Grief and Its Effects

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One thing that you should know about me is my husband died by suicide almost four and a half years ago.  It is possibly the one event that has changed my life more than any other.  If you have been affected by suicide or the death of a spouse, you know that either of these things is traumatic on their own.  But to have both happen simultaneously is a heavy load to bear.

Since then, my mom also passed away and I have done a lot to process through my grief.  I’ve gone to psychologists, taken (and still take) medication to help with anxiety and depression, but probably most importantly, I have continued talking about what has happened to me.  I still talk about my grieving process.  I still talk about suicide and its effects.

It became very apparent to me from the get that we don’t talk about suicide in the church.  I’ve been in church my entire life and I can’t ever remember one sermon or even discussion about it.  When my husband died, I actually kept the details of his death secret because I was ashamed.  Ashamed because I felt like there was something I could have done to prevent it.  Ashamed of what people would think of me…that I should have been a better wife.

I have recently discerned a calling to be a pastor and part of my calling is to make sure that we start talking about these things so that we, as the body of Christ, can start to help those left behind when a family member or friend dies by suicide.

The following is something I wrote in 2014, six months after my husband died.  I started writing back then as a way to process my grief.  If you are grieving, I pray that this somehow helps you navigate through the grieving process.  If you have someone in your life that is grieving, I pray that by reading this you will be able to help someone in their time of grief.

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Remembering and Regretting

It’s been about 18 months since mom died.  Last Christmas, I had just moved to Texas and was so busy getting everything in order that I didn’t really have time to stop and think about mom.  This year I’ve got nothing but time on my hands and it shows.  In the last couple of weeks, there have been minor crying spells here and there, but a few nights ago I had a major breakdown.

I was on the way to the mall and started to think about one Christmas in particular.  I don’t even remember when it was, but I remember what I got.  Money had been tight for mom for a long time, but she really wanted to give me something for Christmas.  I can remember my thoughts when I opened her present.  It was some kind of Christmas poem that she had photocopied and then put in a black and gold picture frame from the dollar store.  I remembered how ugly I thought it was.  I was kind of embarrassed that this was all she could afford.  I might have even been ashamed.  I politely smiled and thanked her for the gift, but when I got home, it got shoved to the corner or put in a drawer.  I’m pretty sure that over the years and throughout several moves, I eventually threw it away and forgot about it.

Until yesterday. Continue reading

Mental Illness, Suicide, and the Church

Someone I knew from the recovery group at my former church committed suicide this week.  He had been dealing with mental illness for a while but everyone thought he had it under control.  Tragically, that was not the case.

I found out about his death this morning and I’m still trying to process it.  My friend, whose husband also took his life, warned me that the next time I encountered someone who had committed suicide, I would be transported back to Paul’s death.  A kind of survivor of suicide PTSD, if you will.  I didn’t believe her until this morning.  Upon hearing the news, I sat in my recliner wavering between anger and extreme sadness.  Memories of Paul’s suicide began to weigh heavily on my shoulders.  I went through the rest of the morning burdened, unable to think straight, barely getting out the door to go to work.   Continue reading