Table of Contents
The Looming Question: Where Are They Now?
- Clinging to Hope
- What Happens in the Spirit World?
- Glimpses beyond the Veil
Forgiving the One Who Died
- Facts That Can Open Our Hearts to Understanding
- Choosing to Remember with Love
- Keeping Our Focus on the Atonement
- Anger, Hurt, and Blame
- We Want to Let Go of Bad Feelings, But How?
- Suicide’s Legacy of Emotional Upheaval
- The Battleground of the Mind
- Grief Has Purpose
Rebuilding on Christ, the Rock
- How the Refiner’s Fire Purifies Our Beliefs
- Forgiving Ourselves and Feeling Christ’s Forgiveness
The Light Returns; Life Goes On
- Sunrise after Sorrow
- The Goal is Progress, Not Arriving
Other Important Insights and Resources
- References to Resources, Websites, and Books
- Life-Preserving Gift of the Scriptures
- Debbie’s Story
Understanding the Mindset of Those Contemplating Suicide
Factors Contributing to Major Depression
Tips for Controlling Negative Thoughts with Cognitive Therapy
The morning of September 27, 2004 dawned bright and clear. I went about my morning chores little guessing that the day would bring me greater sorrow than I had ever known. Just before noon three plainclothes members of the South Salt Lake Police Department appeared at my door to bring me the news that my second son Brian, age thirty-three, was dead—by his own hand. Sometime during the night he had slit his wrists in the bathtub and bled to death. His roommate had discovered him in the morning.
How does one assimilate such news? How can a mother’s heart bear such sorrow? How many tears can one person cry and not dry up and wither into nothingness? I found myself sobbing out not only my current sorrow but also the grief of nearly two decades of difficulties with this son. Brian left the Church in his teens and made some poor choices, including drugs and alcohol; we later learned he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in his twenties, and had experienced suicidal episodes from the age of fifteen.
I love my son with all my heart and can only stand up under the realities of this situation because I believe in the hereafter and in the love, mercy, and the Atonement of Christ. I choose faith now not because I have any unusual spiritual strength, but because the alternative is unbearable. I am weak, but He is strong. I can’t imagine surviving such sorrow if I didn’t believe in the doctrines of Christ or sense the reality of the Comforter.
My Experience and My Witness
I am one of the walking wounded; since you are reading this book you may be also. I have often felt like my heart was literally bleeding. In those first few days the Spirit gave me strength to keep going even when I thought it was impossible to do so—throughout the arrangements, the viewing, the services, and the burial. Writing, talking, crying and being real in the situation was all I could do.
In the months and years that followed I found myself on a spiritual journey, the depths of which I had never before experienced. It has been the most difficult time of my life, yet in some ways, the most beneficial. No more surface skimming of gospel principles. No more floating along with only casual attention to spiritual things. It had been easy to trust the strength of my rope of faith when it was lying coiled by my feet, but now I was dangling by that rope over a precipice.
I have walked this difficult path, and now, years later, desire to reach out to you who must be facing a similar challenge that has been thrust upon you. I have hesitated, procrastinated, and resisted this project. It’s hard to revisit the pain, and I’m perfectly aware that the circumstances and issues of each suicide are unique. Still, we all seem to have the need to identify with others who have been through similar adversity. We want to know that someone has experienced this awful sorrow and survived—and that maybe we will too.
In the years since my son’s death, how I’ve wished for a book from a faithful LDS parent who had been through such a loss and could empathize, reassure me that I’d make it, and lead me through the doctrinal dilemmas. First-person stories in the general market were helpful, but didn’t begin to touch the questions that were soul-deep in my Mormon mind. So I’m writing what I wish I could have read. There are huge issues to be dealt with for those of us whose primary goals have been raising righteous children and having a forever family. What do we do with the ashes of that ideal? Could anything seem further from it than having a child that kills himself?
I keep having spiritual nudges to share what I have learned, so with a prayer in my heart constantly, I have proceeded. I speak not as an authority, but as a mother who also happens to be a writer. My story is not chronological; what matters is what I’ve learned that could hopefully smooth this rough path for you. It is laced with the scriptures, quotes, references and resources that have helped me the most along the way. I hope they will help you too. Please take what applies to you and feels right and kindly pass over the rest.
If you are feeling suicidal, close this book and Google “Suicide Prevention” or find a copy of Joyce Brown’s Heavenly Answers. I recommend it (instead of my book) for anyone who is entertaining suicidal thoughts and being swayed by the myth that all will be light and peace the minute they die. Joyce’s book and continued work in suicide prevention have helped many people stay the course.
After My Son’s Suicide is for those living with a situation where prevention is no longer a possibility. Once a suicide has happened it is irreversible and we have to deal with it. The utter finality of it is the hardest thing, and we need all the hope we can find!
All of us living with the reality of the suicide of a loved one are literally dangling by a rope of faith over a precipice of sorrow—experiencing a true test. But the test is not so much in the strength of our own faith as in our willingness to rely on the strength of Christ, who is mighty to save. Not one of us is strong enough by ourselves, but nothing is too hard with Him by our side.
Our constant connection with Him is vital because no branch bears fruit of itself. I know how it feels to be disconnected—like a dry, brittle twig. Jesus said, “I am the vine, ye are the branches; He that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5, emphasis mine). However, in Phillipians 4:13 we are assured, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.” With His help we can survive this. With His help we can learn from this. With His help we will make it. The only course that makes sense is to pray constantly for the
Lord’s Spirit to guide our thoughts and feelings away from useless regret and toward hope in Christ.
No one is ever remotely prepared to have their life flattened by the earthquake of suicide; the aftershocks go on and on. An e-mail friend who lost her son to suicide said, “I feel so hurt, angry, disappointed, and lonely. I can’t imagine the time it will take for me to not miss my son so much that my heart sinks at the sight of his picture, the mention of his name, or the very thought of his act.”
To this mother and anyone else who is hurting, I bear witness that even the saddest times in our lives can bring a mighty harvest of spiritual lessons learned and faith deepened—as hard as that is to comprehend when we are slogging through them. In the aftermath of suicide, I’ve felt that my life depended on learning those lessons and finding that faith. Never have I had greater motivation spiritually. Join me in my journey; I’ll share my own experiences as well as the experiences of others. We’ll explore the many resources available, especially in the doctrines of Christ. Most importantly, we’ll invite the Comforter to calm and mend our broken hearts.
Author note: In common vernacular, the term “survivor” is often used to denote loved ones left behind after a suicide. When you see that term in this book, you will know that is what it refers to. For instance, I have referred to a web site called SOS, which means Survivors of Suicide. However, this term can be confusing to some who first think of “survivor” as one who attempts suicide but survives. For this reason I have chosen to use the term “suicide grievers” or just “grievers” most of the time. Also you will note that I never use the term: “commit suicide.” “Died by suicide” is so much more accurate.