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The Sorrow of Suicide

Sadly, you have known someone, or of someone, who has taken his/her own life, and this week is no exception as some readers of this blog are deeply mourning the loss of a young lady who was just a junior in high school.

Her parents, sister, and family are experiencing grueling pain, and her teachers, classmates, and friends are in shock and sadness.

Even while having faith in God’s sovereignty and goodness, you may need a method to help you sort through a huge load of swirling emotion pertaining to such a great tragedy.

And when suicide involves a young person, a whole population of youth are trying to function in a daze of questions and feelings. Coping puts harsh demands on their emotional maturity, and today’s media offers the kinds of condolences that often conflict with Christian values. 

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

Cry with a desire to connect with Him and be comforted by Him.

Let the Psalms give you not only a language for your grief, but a framework to keep you pointed towards His purity and wisdom. It’s popular in some modern circles to be ever-angry with God. Instead, allow Him to gently restore your strength and faith after a season of hurt, doubt, and confusion. He is the only One who can give you peace when you don’t have all the answers.

Make sure every impacted kid and teen has at least one trustworthy adult actively ministering to him/her for a specific amount of time that adequately covers their grief.

Remind young people in your life that their lowest moments in life are not permanent, and teach them not to allow emotions of despair to convince them that there are no other options. On the contrary, discouragement (which can lead to hopelessness) is a sign that it’s time to seek help. Make sure each person grieving this tremendous loss is being well counseled.

Coach your soul to wait for Him and to have expectation from Him. He is good to the soul who seeks Him. Pour out your heart before Him; He is your refuge. As someone who is broken-hearted, He heals you and binds up your wounds. (Ps. 62:5, 8; 147:3; Lam. 3:25)

When Teens & Kids are Grieving the Loss of a Peer

Grief in teens and kids is felt and processed somewhat differently than for adults. This is okay. Their emotions and cognitions are in developmental progress.

And when youth are grieving the loss of “one of their own,” some of them may attempt to isolate from adults, feeling that their grief is too different to connect through it.

So, what should adults do?

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

1. Teach youth how to grieve well.

  • Make sure teens understand that they will move through phases (where they feel emotions of various intensities such as denial, anguish, yearning, guilt, etc.) in a back-and-forth manner until they reach a place of stable acceptance.
  • Let them know that each person’s grief can last anywhere from several months to several years, depending on their relationship with the passed loved one.
  • Explain how grief can trigger other issues such as unresolved grief from the past, or how grief can ignite a teen’s susceptibility to anxiety and depression.
  • Remind them of the importance of taking care of their physical health during the time that their psychological health is strained.
  • Model for them good personal grieving by taking refuge in the Lord. It’s okay to let them see you grieve sometimes, but reserve other times to grieve in private. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you know the right amount of transparency for your household. This is so your kids won’t be afraid you’re falling apart.
  • For younger children, provide truth to them up to the limit of what they can process. Embrace their love for heaven and cherish their child-like faith; it will do your own soul good.
  • Offer unending compassion, always pointing them to Christ as the Answer and Comforter.

2. Validate the private relationship among peers.

  • These peers created memories and had feelings for one another that are theirs alone.
  • And it may be important for them to feel like they have a personal grief experience that you might not share or relate to, in their opinion.
  • They may also have some regrets.
  • Consider the role of tangible reminders of their loved one. Pictures, mementos, and gifts in honor of their loved one can play a very important role in the grieving process. It’s important to ask what would be meaningful to them.

3. Temper your expectations.

  • They might not “get over it” as quickly as you’d think.
  • But they also might “get over it” far quicker than you would expect; their lives are full, busy, and distracting.
  • You don’t have to force their journey to be something it’s not. To have a good result, a person can only grieve when s/he is truly ready. And the process really is unique to each individual.
  • Don’t talk too much; except to tell them you love them.
  • Be approachable, but not overwhelming.

4. Consider how they’re getting their needs met.

  • Help them identify which relationships are safe places for being vulnerable, and who is playing what role in their life.
  • Try to invite at least one trustworthy person who will ask good questions to get them talking, and who will be speaking Biblical truths into their processing. But don’t be too pushy about this. Let them have a say in the timing and frequency.
  • Make sure they are not shamed when they take advantage of the cleansing nature of crying; encourage weeping with weeping. (Rom. 12:15). But also note that not everyone is a crier.
  • Incorporate art and music to help express what’s hard to verbalize and to reduce stress.

5. Be full of grace when it comes to those emotions.

  • There may be moodiness, lashing out, disrespect, and tears. Sometimes these outbursts will have everything to do with the loss. And sometimes they will have nothing to do with it. Don’t assume you know, and don’t accuse your kids of acting out grief. Sometimes an emotional reaction is an opportunity to give them space; other times it’s a chance to ask an open-ended question, which can help express the feelings behind the episode. Pray on the spot to help you decide which it is.
  • Emotional maturity – and therefore grieving maturity – takes effort, practice, and time.
  • Nurture the heart, and better behavior will follow in time.
  • Resume routine activities even if it means going through the motions at first. The structure is beneficial.

6. Be open to other means of support.

  • There are certain losses that fall in the category of Complex Mourning and may require professional involvement for a time.
  • Monitor how well a young griever is functioning, to determine if outside help is warranted.
  • Grief can be really hard. And some youth struggle to do it without structured, skilled guidance.

7. Pray very specifically for their grief journey.

  • Remember in your prayers – that when faced with death- there is significant ambiguity for a young person to comprehend (God ordains suffering at the same time that He is very good). And this paradox takes place in a world that tries to convince them that things are “all or nothing” (“God must be cruel to allow such suffering”). Such depth of Biblical understanding will come from the Lord’s opening of their eyes.
  • Intercede using spiritual weapons against lies, poor coping, worldliness, and negative influences. And make bold requests on their behalf, such as asking for eternal perspective and a life of humble service.
  • Let your kids know you are caring for them through your prayers.

He restores comfort to His mourners, and gives His tender touch to the young. (Is. 57:18, Mk. 10:13)

Do You Need Help with Grieving?

You don’t live in an age or place that gives you a standardized grieving period. So, how do you know what it’s supposed to look like? How will you know if you’ve processed your grief long enough, or if you were ever prematurely rushed to get back to your normal routine?

Grieving the Loss of Someone you Love, Daily Meditations to Help You through the Grieving Process is a book that can prepare you or assist you through an adequate and healthy grief journey. Using brief, 3-page chapters, authors Mitsch and Brookside, guide you as follows:

  • You will be validated in your need to take care of your emotional condition and learn what your feelings mean.
  • You will be taught how to think again, when you are ready.
  • You will understand why you are acting the way you are and what to do about it.
  • You will be reassured that even the strongest Christians experience denial, anger, bargaining, and sorrow before they reach acceptance. And you will receive suggestions for moving through these messy grief stages.
  • You will be taught when and how to ask for help.
  • You will learn what your responsibility is for others’ grief when you are also grieving.
  • You will better understand the ways death can impact your faith and how to respond.
  • You will be encouraged, yet not rushed, through the grieving process.
  • You will begin to know what to do with the past, present, and future.
  • You will be reminded of the ways God can help you better than anyone or anything else.

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

  1. Even if you are not currently grieving, consider having this book on hand, since no one is exempt from dealing with grief at some point. There are nuggets to apply to any kind of grief; not just loss of a loved one.
  2. Read this book to better discover how Christians can best support others who are grieving. There’s an art to knowing when to share God’s promises and when to allow someone to express lamentations.
  3. Determine if it would be appropriate to give this book as a gift to anyone you know who is currently or soon to be facing grief.
  4. Make sure your loved ones feel permission to grieve; it’s the best prescription for their healing.
  5. Stop for a few moments until you can think of someone you know who is missing a loved one. Then pray that His unfailing love would bring comfort. (Ps. 119:76)

An Example of a Christian’s Therapeutic Playlist

Whether you referred to it as a “mix-tape” or a playlist, at some point you’ve possibly compiled a list of songs that reflected a season of your life such as a painful break-up or a fantastic summer camp experience. In those situations, the songs can tend to be all sad or completely celebratory.

With a little purposeful planning, a more varied and specifically arranged list of songs can be assembled in order to productively process a painful journey from sorrow to joy. Here’s one sample, along with some explanations behind the choices:

You Raise Me Up by Josh Groban – From the first mellow notes to the very end, this prologue sets forth a two-part theme for this Christian woman’s playlist: sorrow and faith in God.

Rose from the Titanic Soundtrack (James Horner) – This instrumental represents the wounded party’s discovery of a changing identity…as she learns how to respond to her circumstances in the way she believes the Lord is asking of her.

This I Know by Crowder – The listener wants to take a little break from her first two sad songs with an anthem that reminds her of the early days when she got to know Jesus and He put life in her bones. She might need to feel sad a little longer, but she also longs to know vitality isn’t far away.

I Am Not Alone by Kari Jobe – Oftentimes, trials can be very isolating. People don’t always understand, and sometimes they say and do very unhelpful things. These lyrics that focus on the Lord, Who He is, and how He cares – will draw the hurting towards Him so her needs can be divinely met.

You Know Me by Bethel Music & Steffany Gretzinger – Hard times can cause insecurity, shame, and/or a desire to be understood. There is One who knows every detail about His daughter, and He would desire that such a melody be sung over her during times of self-doubt.

Nearness by Bethel Music & Jenn Johnson – The hurting listener struggles over what she doesn’t understand, but this ballad helps her to steady her heart on His comfort and goodness, and prepares her for a turning point in her healing.

Great Are You Lord by All Sons & Daughters – Eventually the victim has played the sad songs enough and she’s ready to spend more time praising and less time lamenting.

Make a Way by I am They – With a focus remaining on the Lord and what He can do, she recalls the ways He has always been there for her and how this time will be no different.

Roar by Katie Perry – There is an enemy who doesn’t want healing. This selection is fun to sing in his face as this process moves along.

One Thing Remains by Passion featuring Kristian Stanfill – This praise number is great for singing along in a loud voice, reminding her emotions to believe what really matters.

Made to Love by TobyMac – A fabulous, dance-inducing finale, TobyMac’s song announces that the time has come to move forward – with a renewed focus on her life’s purpose.

Jen’s Keeping Room Tips:

If you decide to use a music playlist as a tool to help you heal or recover from a trial:

  • Put together a balanced list of songs so that you can experience a variety of emotions as you journey through the music. The key is not to have all sad or only upbeat songs, but to use a progression of songs to join up with you as you transition from emotional pain to stability.
  • Turn the songs into your personal prayers and anthems, always including the Lord in this process for best results.
  • Allow yourself to put certain songs “on repeat” to give yourself time to feel and face all your emotions before listening to selections that are more focused on moving forward.
  • If you find yourself “sitting” in a certain area of the playlist for a long time without being able to advance through it, consider why you are stuck and determine if you need more outside support.
  • Consider titling your playlist and even after you’re done, go back to it from time to time so that you can acknowledge the way the Lord brought you through a hard time.

I will sing and make music to the Lord. Psalm 27:6

Circles of Care (Surrounding yourself with the right support at the right time)

Is there a chance you are trying to live your life too much on your own? It’s good to periodically determine if you are receiving the emotional support you need in order to reach a new level of faith, and be all that the Lord intended. There are various types of circles of care to consider incorporating into your life, or you may want to enhance the ones you already have.

Definitions of types of support:

Inner Circle – Comprised of closest friends and/or family, your inner circle is small, safe, close, and intimate.

Small Group – Typically formed based on a topic or stage of life, a small group is often a great place of prayer-partnering and growth. Out of this circle may come a mentor who is further along in his/her spiritual journey who can guide you, or a discipleship leader who may teach you specific material.

Community – Not as close as the inner circle or small group, yet community is still a place to feel known, valued, and encouraged.

Developmental – For a time, your community circle can be expanded to include consultants or specialists who provide specific and additional support to aid in further growth, such as:

  • Teachers & Coaches: Instructing and encouraging you for maximum potential
  • Life Coaches: Coaching for increased productivity, especially in careers
  • Educational Specialists: Offering alternatives to traditional educational methods
  • Counselors or Therapists: Providing exercises to attain healing or help learn new thoughts & behaviors
  • Psychologists: Conducting testing for aptitude, functioning, personality, IQ, etc.

Recovery – Trained lay persons come together to provide support for those dealing with specific hardships such as addiction or grief, providing a crucial circle of care for those in deep pain or destructive lifestyles. Stephen Ministers and pastoral shepherds are often found serving in recovery groups. This circle is also where you might find spiritual warfare prayer warriors, accountability partners for problems like addiction, experienced couples who come alongside divorced couples entering a second marriage, etc.

Functional – Some mental and emotional needs can cripple someone’s functioning to the point where expertise is required from the psychiatric field, adding an additional support circle of professional options:

  • Psychiatrist: Office appointments treating conditions that have not improved with other support
  • Out-Patient Care: Daily group therapy until ready for stepping back into other support circles
  • In-Patient Care: Hospitalization until stability has been achieved

Biblical Starting Point (examples of circles of care in the Bible):

Inner Circle – For Moses: his father-in-law, wife, and sons in Exodus 18. For Mary: Joseph and Elizabeth in Luke 1-2 and her sons and women friends in Acts 1:14. For Jesus: Peter, James, and John in the Gospels.

Small Group – Esther and her maids in Esther 4:16. Daniel and his group of fellow captives in Daniel 1-3. Jesus and His Disciples in the Gospels. Naomi as Ruth’s mentor in the story of Ruth, and Paul for Timothy in the New Testament. Eli as Samuel’s discipleship leader in 1 Samuel 1-3.

Community – The Israelites in Exodus. The early Believers in Acts.

Developmental –God as the acting counselor for the issues between Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar in Genesis 16. Zabud as Solomon’s personal advisor in 1 Kings 4:5. The teachers in the Temple with 12-year old Jesus in Luke 2:41-52.

Recovery – Peter and the women as Dorcas’ shepherding team in Acts 9:36-43. Mary, Rhoda, and the prayer team for Peter in Acts 12:12-16.

Functional – God’s angels sent to minister to Elijah during his collapse under physical and emotional exhaustion in 1 Kings 19:4-9.  Nebuchadnezzar’s advisors and lords waiting for him as the Lord brought him out from a time of senselessness in Daniel 4:33-37.

Keeping Room Tips: 

  1. Be thankful for the people the Lord has brought into your life to surround you with care.
  2. Evaluate your support circles to determine if you need to make any additions or changes.
  3. Obey God if He is prompting you to add a circle, even if you feel like resisting. He really does have your best interest in His mind.
  4. Be aware of where you are in other people’s circles so that you can provide adequate support to others as well.
  5. Teach others how to build, manage, and participate in circles of care.

Walking through Something Hard when the Person you’re Walking With is Not Keeping Up

The incidences are high of married couples whose marriages become strained or even end when they endure something tragic, such as the loss of a child. It really is not surprising that men and women grieve, process, and experience emotion very differently from one another, and hardship is certainly a time the differences are revealed. In addition, different personality types react to certain challenges in very distinctive ways. If you are walking through a hard season of life – joined by your spouse, family members, or close friends – and their gender or personality prevents them from responding in the same way you are, it is time to create an atmosphere for varied paces.

Keeping Room Tips: 

“God is the God of ALL comfort…” Paul says “ALL comfort” to mean that God’s comfort covers every trouble possible and every style of responding possible. Go to Him. He is the perfect answer to the person in denial as much as to the person who feels despair. Whatever you are feeling during your time of trouble, He has the comfort to match it.

“(He) comforts us in all our troubles…” Things can go wrong when family members expect one another to provide the “right” comfort that they need. Each time your loved one frustrates you because they aren’t sensitive to how you are responding or they aren’t responding the same way you are, it is a sign for you to go to the Comforter so that you don’t put unrealistic expectations on others to do for you what is meant to be done by your Father.

“…We can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” You will begin to behave in very powerful ways when you have been comforted by God. You will no longer have a desperate need for others to meet all of your needs. You will no longer feel it necessary to fight for your style of enduring troubles, since your style will have been validated by God. You will even find yourself able to put aside your own emotions for a time so that you can comfort others with the comfort you’ve been given by God. If you and your spouse or loved ones are receiving comfort first from God – then when you come together – rather than draining one another, you will have the reserves needed to build one another up and grow closer to one another through the time of trouble.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4)