My phone rang persistently as I walked off the plane into the Denver airport. I could feel it; something was very wrong. Much to her dismay, the kind voice on the other end of the line shared the news: My very dear friend, Maria*, took her life in an effort to escape the mental illness that plagued her. I paced in front of the airport’s moving walkway. My body’s tears and pounding heart fought my lungs grasping for air, punch for punch.
Every subsequent day I discovered a new emotion I didn’t know I had. Even more than that, I was feeling them in ways I had never experienced. Each emotion (shock, devastation, confusion, anger, guilt, brokenness…) had twenty different shades of depth.
What I didn’t initially realize is that within the loss of my friend, there were two rounds of battle taking place. I was in the heart of round two. The devil was leading me right where he wanted me.
Maria radiated God’s love. She lived and breathed His goodness to all in her presence. She may have been riding a roller-coaster chemically for many years, but God was her seat-belt, and she was always “buckled up.”
I can’t tell you how much I wish I could have been there for her—been there right in that moment to stop the action and hold her, assuring things would indeed get better. If you have ever experienced losing a loved one to suicide, first of all, my heart hurts for you—and second, I’m sure you can relate. It’s taken everything within me to realize that I wasn’t meant to be there. God was. The only One that could have ever saved her was The Lord. And He most certainly did. Because of Maria’s faith, I know that she is resting in safety. The devil pushed her overboard, but God caught her in his mighty arms before anything else could.
“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.”
The devil clearly lost round one—Maria is at peace in heaven. But now he’s frantic to dominate round 2.
This is his second chance—his chance to spread darkness over those who lost their loved one to suicide. Those who are in pain. Those that are hopeless. Those that question the world’s and God’s goodness. This is where we do whatever we possibly can to stand firm. We hold onto the Truth. We dwell in His safety and love, knowing this is the only place we will prevail. And we spread that love, basking in every moment we are given with those we care about. This is how we win round 2. This is how God wins. This is what makes the devil cower in defeat, knowing that his schemes were futile once again.
It’s so easy to say, though, right? I have two worlds, one outside and one within. The outside continues to carry on, oblivious to the tornadoes of anxiety whirling within me … through my mind, chest and limbs. There’s really nothing to say to make that “better.” It’s undoubtedly difficult for others to understand. Life just carries on.
If this is you—if you have experienced anything even remotely close to this, please continue to read. I truly want to share with you a few kernels of advice to ease the storm, even just a bit:
- The next time someone asks you how you are, try your hardest not to repeat the quintessential, “Good, how are you?” Instead—speak. Open your mouth and verbalize the dialogue running like movie credits within. Find someone who you trust and share yourself with them. They want to be there for you. If you don’t know where to start, just say the first thing that comes to mind and go from there.
- Write your loved one a letter—the one you’ve lost. If you thought number one was hard, this will most likely be even harder. You’ll be surprised, though, how quickly your fingers move across your keyboard/paper…
- Invest in the book, Healing After Loss, by Martha Whitmore Hickman. This book provides a short, daily reading to ponder—tips and practices for how to “carry on” every single day of the year.
Our society almost prides itself on pretending we all embody the fortitude of Superman/Superwoman. It doesn’t always appear okay to just be in your emotion. Be unproductive. Be detached. But it’s more than okay. It’s absolutely necessary. Be content in your weakness.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Our facades of strength are in and of themselves what will hold us back from healing. Read that sentence again. And again. Take it with you. Whenever you paint on your “game face,” repeat it once again. Be content in your weakness.
We will always miss the person we lost. Always wish we had one more hug. One more laugh. One more chance to make sure they were “okay,” at least for the moment, so that suicide would for one more day not cross their minds. But there will be more love shared, more cherished moments … one day when we all share our home in heaven. And until then, FIGHT the good fight. Don’t let evil win. Choose God’s strength, not your own. Choose to put forth as much love as humanly possible. You will heal in time, and in His arms. Take down round two, and do it proudly.
Life is still beautiful. Continue to live it for the ones that you love and the ones that you’ve lost.
“They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it. Death cannot kill what never dies.”
~ Williams Penn