The Last Temptation

Retelling an old story for the Easter season . . .

Tiptoeing past snoring disciples ~ the ones Jesus had asked to pray with Him ~ Satan paused before the King of Kings. With hair matted and clothes soaked in blood-tinged sweat, He looked more like a vagrant than a king. He clung to the rock, His hands grasping outcrops as if this boulder were His lifeline. It was obvious He was praying which made Satan snort in disgust.

Satan nudged His side with a sandaled foot. Jesus shuttered slightly, then raised His head to look into the face of His archenemy. Squinting, Satan eyed his rival warily. Jesus sure didn’t look like a king. His face streaked with a mix of dust and tears. For all the world it appeared that Satan had the upper hand. This was going to be the easiest battle yet, Satan thought to himself. I plan to take full advantage of His weakness and pound Him into submission once and for all! If this was the final showdown in a long string of battles over the ages, Satan was not about to lose this one. The position he had coveted since the beginning would be his at last.

Standing over his hollow-eyed rival, Satan almost felt pity . . . but not quite. “Hey, Man,” he sneered. “You’re a mess! I should’ve at least brought you a change of clothes. You look awful . . . compared to me,” he boasted, thumping his chest. Pointing to the sleeping disciples he added, “You don’t need to worry about them. Some faithful friends they turned out to be.” Getting to the point of this visit, Satan challenged, “You and I both know I’m the one in charge down here so why don’t you skedaddle back home to Daddy. There’s no need for both of us to be here. I have things perfectly under control.” Satan continued the taunts with an evil smirk on his face, “You know, Man, I’ve never really understood why you’d want to risk your life on lowly earthlings anyway. Go home where you belong and leave the “dung of the earth” in my capable hands. After all, they’ve been serving me all along anyway.”

Satan’s taunts meant nothing to Jesus. He was focused solely on completing His mission. Death was imminent and His heart was breaking. Could He endure the blackout? Could He keep His hold on His Father during their separation? For a few moments, He allowed His mind to wander back to His wilderness experience. After 40 days of fasting, the enemy showed up then, too. Knowing that Jesus was weak from hunger, Satan threw suggestions at Him, tempting Him to use His power to save Himself. That was the beginning of His ministry. This was the climax. His 30+ years of doing His Father’s will had prepared Him for this moment in time. He must not fail!

The battle to save humanity was over. Jesus bowed His head in submission to the purpose that brought Him from heaven to earth. Men with torches arrived. His “sheep” fled. Like a lamb, the Shepherd was led to His slaughter.

He willingly suffered and died. And He did that so that through God’s grace, He might taste death on behalf of everyone. 

Were we worth it?

Jesus was thinking of His children that dreadful night. He remembered us as the whip sliced open His back. He remembered us when the mallet sank the crown of thorns into His flesh. During His horrific ordeal, He thought only of us, and He did not fail! The sinless One died for all the sins of the world, slept the sleep of death, and arose triumphantly! No evil power could stop Him! His mission completed, He returned to His Father but left His Spirit behind . . .

The Father is sending a great Helper, the Holy Spirit, in My name to teach you everything and to remind you of all I have said to you. My peace is the legacy I leave to you. I don’t give gifts like those of this world. Do not let your heart be troubled or fearful. 

~ The pain of living pressured my firstborn to do the unthinkable ~

Fast forward to the shortened lives of our children: Satan taunts, cajoles, pushes, belittles, shames, and badgers earthlings into submission. The pain of living pressured my firstborn to take action against the pain in his mind and heart. It must have seemed like there was no way out of the blackness pressing him into hopelessness. I imagine the suffocating darkness descended upon him making it hard to breathe. In a moment of weakness ~ just as Satan showed up during Jesus’ weakest hour ~ I can picture evil showing up to taunt my son. I have no doubt both good and evil were represented as my son struggled. He was weary of the pain; he just wanted it to stop. Voices taunted him to end it. Greg chose to do just that and his suffering ended. Now he is at peace.

For me, here is where both stories, Jesus’ and mine, connect across the sands of time. Although Satan points out that my firstborn is guilty of “self-murder,” Jesus points to His scars. Because Jesus did not fail at the cross, my son has the opportunity to live again and this time it will be forever. This time it will be in heaven. This time there will never be another Satan to tempt him or anyone else. Because Satan did not get his way at Jesus’ tomb, he does not have the last word about death. Only Jesus, who paid for all the sins of mankind, has the last word. He alone has the power to wake up those who will be all brand new and ready to live again. This time forever really is f-o-r-e-v-e-r!

Easter is about sacrifice
Easter is about love
Easter is about hope

Hebrews 2:9b; John 14:26-27 shared from The Voice (VOICE)

 

This entry was posted on March 12, 2021. 4 Comments

Eyes of Blue

There is an old English proverb that says that the eyes are windows to the soul. Do you believe this is true? When one has the opportunity to look deeply into the eyes of another, sometimes you can see their heart, can you not? Yes, I believe that our eyes are open windows.

Eyes are lovely to behold, be they brown, blue, green, gray, or every shade in between, but it’s not really about the color. It’s what’s behind the color ~ the heart that beats within every soul by divine design.

“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light.” Mt. 6:22

I think genetic characteristics are fascinating. Eye color passed down from generation to generation is one of the most recognizable characteristics. In my story, strong family genes of blue eyes met strong family genes of brown eyes, and I married my blue-eyed man. Later, I birthed two sons. One had blue eyes and one has brown eyes like mine. My brown-eyed son married his blue-eyed bride. Only time will tell what color their identical twin girls’ eyes will be.

I loved my firstborn’s blue eyes, so clear and bright in contrast with my dark ones. His eyes fairly danced when he was a bitty munchkin. His curiosity made him an explorer of anything he could dig up or dig into. My hands were full with just this one energetic child!

“He had these eyes. They were blue. They were soulful, in some way; they seemed to say things that I knew he’d probably never said out loud.” Audrey Bell

Somewhere along his growing up years, a time when one naturally spreads one’s wings, Greg’s eyes took on a sad quality. He’d look away rather than make eye contact. I could no longer plumb his depths of blue in an attempt to read his heart. It became clearer as he grew into manhood that under a thin veneer of priceless laughter, my firstborn was sad inside. I assumed he inherited a bent toward melancholy from me, but there was more. Depression set in. Oh, how it makes my heart ache to realize anew that I was powerless to change him back to his once-happy childhood!

My firstborn ended his sadness and pain when he took his own life. It was totally unnatural to look down upon his still form, his blue eyes closed as if he was just taking a nap, but there was no rapid eye movement that naturally occurs during sleep. His form was harshly firm. A kiss planted on his forehead felt strangely cold. I could not deny the indicators that no sign of life remained.

I marveled that he could look so peaceful after what he had been through. I so wanted him to open his lovely blue eyes, yawn, and stretch as if waking from a nap and say, “Hey Mom, I’m starved. What’s for dinner?”

Sorrowfully, my firstborn’s “windows to his soul” were closed forever in this life. He was no longer sad; he was no longer anything. I find comfort in the knowledge that he is sleeping the sleep of death, according to Daniel 12:2 and other verses. King Solomon seems to add a “heads up” with these words: “Whatever you find to do, do it well because where you are going—the grave—there will be no working or thinking or knowing or wisdom” (Eccl. 9:10). You may believe otherwise, and I respect your right to do so.

I can no longer hear the laughter from my blue-eyed boy, except in my memory, but I am grateful to have memories of him. Memories bring him to life in my mind. I love to relive these precious memories which comfort me along my grief journey. Do you have memories that bring you comfort? Care to share?

If your memories are decidedly sad at this time, that’s okay. They won’t always be so. Someday you will find yourself chuckling at a memory that popped up so quickly in your mind that you didn’t have time to think whether it came from “before or after.” You just spontaneously laughed out loud. To laugh does not mean that you have forgotten your loved one or that you are being unfaithful to their memory. You are beginning to embrace his or her entire life with all their memories together.

Let’s never lose hope that we will one day look into those beautiful eyes of our children again. I will be able to look deeply into my firstborn’s blue eyes, and he won’t turn away in pain. Instead, we will smile and laugh at the thrilling discovery of our new, heavenly surroundings. We will have the time of our lives catching up on the time we lost.

“On that day, with a command that thunders into the world, with a voice of a chief heavenly messenger, and with a blast of God’s trumpet, the Lord Himself will descend from heaven; and all those who died in the Anointed One, our Liberating King, will rise from the dead first.” 1 Thes. 4:16 

Quote by Audrey Bell, “The Fall of January Cooper,” Goodreads

Verses from The Message Bible (MSG); The Voice (VOICE)

 

This entry was posted on February 5, 2021. 4 Comments

Better Together

We have embarked on a new beginning. The calendar reads 2021. What lies ahead? Can the New Year be worse than the one we’ve just lived through? Before 2020 we were unfamiliar with Covid-19. Now we are too familiar. Many of us have lost loved ones which adds to the grief we already bear. Bravely, we survivors put one foot in front of the other as we face 2021.

One death is too many, but our climbing numbers may surprise you. They reveal that we have gone far beyond the imagination of just how many survivors there are. Numbers are cold and unfeeling, but each one represents parents, families, and friends left behind to grieve. At the beginning of this New Year let’s review just how much we’ve grown.

Numbers lack emotion, but they don’t lie, especially numbers that represent people. We are grieving people and particularly grieving mothers. Let’s face it. Most grievers on social media are Mothers. (But Dads are just as important.) Perhaps some of you are members of more than one grief group. Each group has a unique character about it that draws you into its embrace. Some groups post lots of pictures or images you like to view. Others may draw you into a conversation about your grief experience, making you feel less alone. A common thread connects us with other grievers who suffer a similar loss. We make cyber friendships that help sustain us as we journey through our grief.

I am a mom who survives the death of her firstborn child, Gregory Scott, by suicide. I am also a member of a grief group. Actually, I am a member of many groups where I share my heart and soul via my grief blog. Many readers have followed my stories for as long as I’ve been posting them. Over the 8+years we’ve been together, we’ve grown in our ability to touch each other’s lives. We’ve also grown in size. Applying simple math skills I have discovered that our numbers are staggering.

Since I spend much of my time creating what I share I have paid little attention to the number of members except to note that our growth is climbing at an alarming rate. The group administrators are very much aware of our rapid growth. They are the unsung heroes who put their hurting hearts on the line as they greet each new member. Among the other things they do, they ask us to help make the newbies feel welcome. We graciously respond.

For the sake of simplicity, I began counting the grief groups with at least one thousand members. I was astounded to note that we are way over 550,000 members just by counting in thousands! There are many more groups that number in the hundreds which aren’t included in this total. We are huge, don’t you agree?

Pause. Let the numbers sink in. Can you believe how many there are of us? No state or country is exempt. Families all over the world lose someone they love every single day. Each addition, every digit represents the name of someone precious; a name we love to hear. Don’t we wish we could stop the flow that swells our ranks? It’s heartbreaking.

Of the millions of grievers around the world, scores of us are socially connected which is a good thing. Many of you say that you could not manage your grief without social media. I agree. The message of this piece is simple. We are better together. Death is the enemy, an enemy we cannot avoid. Horrific loss may feel like it sets us apart, but not really. We meet other grievers like us and realize we have similarities. We are comforted by words said and cyber hugs shared. Yes, we are cyber grievers, but there are no better friendships for sharing and caring than the ones we make along this journey into grief.

In our cyber circles, we learn that we do not grieve alone. We appreciate how that feels. When we are able to reach out to others who are new, we help them know that they are not alone either. Together we continue our journeys ~ each within reach of another hurting heart.

Help carry one another’s burdens. Galatians 6:2a     

Verse shared from Good News Translation (GNT)

Author page, Healing After Suicide, to search blog archive

This entry was posted on January 1, 2021. 2 Comments

Ring Those Bells

I “blew the dust off ” an old Christmas CD by Evie Tornquist-Karlsson and pushed “play.” As the first few notes filled the space around me goosebumps chased one other up and down my spine. Then tears began to trickle down my cheeks. I knew I was taking a risk with my emotions since all holidays going forward are forever bittersweet. Even so, I couldn’t resist listening to this song once again. Could Evie’s rendition of Come On, Ring Those Bells put a little joy into my limp holiday mood?

Everybody likes to take a holiday
Everybody likes to take a rest
Spending time together with the family
Sharing lots of love and happiness.

I closed my eyes. Instantly I was transported back in time. I was behind the wheel of our Ford station wagon with two wiggly youngsters strapped down in the back seat. Their heads bobbed to the beat as they joined Evie and belted out the chorus . . .

Come on, ring those bells,
Light the Christmas tree,
Jesus is the king
Born for you and me.
Come on, ring those bells,
Every-body say,
Jesus, we remember
This your birthday.

This was my boys’ favorite song when we ran errands during the busy shopping days before Christmas. I loved it, too. I still do, but it takes me back. The memories take me back to the days when I had two youngins’ at the supper table yelling, “Mom, he touched me!” I’ll be the first to admit . . . that sentence short-circuited my buttons back then, but I’d go back to those days in a heartbeat if I could. If I could freeze-frame that picture to savor forever, I would. If I could erase the pain of suicide death from one of my boys, I would. Like many of you, I will be missing someone precious at our table (again) this year. I want to acknowledge those who are facing their first Christmas without someone precious. Courage, my friend. You may not get through without tears, but even in tears may you make some sweet memories to carry with you.

Celebrations come because of something good.
Celebrations we love to recall
Mary had a baby boy in Bethlehem
The greatest celebration of all.

Holidays, especially the winter ones, stir up memories, do they not? Those of us missing precious children or other loved ones in our lives find memories to be extra bittersweet this time of year. In spite of the sorrowful memories now, I love to remember my life when I had both of my boys in it. I can’t help but smile through the tears.

No matter how hard I work at it I don’t think a holiday-themed post is going to cheer us up so I won’t try. However, as we listen to timeless favorites may we find the reason for the season in spite of our losses.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:11 

“Come On Ring Those Bells”, written by Andrew Culverwell and recorded by Evie Tornquist-Karlsson

Verse shared from New International Version (NIV)

 

Writing Our Stories

Does tragic loss occupy one chapter in your story or the whole book? Some of us are likely to respond quickly, “The whole book.” However, should grief encompass one’s entire story? Will each day of tears dampen all the chapters to follow?

I buried my firstborn after his death by suicide. Shocking, horrific, debilitating loss. For days, weeks, months I struggled, barely surviving. My son’s death cut me to the core and shattered my heart. How could I go on?

I don’t know how I continued to live, but I did. Now I’m grateful to be alive. Now my story has a purpose. You might wonder how that’s possible from where you are in your story. I get that. After lots of time passed, my story gained a purpose when my higher power asked me to reach out to hurting hearts like mine. I did and I continue to share my story. Now enough time has passed that I can look back and see how far I’ve come. You will get there, too.

My higher power is in my story. He has always been there. I just couldn’t see Him while in the deep throes of grief.

This may not make sense where you are in your grief story, but maybe it will one day. Months into my grief I thought I had finally gained some perspective. At that time I was inclined to say that my entire story was wrapped up in the loss of my child. I filled up chapter after chapter with sorrow. Grief-stricken for months on end painted my entire story in shades of gray. How could there ever be color in my world again?

The accumulation of years on my grief journey has refined my perspective. I think it is more accurate to view the loss of my child as covering just a few chapters in my story, rather than the whole book. Losing Greg to suicide created a sadness in me that colors every chapter that follows with painful reminders. It is rare for me to not think of my son every day and in every situation. He is a part of me, but should all the chapters in my story be sad? Is that how I best honor his memory? 

My life was average, normal before I lost my child. Losing my son changed me forever. I couldn’t find my footing for a long time. Once I felt solid ground under my feet I had to find ways to live. Even live with joy. It’s not easy as all of us well know, but living is important. Survival is important.

I plan to live my best life until the end of my life. I think I do that best by living with hope on board. Hope in my heart lightens my grief. Hope reminds me that this is not the end of my relationship with my child. Hope suggests that we are experiencing only a break from each other. Breaks are hard. My “break” from my son is in its 15th year so I know the passage of time. It’s lonely. I am filled with longing, but hope tells me to be patient, hopeful. I have learned that living life with purpose helps time pass more quickly.

My life has gained a purpose as I blog to all of you. I am able to drop back in my journey to take the arm of a newbie and we journey together. You take comfort from my story and I learn from yours. Together we live in hope of eternity where we will never again be separated from those we love.

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. Ephesians 1:11-12

Verse shared from The Message (MSG)

 

 

His Beloved

After the loss of our precious children or other loved ones, we feel excruciating pain down deep where most of us already feel inadequate, even unloved. This journey we’re on, this walk of grief is all-consuming. We live and breathe in the face of painful loss, reliving the tragedy over and over, trying to increase our understanding.

For a long time after I lost my firstborn to suicide, I was plagued with feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and shame. I had so many regrets. As his mother, I assumed I had failed my child. Yes, I could have done better. Surely if I had known ways to do better I would have done them. You, too, right? It’s easy to size up our losses after the fact and find ways to blame ourselves. Sadly, we are powerless to go back. Many of us know loss from suicide. It’s life-altering. We can’t easily get beyond questioning and second-guessing our actions. Life seems to overflow with thoughts of “shoulda, woulda, coulda” after the death of someone we loved.

In previous posts, I have challenged readers to “lose” the self-talk that suggests “It’s all my fault that he died. I should have done this or that and then she would still be alive. This is grief talking. Let’s get real. I mean really real. It may not be apparent until much time has passed, but this is simply not true. It will never be your fault that your loved one died. You did your best. You loved unconditionally and you still do!

It took a long time in the trenches of self-examination for me to finally come to the conclusion that I was powerless to keep my son alive. Greg’s first attempt happened while he was away at college. His second attempt happened at home. I rushed him to the ER and his life was spared. The third attempt happened while he lived in another city. This time he succeeded. With all of his attempts, it is so easy to cast blame! Not only did I blame myself, others blamed me, too, but I knew they were wrong. I may not have been the perfect mother, wearing the Good Housekeeping seal of approval, but I did my best at the time. It is true for you, too, no matter what anyone may say. Remember talk is cheap from those who have not lost someone precious, especially a precious child.

Just because I have concluded that I couldn’t change the outcome of my firstborn’s life didn’t stop me from revisiting my awful tragedy, looking for any stray clue I might have missed. A mother’s heart (and father’s) is always searching for ways to increase its understanding of such a personal, horrific loss.

You might say that it’s easy to indulge in self-talk which drives our emotions. There may be voices that whisper “you’re not good enough,” or “you were a lousy parent.” All negative chatter has a negative influence on the heart, stealing our health, robbing our healing, and killing our joy. Deep down I need to train my mind and heart to reject all hurtful chatter and listen only to those words that uplift and help me heal. I love the quote below by Bobby Schuller. He may not be speaking about grief exactly, but I still think I will adopt it as my personal creed to carry with me along my journey. Regardless of negative voices trying to tell me otherwise . . .

“I’m not what I do. I’m not what I have. I’m not what people say about me. I am the beloved of God. It’s who I am. No one can take it from me. I don’t have to worry. I don’t have to hurry. I can trust my friend Jesus and share his love with the world.”

Dear Reader, please know down deep where you hurt that you are loved. You are enough in spite of all your sorrow. Whether you trust that you are enough or not doesn’t change the fact that you are God’s son or daughter. We are His beloved and He lavishes His love on His grieving families. He loved us before our life-changing losses and He loves us still. Nothing we do or think can change the fact that God’s love is solid and unchanging. His love will continue from now throughout eternity where we will suffer no more. God will wipe away our tears. Then there will be only smiles for those we love.

Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children. 1 John 3:1a 

Quote by Bobby Schuller, Proverbs 31 Ministries

Verse shared from The Voice (VOICE)

Remembering Our Children

Forget-me-nots

 Remembering Gregory Scott Still, 1974 – 2005 
       “Unforgettable that’s what you are  . . . unforgettable in every way.” Strains of this old song by Nat King Cole waft thru my mind as I work on this piece. Human life will always be unforgettable. Those of us who are parents have no trouble remembering our children; they are indelibly imprinted on our hearts. Parents who have buried a beloved child know this full well. Our children will always be precious, unforgettable. How could we ever forget even the teensiest characteristic which made them so unique?
       There is a charity that remembers children. It is aptly named The Unforgettables Foundation. Since its inception, it has been remembering children who have passed away by helping with burial expenses. “The mission of The Unforgettables Foundation is to: Enable low- income families to give their children a dignified burial, empower communities to memorialize children who have died, educate parents and children’s caregivers to confront, control and conquer the primary risks to our children’s health and wholeness and encourage communities to recognize the financial trauma which is often associated with the death of a child.”
       The Unforgettables Foundation was started by a group of concerned citizens in California. For 20 years this charity has given monetary gifts to families who have lost a child (32 weeks to 18 yo) and cannot bear the financial burden of their child’s funeral by themselves. Fundraisers are regularly held to raise money in order to help families with this expense. (This piece is not asking for donations.)
       There is another reason why this charity is important to me. In addition to chapters in California and Nevada, a chapter has been started in Southern Ohio. It has been organized by my youngest son. (I admit that I sit a little straighter in my chair as I type this.) Since my son lost his older brother to suicide; he has been looking for a way to “give back” to honor his brother and keep his memory alive. The Unforgettables Foundation of Southern Ohio gives him the opportunity to do this as well as benefit the surrounding communities. The Ohio chapter is gaining traction and has been able to help as many as 14 families a year.
       My son shares his own words after he attended the 4th Annual The Unforgettables Foundation Conference held in California. The conference was attended by health professionals, caregivers, educators, and students. Here is a clip from the article my son wrote about his experience and posted on social media:
       “After the conference was over, it was my privilege to witness families being honored who had lost a child and had received a donation from The Unforgettables Foundation during the past year. The crowd hushed to a whisper as each child’s name was read and simultaneously a dove was released from its cage. Our eyes followed the dove skyward as it flew away in freedom, symbolizing a final farewell to each beloved child. It was a touching tribute to parents suffering from the loss of their children, and, because of the generosity of contributors, they were enabled to afford a dignified burial.
       “One family in attendance had lost their 8-year-old child only a month before. The mother cupped the dove tenderly in her hands. She leaned close to its silken head and whispered something, no doubt a love message to her child, ‘Tell him I love him, please tell him.’ Then she released it to the heavens. These moving scenes hit close to home for me, and I began to cry. Seeing the tearful faces all around me was a poignant reminder that I had lost my brother 15 short years ago.
       “I started The Unforgettables Foundation of Southern Ohio chapter in honor of my brother. It will make a difference for families who cannot afford to give their child a dignified burial. Lost children deserve to be remembered always. Every child is unforgettable.”
       I add to my son’s words by saying that our hearts will always ache to hear our children’s names spoken. We won’t forget them, but it’s hard to accept that others seem to forget as time goes by which gives us all the more reason to honor them in some way. Grieving moms still in the throes of their own deep pain have asked me, “How and when should I honor my child?” I respond, “When the time is right, you will know.” How? There are likely as many ways to honor as there are grievers. We know what some survivors have done and continue doing because we have met them on social media. They blog. They design beautiful memorial posters. They share stories about their children. They also author books, record and publish their own songs, create scholarships, design fund drives, and organize walk-a-thons, all in honor of their children.
       If this blog encourages you to put some muscle behind those ideas you have percolating in the back of your mind, take a deep breath and step out to create something beautiful which will both bless you and honor your precious loved one.
Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a real blessing. Psalms 127:3
For more information, The Unforgettables Foundation of Southern Ohio is on Facebook
Verse shared from Good News Translation (GNT)
This entry was posted on July 31, 2020. 2 Comments

The Lie about Suicide

Deep in the heart where no one is privy to, some of us have wondered about death by suicide. What happens to our loved ones who choose their own death? For your consideration, here is an article by Dr. Timothy Jennings, MD. As a private practice psychiatrist, he has experience treating suicidal patients and gives his thoughts below.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 out of every 100,000 people will die by suicide. Most people have been impacted by this tragedy in one way or another. As a psychiatrist, I know all too well how the severely depressed can be overwhelmed by thoughts of suicide. I also know that in the aftermath of a suicide, those who loved the victims struggle with their own faith and worry that they will not see their loved ones in heaven.

“This subject recently roared into my mind when I received an email from a concerned parent. He wrote to tell me that his daughter attends a Christian high school where another student had completed suicide. I can’t imagine the heartache that the young man’s family is now going through, and my prayers and thoughts go out to them. However, adding to this heartache, the daughter—along with other students and even some of the faculty—was struggling because she’d been told that the young man had committed an act of sin in the taking of his own life. He was even compared to Judas, and the students were told that because he, like Judas, completed suicide, he would be eternally lost.

“I don’t condemn those who said these things, but it’s important to set the record straight about this unfortunate falsehood—a lie that misrepresents a loving God, one that likely injured vulnerable young people who are searching for meaningful answers in their grief. Because I fear such a misrepresentation will turn some of these students away from God, I believe it’s vital to address this subject.

“Death by suicide does not determine one’s eternal destiny. Why? Because suicide is almost always a symptom of an illness, a problem, or overwhelming distress—and not an act of sin, not a willful rebellion against God. Instead, suicide almost always happens when a person is in some type of horrible pain in which they lose all hope of escape. In that mindset, suicide becomes their only perceived avenue of escape from the pain. We help those who are struggling with thoughts of suicide by offering hope—the hope of escape from their pain. We help identify the source of the pain and provide real interventions that restore them to wellness. Sadly, though, not everyone realizes these other options of escape are available—and some succumb to suicide.

“Many factors contribute to people finding themselves at increased risk of suicide—some of which the individual has no control over. Age, race, birth month, socioeconomic status, marital status, relationship stress, mental illness, physical illness, genetic vulnerabilities, geographic location, lack of sunshine, pollution, infections, trauma, and intoxicating substances—these are all factors that contribute to increased risk for suicide.

“In our human experience, almost everyone has times of pain, heartache, discouragement, and hopelessness in which the idea that death might be better than life occurs. Even great heroes of God—remember Elijah?—can struggle with such discouragement. Yet we must remember that with God there is always hope, a hope based on a real God with real resources to heal and restore!

The source of the lie:

“From where does this idea that suicide is an act of sin that results in eternal loss come? It comes from accepting the lie that God’s law functions like human law—a system of rules with no consequence other than the ruling authority who keeps track of what laws were broken and then punishes lawbreakers. For those who believe this way about God’s law, sin becomes all about behavior—the acts and deeds. The wrong deed or act, in this way of thinking, requires the direct infliction of punishment. Such thinking promotes this idea that God, rather than being merciful to the teen who lost the struggle against depression, hopelessness, and pain, will then inflict further torture and pain upon him as punishment for having completed suicide.

“When we return to the truths that God is our Creator and His laws are the protocols upon which life and health are constructed to operate, we realize that deviations from His designs result in pain, suffering, and death. We understand that all nature groans under the weight of sin (Ro 8:22). This means our physical condition can groan under the weight of mental illness, which can express itself as a variety of symptoms—including suicide. We realize that suicide is a symptom of other issues and not an act of deliberate rebelliousness and sin. We can also know that God is constantly working to heal and restore His children.

“So the questions we need to ask are: What is the condition of the heart of those who are suffering suicidal thoughts? Are these people like Elijah, a champion of God, whose heart was right with God, yet who suffered emotional discouragement, depression, and suicidal thinking? Or are their hearts like Judas, consumed with selfishness and who reject Jesus?

“Suicide is a tragedy; it is never the best answer to a problem. In my practice, I often treat suicidal patients. My goal is to help them realize that what they almost always truly want is to escape their pain and not to die. Then I offer them other avenues of escape. And when they experience resolution of their pain, the suicidal thoughts resolve.

“For those who have found themselves trapped in some situation, spiraling down into a pit of despair and who were unable to see other options of escape, and have died by suicide—what then? We must realize that such an act does not mean eternal loss. In these situations, we need to offer hope to those suffering from such loss; we must promote the truth about our God of love, and realize, that like Sampson, it isn’t how one ends their life on earth that determines their eternal destiny—it is whether or not they loved Jesus that determines their eternal destiny.”

~ Only God can read the heart. He wants to bring His children into heaven, not keep them out. ~

Suicide and the Myth of Lost Salvation by Timothy R. Jennings, M.D., DFAPA, who has been in private practice since 1997 as a Christian psychiatrist and certified master psychopharmacologist. Dr. Jennings is board certified in psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Website: timjenningsmd dot com

 

 

 

Pure Grief

I posted this piece on my blog some years ago. I think it is timely to share it again with the ever-increasing number of grievers who are looking for a support system; we desire to be among grievers who get what we are going through. As we embark on our journeys into grief we feel so alone. May this piece remind us that we are not.

This post is dedicated to mothers who have lost their children to suicide which may not be your particular loss. I don’t wish to leave any grief category out, but suicide stats are staggering. Throughout the world, 2,000 precious sons and daughters die each day by suicide. In the US alone, someone attempts suicide every minute and someone completes suicide every 17 minutes, therefore the topic is worthy of our time.

Most of us know at least one family who has lost someone they love to suicide. Unless a mother precedes her child in death she will outlive her child, surviving the aftermath of terrible loss. I know this grief first hand so I hope you will give me a little wiggle room with my choice of words. They are intended to bless us both.

If you are not a mother, but you lost someone you loved to suicide perhaps you are a sibling? A dad? A friend? I can speak around your pain and perhaps there are many similarities, but I cannot speak from personal experience. Each person’s grief is unique. A mother’s grief is unique. I have left a trail of tears behind me for 14 years. Those who have buried a child from suicide or other causes will agree that it’s not an easy journey. It is a tough assignment, taking more than it gives for a long time afterward. However, there are positive rewards in giving back when one is ready to reach out to help another along the same journey. This is what I do. In writing this blog, I drop back to link arms with you. Together we walk and share our lives and our stories of loss. Hugs are exchanged. Tears flow. In sharing, our loads are lifted even if only for a brief moment.

I hope you have been able to share with another for no one needs to walk alone. There are many grief support groups within easy reach with a few clicks on your electronic device. If you aren’t familiar with grief sites on social media perhaps you will look for them. I was astounded to see the number of people, mostly women and mostly mothers so if you are a mother you will be in the comfortable company of those who “get it.”

Suicide is a word brimming with drama. From sportswriters to newscasters they all use it as an attention-getting word which I personally detest. What about those much closer to us like family, coworkers, or friends? Can there be drama there, too? I say “yes” because that is my experience. My memories of our memorial service are murky with the actions of others around me which were totally out of place and unacceptable. I was in too much pain back then to stop it, but I can speak openly about it now. I hope it will be read and shared for maximum exposure.

~ I choose to keep his memories drama free. He deserves no less ~

Family dynamics are as varied as our personalities. Hopefully, you were surrounded by those who continue to support you in a variety of ways. Trust me. It’s a blessing when they do. But some of us cannot think about the loss of our child without seeing the faces of those who tried to steal the day for their own purposes. As I look back I am tempted to include the faces of those who tried to make my son’s funeral about themselves, but I choose not to. I have given myself permission to move them out of the memories of my child’s death and excluded them from any thoughts I have of my child going forward. I will honor my child’s memory by keeping my grief pure, you might say, with my son’s name on it.

There are others who miss my child and grieve for him in their own way. Bless them, but they are outside the circle of my heart. Within me is the heart of a mother designed by my creator who gave moms huge tear ducts that easily flow. We fall asleep drenched in tears, do we not? Each breathing moment our minds struggle to think about anything or anyone else especially in the beginning when grief is raw and bleeding. If certain faces in your circle threaten to sabotage your precious memories please consider moving them out of the way. No one needs to know you’ve done so. After all, no one else can understand your grieving mama’s heart, can they?

The one who designed my heart gave me an enormous capacity to love. He knows everything about me so He knows my loss and suffering. My Greg was His Greg, too, so He is the only one who truly understands my pain. I have no words, but I know it is He who gives me words to write and share. If you are touched deeply by what is written here please consider that it is a personal note from above, from God’s own heart to yours.

My God understands a grieving mama’s tears. He is a super snuggler and welcomes me with open arms. I cuddle on His lap and cry. He offers His handkerchief to wipe away my tears. He whispers words that comfort me. He encourages me to stay as long as I like and to return whenever I need snuggling.

There will come a day when Mamas everywhere will shed tears over their shattered hearts for the last time. There will no longer be a reason for crying because there will be no more death! I know this for certain because He has promised . . .

My beautiful Mamas, you will stop your weeping when I bring your children back to you from the land of the enemy. Then your heavenly homes will be my home, too. I will live with you. I will wipe away all your tears. There will be no more death, pain, or crying. They will be gone forever.

Verses paraphrased from Jeremiah 31:16 & Revelation 21:3-4 New Living Translation (NLT)

 

 

 

 

Our Land will Heal

“I will . . . heal their land.”

As of this writing, our nation is pretty much in lockdown. The theatres and bars are closed. Restaurants are closed except for drive-through purchases. Large groups are to be avoided so concerts and sporting events are canceled. No large Easter celebrations and places of worship have closed their doors. Staying at home and away from our natural habitats is what we must do. Forced isolation is the name of the game right now.

Our world is at war. At war with an invisible virus. COVID-19 is its name. Every 24 hr period we see on the TV screen how many more people around the globe have succumbed to this killer. Like all of you, I am sheltering in place. We have temporarily lost our ability to come and go as we please because no one wants to risk their life or the lives of others.

As humans, we’ve always gathered. We invite our friends and family to birthdays, weddings, and other social events. We greet with handshakes and hugs. We touch our faces; it’s what we’ve always done without thinking. Now we have to consciously think to avoid contact. Being isolated increases our loneliness. Thankfully the current status will be soon behind us and we can get back to working and socializing again.

This virus has created an added burden for all grievers. My heart goes out to each one of us. Those of us who are mourning the loss of a loved one already know isolation. We may no longer have family living with us, or feel like we cannot talk about our loss with family or friends. We may already know what it feels like to be lonely. It’s often a part of our lives since we faced tragic loss.

After my son died by suicide I isolated myself. Guests returned home. Hubby returned to work and I was home alone. I could cry all I wanted. No one would hear. There wasn’t anything I was interested in doing. I was in the throes of deep grief. Being isolated eventually led to depression. And depression is not a friend.

The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. Ps 118:6a

The mandatory isolation we are in right now reminds me of the isolation that follows the loss of someone precious. Maybe it does to you, too. To those of us who grieve, no matter our location, language, or ethnicity, we are similar in our grief. While grieving we can often feel isolated, even fearful. One could make a comparison between our grief and COVID-19; in a sense, they have a common thread. Both kill, but when it comes to losing a precious child, no virus compares. This nasty virus will end. My grief will not.

I want to encourage each one of us to not focus on fear or isolation right now. Instead, let’s reach out to call or text someone we know who is as isolated as we are. Share stories, swap jokes, talk about things that matter in our lives. We are all in this together.

It’s easy to be fearful while our world is being dominated by an invisible foe. An ancient book reminds humans to not fear since the phrase, “do not be afraid” appears 365 times. That is one gentle reminder per day for an entire year to not be afraid. Perhaps now is the perfect time to claim one of those reminders.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phillippians 4:6-7

God has promised to heal our land, and I believe He will heal it from this invisible foe. We want our freedom back. I believe this will happen soon. Our land will heal, but this land will never be the promised land for me. It’s yet to come. Heaven is my promised land. That’s a place we can look forward to.

Verses shared: Phillippians 4:6-7; Psalm 118:6a, New International Version (NIV)

PS – I know I keep promising that I will miss posting one month following hand surgery on my dominate hand. Due to mandated isolation, my surgery has been canceled until further notice so I will keep posting until schedules resume.