Questions and doubts about life, free will, God’s goodness, and your own heart for God may come in, and if you buy the lie that it’s not okay as a “good Christian” to question God, your relationship with God and with others could be destroyed in your grief. We are never the same after we experience loss, but we can come out on the other side stronger, more connected, and compassionate if we choose to give ourselves permission to ask the hard questions. God is okay with our doubts and with our questions!
Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and unsearchable things you could never figure out on your own.” He also says to come “boldly before His throne of grace in your time of need (Hebrews 4:16).” He desires to have the hard conversations with you so that He can meet you in your grief and heal your heart.
Be angry, but don’t stay angry.
Your anger may be focused on the person that chose to commit suicide, towards yourself or even towards God. Anger is a healthy and important emotion. If we steward it well and allow it to lead us to the Father in a place of honesty (no matter how raw and uncensored) forgiveness and healing can then be released into our hearts and lives. Allow yourself the space to hear the voice of God and give Him permission to speak directly into your hurt and questions. He is faithful to do it.
Surround yourself with other believers that have experienced and overcome loss in a healthy way.
Any time we are walking through difficult experiences, the enemy will come and whisper his lies, telling us that we are alone in our loss and grief, and by doing so, isolate us. Don’t allow this for yourself. Seek out friends, ministry leaders, mentors, or others that have come out on the other side of loss and allow them to encourage and pray for you. Seek out individuals that acknowledge and affirm your questions, fears and doubt in healthy and biblical ways, while encouraging you to take them before the Lord.
Seek out good, honest, and biblical teaching on loss and grief.
There are so many great resources available that will challenge and equip you to honestly and victoriously move through your grief, instead of getting stuck within it. Two MercyTalk podcasts, one on Suffering and Heartache and another on Anger at God were written for these very types of challenges. The book God is Just Not Fair by Jennifer Rothschild is also an amazing resource for those that are walking through grief and loss of any kind.
Give yourself grace.
Grief is weird. It impacts everyone differently. Some days are good and you may feel that you are doing okay. And then, without warning, a wave of grief washes over you or punches you square in the gut. You are not crazy, you are grieving. Take a deep breath, extend grace to yourself, and ask the Lord to shield you and show you the next steps. He is your comforter, your safe tower, and your deliverer. This season will not last forever. You will overcome it. And eventually, you may even find yourself loving and leading others through their own grief and loss seasons.
Prayer for Loss
If you are ready to give yourself new permission in this season, no matter what loss you have experienced, say this prayer with me:
“Jesus, my heart is hurting. Sometimes I don’t even know where to begin with all of the questions and darkness that I am battling. I want to believe that you can show me where to begin. Would you show me where I need to give myself permission? Do I need to ask the hard questions? What feelings do I need to allow myself to feel? Who can I prayerfully connect with for support in human form in this challenging time? Please lead me, cover me, and help me to begin to heal. I acknowledge the truth of your goodness, even if I am struggling to feel it or believe it right now. Thank you for your hand upon me Father. I am looking for your movement and freedom in my life. Amen.”
For more practical resources on how to overcome grief, listen to the MercyTalk episode, Heartache and Suffering. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more resources on suicide and life-controlling issues.
Mercy Multiplied is a nonprofit Christian organization that equips people to live free and stay free through Jesus Christ. To learn more about our free-of-charge residential counseling program and Outreach Services visit our website at MercyMultiplied.com.