Holy Everything: Be a 'co-journeyer' for those who've experienced loss
Some of life's griefs are tender wounds that remain delicate for a long while. They are traumas that can heal, but not without time, scabs and scars.
Suicide and its related griefs are tender spaces. It is a topic which deserves to be discussed but often isn't, especially in the church. We avoid it because we fear pouring salt into such gaping wounds. Yet by avoiding it, we have inadvertently added to the heavy load that people are already carrying.
By naming suicide and talking about it openly, we discover something that is true about many difficult areas of life: In acknowledging what is woefully painful, we find a path that can lead us away from regret, anger and guilt and instead toward healing.
I address the topic of suicide today with a spirit of gentleness and humility. Even the mention of the word raises a host of emotions for many people. If that's where you find yourself today, you're not alone. Almost every life is touched by suicide at some point. When suicide happens, those who are impacted are forever changed. It's a road we never want to walk. But when do, we hope to find that others are there to walk with us, reminding us that we're not alone.
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. This weekend, on Sept. 10, it is World Suicide Prevention Day. This being the case, it's important to acknowledge the reality of suicide and the many implications it has on one's sense of God and spirituality.
I am not an expert on suicide prevention or loss, but it did touch my vocation as a pastor early on. The experience was a profound wake-up call to the brokenness and fragility of life … and to the possibility of hope even after tremendous loss.
I used to fear people asking me "why" when it came to the topic of life's tragedies and disasters. As it has turned out, no one has expected me to know why things happen they way they do. They don't expect you to know either. (And if you do have a personal explanation for why terrible things happen, I'd actually advise against pushing it onto anyone else.)
Instead, people usually just want a non-judgmental presence to walk with them along the way. "Co-journeyer" isn't a role exclusive to clergy. We can all be that type of presence for one another. This is especially important as we interact with those whose lives have been touched by suicide and other tragedies. We don't have to say anything. We don't have to explain anything. We can just be present and loving and non-judgmental.
More than anything, this space today is an opportunity to get a few vital resources into your hands. These resources are made available through the work of our local National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chapter.
Crisis Response: 1-844-274-7472. http://crisis2southeastmn.com. This resource offers phone support 24/7. When you call, a counselor will assess your situation, offer support and then connect you with local resources and dispatch mobile teams if needed.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org. This national resource provides around-the-clock free and confidential support.
TXT4Life: If you are in a crisis, text LIFE to 61222 or visit http://txtlife.org. TXT4Life is a suicide prevention resource for Minnesota residents.
I also recommend to you John O'Donahue's blessing "For the Family and Friends of a Suicide." Please look it up online or email me, and I'll send you a copy ( email@example.com ). Ministers, print it out and keep it in your desk drawer. For those who have been impacted by suicide, you may find value in keeping the words close, too.
In one stanza, O'Donahue writes, "May your loss become a sanctuary where new presence will dwell to refine and enrich the rest of your life with courage and compassion. And may your lost loved one enter into the beauty of eternal tranquility, in that place where there is no more sorrow or separation or mourning or tears."
Thank you for the bravery it took to read these words about suicide today. Together, may we grow in our ability to compassionately acknowledge the wounds of this life in such a way that we are more equipped to provide a presence of support for one another.