Almost one year ago, my nephew Graham killed himself. I have felt several times since then that I should write something about it, but the words never came to me. I could not think of how to start such a post, or how to end it. Still to this day, I really don’t know what to write.
I could write about my usual approach to dealing with such things—compartmentalization. Wall it off. Shut it out. Refuse to think about it. Admittedly an immature, self-centered approach. And one that really didn’t work this time as the raw grief in my brother-in-law’s—Graham’s father—cries pierced right through that veil. Never have I heard that kind of hurt in a voice or seen that kind of pain written across a face.
Never have I heard that kind of hurt in a voice or seen that kind of pain written across a face.
I could write about my wife’s bravery as she rushed to fly to her brother’s side to help him through that first and second and third day. Or the kindness of the policemen, coroner and others who went out of their way to help. Or the stranger in the restaurant that offered up prayers when he saw the grief in the nearby booth. Or the honesty of pastors that asked for God’s direction in how to pray.
I could write about how time heals all wounds, but that doesn’t seem to be coming true yet for the immediate family. Admittedly, it isn’t as raw with everyone as it once was, but the heartache and cries over a lost future seem to return in waves when least expected.
I could write about the diversity of emotions I have witnessed and felt. Anger that anyone could inflict this kind of devastation on their family and friends. Sorrow and self-blame that we had all maybe missed some sign that would have let us save him. Worry over outdated beliefs about the eternal fate of those who commit suicide. Relief that Graham had accepted Christ as his Savior during a summer camp long ago. Expectation that we would be together again someday in resurrected bodies on a resurrected earth with no pain, no sickness, no depression. But mostly for now, loneliness over not being able to share more time with this delightful young man.
I could write about spiritual warfare as the suicide notes he left mentioned “demons in his head.” Whether these were attacks by the enemy or byproducts of an unknown mental illness, the outcome is the same. The pain was so great that a really bright, good-looking, charismatic, confident young man with friends, a fiancé, a promising career and a new house could see no other way to escape than to jump off a mountainside.
I could write about either the wonderful or lunatic things people say to grieving parents. Just being present is good. Say you are sorry for the loss. Hug. Send messages that need no response. Don’t try to make everything all right with words suggesting it’s God’s will or in His plan. Don’t not talk about Graham. And don’t suggest you understand or know what they are going through.
Just being present is good. Say you are sorry for the loss. Hug. Send messages that need no response.
What I will write about are the few words the pastor, who had also lost a son to suicide, said at the funeral. “This was not an act of weakness, cowardice or selfishness. It was an act of desperation. As Graham walked into Jesus’ outstretched arms on that day, I think Jesus probably whispered, ‘I’m sorry that world was just too much for you. Come on home.’”