This post was written in 2010 for Peggy’s Personal blog “A Silly Poor Gospel” after the death of Friend and member of Freedom Friends Church of which she was then the pastor. Peggy’s ministry has been important to me over the years and this post is no different. J. who this post is about was a friend, Quaker and someone who features prominently in my dissertation.
Very Important disclaimer regarding suicide:
If you are actively grieving a suicide, this post may not be for you. Your feelings may be too raw for this. I would suggest you start HERE instead with a post on Grieving.
This post is some very important truth telling. I am intending to directly confront the lies of our adversary. If you are thinking about suicide please read it carefully, thoughtfully and prayerfully. If it causes you disturbance please reach out to anyone who will listen, and that includes me.
We lost J. J decided to quit. J ended her own life. J. committed suicide.
We feel like we have been punched in the stomach. We feel unmoored. We feel a strong echo of the acute pain of J’s children, parent and the grandchild who may not remember J. We feel angry. We feel the weight of unkept promises given and received. We have questions, many questions.
J died of three causes; depression, substance abuse and fear. A confluence of those plagues combined with a longstanding and deep habit of impulsive and sometimes violent thoughts and behaviors created a trap that J walked into rather than away from.
Depression is a chronic illness. It has many facets and causes. It is treatable but rarely curable. For many people it is a season that will eventually pass. For some it is a presence in their life that they must learn to manage. It is occasionally fatal. But by itself, it isn’t usually lethal. Living with it isn’t fun and it isn’t fair. But living with it, managing it, moderating it is always the right choice.
Adding substance abuse to depression ratchets up the risk. Alcohol and marijuana are central nervous system depressants. Alcohol especially decreases inhibition – it makes it easier to do stupid stuff. Everyone needs to take substance abuse seriously. Anyone with a history of depression needs to stay clean and sober, especially if you are being medicated for the depression. Take your anti-depressant with a glass of wine and you might as well throw the med in the trash.
J was in relapse. I always knew when J was in relapse because J stayed away from anyone who would have spoken the truth, asked the questions. J was in a relationship that supported the relapse rather than sobriety.
The final straw was fear. Fear of being alone was the first among J’s fears. Her relationship disappointed her and ended. Her reaction to that disappointment was impulsive and not responsible. She was afraid of the consequences of her choices, and she was afraid that no relationship would ever work. Her courage failed.
She then did the most disastrous thing you can do in that condition – she isolated herself. She called no one. She fixated on the lies that she was unlovable and that her life was unfixable, and she killed herself.
She thought that she was ending her pain.
She was wrong.
The pain was passed on to her children and her father. Her pain was passed on to the hundred or so people who cared about her. Like the Devil’s own loaves and fishes it was multiplied and distributed to the people that J loved most. And when the acute pain has passed there will be the lingering pain of abandonment. There will be depression exacerbated. There will be the temptation to substance abuse to numb the pain. There will be the temptation to see suicide as a solution. There will be repetition in hearts and minds of the lies that love never lasts and that violence addresses betrayal.
J was a Christian and was seeking Love and forgiveness in her death, but she did not really find the Gospel path in life. J wanted to be a Quaker – loved the idea of that of God in all, but never found a peaceful way of life. J wanted to be sober but was not able or perhaps willing to take the steps to safeguard her sobriety.
I believe that Christ has accepted J in death. I believe that J is, or is being, healed, finally, permanently. But the legacy of J’s death will create ripples of pain for a long time to come. The loss of what J could have been, could have given, could have received, in another 40 years of life is immeasurable.
I do not believe that we truly own ourselves – especially when we have given ourselves to Christ. All those who love us own a piece of us. And we carry a piece of them with us where ever we go and into whatever we do. The connection to Christ may be unseverable, but the human connections are. We do not have the right to unilaterally sever those connections. Christian community is a total surrender to God and a partial surrender to our other connections. I cannot live any part of my life without measuring its effect on you, my community. I cannot pretend that ending my life would not affect you, or would even benefit you, without taking your testimony on the matter. And I have to weight your testimony seriously against my own feelings.
At her memorial we celebrated J’s life and that was good and right and proper. Now we get to deal with the legacy of her death and that is not good in any respect whatsoever.