Grieving A Suicide

When someone takes his own life; he also takes part of the lives of his family and friends. If you have ever experienced the suicide of a loved one, the book Grieving A Suicide: A Loved One's Search of Comfort, Answers and Hope by Albert Y. Hsu is for you. The forgotten victims of suicide are the surviving family and friends.

Hsu is an editor for InterVarsity Press and author of The Suburban Christian and Singles at the Crossroads. He writes eloquently and honestly about his own father's death in 5 chapters: shock, turmoil, lament, relinquishment and remembrance. He observes, “Our remembrance of loved ones is connected with our remembrance of God. To remember those who have died leads us to remember the One who gave them life in the first place...I have concluded that going on is also a way of honoring my father...Continuing to live is a form of remembrance. While our loved ones are no longer able to be with us, we live on in their stead.”

The hardest part is not being able to ask the deceased, “why?” Suicide is a private act and the true reasons for it are concealed from survivors. This being said there is a documented and dramatic increase in suicides among all ages, races and classes. This would seem to coincide with the decline in religious practice, rising drug use and rates of depression. Many university ministries report that the most frequent requested counseling help from students centers around two issues: pornography and thoughts of suicide. Ravi Zacharias noted the relationship between the two: in pornography you devalue the soul of others and having accomplished that, you arrive at the devaluing of your own life. But for survivors no sociological answer carries any comfort. Hsu writes, “We don't necessarily need answers to the why question...we need someone to heal our broken heart...we must relinquish unrealistic desires for full explanations. Listing reasons to explain a suicide will not bring peace.”

Is suicide an unforgivable sin that permanently condemns one before God? This is a haunting question for Christian survivors. The Bible does not contain a specific law against suicide. That is because when humans are in such despair, a law will not speak to them or motivate them. What we most need in despair is the offer of life. That is what the Gospel is, an offer of life. “I am the Life” declares Jesus (John 14:6) The offer of life is God's bulwark against suicide, not the laying down of law. Suicide is never the way life should end. God wants us to live abundant life. That is why Jesus came. (John 10:10). It's the offer of life that deters suicide-- law does not have this power. At the end of the day, life only has meaning because of the forgiveness of God found in Jesus Christ.

Many die suddenly without being able to repent of all their sins but such deaths don't necessitate permanent condemnation. God judges people, not isolated deeds. You don't judge the climate by the weather of one cloudy day—neither does God judge a human life in this way. So Christians take solace in God's goodness and hold out hope even for those who have died in a moment of despair. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

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