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Suicide – No Judgment, No Guilt, No Blame

Not long ago I read a piece about suicide, which focused on the emotions of those left behind.  I’m thankful this is not an experience I’ve had to live through,.  And because I haven’t had this experience, I can’t say for sure how I would feel if I were in those shoes.  But here is an important statement Bern and I were given when we were interviewing both a psychiatrist and a psychologist for the purposes of “Let Me Sow Light: Living With a Depressed Spouse.”  We’ve both gone back to these words again and again in our work with people who care for a depressed person:

Suicide is, sadly, sometimes the fatal outcome of the illness called depression.

In other words, sometimes people die from depression.  Sometimes people die of cancer, or diabetes, or any number of other illnesses. When people die of most illnesses  there is no blame assigned, family members rarely feel guilty.  When people die of most illnesses, “religious” people don’t tell us the dead are headed for hell.

But when a person suffering from the illness called depression dies through suicide caused by that illness, all of these painful and hurtful consequences come into play   There are plenty of reasons why: stigma, fear, a history of demonizing suicides within the established church.

I appreciate the words of David K. Flowers on this subject.  David is a pastor and a counselor with a B.S. Clinical/Community Psychology and an M.A. in Counseling.  I recommend you check out his blog at http://davidkflowers.com/ for excellent thoughts on faith, spirituality, the state of the world, and mental/ emotional health.  Here’s what David had to say in a post about suicide:

“Someone recently asked my opinion on what happens to those who commit suicide.  Will they ‘go to hell?’

Before I give my take on this, I must start off by saying that no one but God has any business saying who goes to hell and who doesn’t.  It’s not the church’s job, or any pastor or religious teacher’s job, to declare that any specific behvior puts someone on the fast track to hell.  Show me a pastor or religious teacher (or institution) making declarations about who is going to hell, and I’ll show you a case of spiritual megalomania, since this assumes levels of knowledge no human being could possibly have…

No, suicide is not mortal sin.  I suppose there may be cases where a man kills himself in the same state of rage from which he might kill someone else, and in this case there is no question that what is known as sin would be involved.  But to assume that this one act of sin leads immutably to hell is a huge leap.  It’s an even bigger leap to assume that any one act, especially an act committed from a place that is so clearly “not well” ties God’s hands and prohibits him from the exercise of mercy.  And finally is the fact that most suicides are not in any way rational.  They are based in a deep kind of illness which is deserving not of punishment but of compassion.  Suicide is painful enough for family members who have lost a loved one to it.  They do not need the additional pain of thinking their loved one has separated himself from them both physically and spiritually in that one act.  We need a more nuanced theology to deal with this, based less in fear and desire to control, and more in compassion and understanding of the love and goodness of God.” (This text originally appeared on DavidKFlowers.com. Check out the full post at:http://davidkflowers.com/2010/02/suicide-hell/)

Those of us who live with a depressed person recognize what a monstrous illness it is.  We commonly experience anger, loneliness, fear, and feelings of abandonment when someone we love suffers from deep depression. I’m hopeful that one day we’ll all realize that when suicide becomes the fatal outcome of this illness, those involved should not be left to experience guilt, blame, and shame.

-Amy

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12 Responses

  1. wonderfully compassionate post. Thank you. 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on Little Blog of Letting Go and commented:
    A wonderfully compassionate view on the sometimes fatal disease of Depression.

  3. Thank you for reading! There’s too much pain in this world as it is…it’s important we do anything we can do to lessen that pain for those already suffering.

  4. Thanks for re-blogging, Carrie. I nearly lost a daughter to suicide two summers ago, and have watched her bravely battle the stigma ever since. Your website is very nicely done. Keep up the great work. We’ll get word out every way we can!

  5. Thank you for sharing.

  6. And of course, thank you, Amy and Bernadette, as well!

  7. […] Damage blog have used the content of one of my older posts in a post of their own. Check out their post, quoting my post. Of course your comments here on this blog, over on theirs, or both, are always […]

  8. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and kudos to you on your provocative writing. Can I ask one question though? (I’m new to blogging…) How did you find my blog? I don’t post it anywhere. Is there a WP homepage or something?

    Thanks for the insight! Keep writing.

    • I don’t recall for sure how I found your blog, but I would guess it appeared in my reader under the category of “mental health.” I check that category regularly for blogs I haven’t seen before. Found yours, and liked what I saw! 🙂

      • Oh awesome, thanks so much! I’m trying to learn if there’s a page that generates new blog posts from WP. Is there? If so, would you mind passing it along? I’m new to blogging world 🙂 Thanks again!

      • If you click the WordPress symbol on the top left of the screen, the drop down should have the option of “Reader.” Go there, and then on the right you should see a window where you can type in topics you’re interested in. Browse through the blogs that come up from those categories. When you find ones you especially like, follow them and from then on they’ll appear along the left side of the screen under “reader.” Hope that helps!

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