The pain of being bereaved by suicide is one of loss, helplessness, fear, guilt, trauma, gut-wrenching confusion for all that was left unsaid and undone, and endless questions, unasked, unanswered and unknown. Where did we fail this person? What could we still have done? What should we have noticed? What messages did the person give us that we missed? Could we have prevented this tragic waste of life?

Over the past few years I have personally experienced the trauma of suicide in my family, in the school where I worked and in talking with people who have experienced suicide in their families. Eithne and Aoife, who chose to let go of this life because of how they were feeling in that dark and lonely moment, were, and always will be remembered as unique and delightful young women, whose precious lives lit up our family circle and left a legacy of memories behind them that will never be forgotten.

All death unsettles us, but suicide leaves us with a very particular series of emotional, moral and spiritual scars. It brings with it an ache, a chaos, a darkness, a bewilderment and, sometimes, a stigma that has to be experienced to be believed. The reasons for suicide are many but whatever occasions that final night, or whatever blocks out the light of hope, or whatever reduces life's focus to an unbearable burden and deletes the natural instinct of self-preservation will always remain a mystery.

Suicide not only takes our loved one away from us, but it also colours our memory of them and makes it difficult to speak of their dying. Speaking of suicide is always clouded by ‘if only’ and ‘what if?’ and ‘why?’ Could we have prevented this tragedy? Perhaps, but probably not. Should we wreck our heads and hearts then with ‘what ifs’ ‘if only’ and ‘why’? No, there is no point in this understandable but self-defeating introspection, and it brings no healing.

There is no room here for moral judgement and so we leave any judgement to a compassionate God. Most religions highlight the gravity of suicide and see it as going against the intention that God has for human life; life is a gift of God and very precious, and it is His to give or take away for in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). This awareness is deeply rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition and in other religions too.

But knowing this is still not enough to prevent suicide amongst us. Sometimes all our best efforts, patience, care and affection, fail to break through to a frightened, depressed or vulnerable person. We feel helpless when our efforts and our love fail to break through and save their lives. I do believe though that those who choose suicide see the compassionate face of God in their last moments, a God who embraces them in his gentle arms and leads them safely home.

A REFLECTION ON SUICIDE by Méabh Ní Uallacháin SSL originally published in The Sacred Heart Messenger, Dublin, Ireland. Adapted by the Office of the National Secretary, Apostleship of Prayer, Lusaka, Zambia.


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