Movie Review- Nim’s Island

I frequently go to Christian Spotlight On Entertainment when I’m considering a movie to view.  My wife and I rented a movie titled Nim’s Island and found it to be quite good.  What prompted me to write a review was the depiction of Agoraphobia in the film.  I am a novice reviewer and it’ll show as you read this.  I thought it was important to do though, as so often Hollywood misses it when they depict mental illness.  They also do a great job in other instances.  Either way, I hope they choose to print my review.

My wife and I rented this movie last night and really enjoyed it. The movie was filmed in a clever way and the acting was great. Abigail Breslin was excellent as Nim as she reminded me of the talents of Dakota Fanning. As usual, Jodie Foster did quite well, although this isn’t usually the type of film you see her in these days. Her character is quite a contrast to the strong woman she portrays so well.

I would like to bring up an issue with the movie and the review that has not been discussed at all.

The movie goes out of its way to portray Alex Rover (Jodie Foster) as a woman who is dealing with OCD and Agoraphobia. The review describes her character as a ‘phobic recluse.’ She then goes on to say this regarding fear.

‘For those who struggle with fear, whether as severe as Alexandra’s or not, we have reassurance in 2 Timothy chapter 1 that God did not give us a spirit of timidity (or fear), but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.’

In the movie Alex has been housebound for sixteen weeks and can’t work up the nerve to go to her mailbox. This is a very bad case of Agoraphobia that is depicted. Being a person who has suffered with this mental illness for many years I was a bit let down that the movie went out of its way to show how Alex was nothing like the hero she writes about, using Agoraphobia to make the point.

The reality is that a person such as Foster’s character doesn’t simply decide to leave the house, go to an airport, board a plane, and then to a distant part of the world. I won’t mention all of the other things she does along the way as she reclaims or as some say, finds herself.

It is a heroic thing to depict but it really misses big time on the reality of a person suffering with  Agoraphobia. If only it was that easy…

The reviewer then goes on to use a verse that has been misapplied in relation to Christians who suffer with Agoraphobia or other mental illnesses that involve fear. It has been shown that Agoraphobia and other mental illnesses are illnesses just as real as cancer or diabetes. So much research is being done in this area that should allow Christians with a mental illness not to be ashamed or think they are a spiritual failure.

I know the film and the author of the review would not in any way seek to misrepresent mental illness and I have no axe to grind. I will admit this is a topic close to my heart, so I’m a bit sensitive about what I read or see.

I appreciate all you do to let us know what we might be getting into when we go to the movies. God bless!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
Allan, age 54, USA

Big News!! New Resources

I had the opportunity to speak with the folks who publish two excellent magazines that I have listed as resources under the “Media” section off to the right side of the page.  I have had the chance to speak with Joanne Doan who is the publisher of both magazines.  She was kind enough to send me a complimentary issue of each for me to read.

The first magazine is the one that’s been around longer titled “bp magazine,” with bp being short for Bi-Polar.  The magazine offers a wealth of information along with various articles to educate and uplift the reader.  You can “sample” the magazine at their web-site.  They also offer a free e-mail newsletter.

The other magazine is brand new and it’s titled “Esperanza” and it deals with both anxiety and depression.  Again, you will have access to all sorts of facts about these two mental illnesses right at your fingertips.

Both of these magazines can be an excellent resource for a person who suffers with one of these mental illnesses or for family members and friends.  The magazines come out quarterly and you can subscribe to them at their respective web-sites.

For some readers these magazines may not be of interest to you or you may object to them for any number of reasons.

Obviously, as they have many books to offer and various articles that have and will be written, I can’t say I would agree with everything that is offered or written.  But from what I have seen, these are two magazines that would be quite welcome in the waiting room of a counselor or psychiatrist. I also believe they may be quite welcome for many who read here.  Yes, I will be subscribing to “Esperanza!”

There are a lot of excellent resources for you to utilize that are offered on “More Than Coping.”  I encourage you to take a look at them.  Maybe you are looking for counseling or a church to attend that doesn’t take the view that mental illness is a spiritual problem.  I am always looking to add to these lists.

God bless!  Allan

The Panic Of Infertility- Shannon Woodward

The following was written by Shannon Woodward.  It is the first chapter from her book, Inconceivable: Finding Peace in the Midst of Infertility (Cook Communications, August 2006) I had planned on running this sooner but felt it appropriate to run an article she had written about the suicide of her mother first.  Shannon is a professional writer and at the end of her article you can learn more about her.

Shannon posted here for the first time a few weeks ago. I followed the link on her posts and learned of her writing.  I e-mailed and asked if she would consider  writing or providing something she had already written about her mother or about mental illness.  Shannon asked me to consider including the topic of infertility to the list of topics we seek to cover on the blog.  As I read her article and then went on line to read some more I decided to add the topic of infertility to our list of topics.

As with the suicide of her mother almost 21 years ago, Shannon writes about the topic of infertility from personal experience.  In the future I hope to post more from Shannon, as time and circumstances allow.  I pray this article will be a source of blessing and comfort to those God brings by to read it.  You can visit her web-site at  http://www.shannonwoodward.com/ and her blog at  http://windscraps.blogspot.com/

Chapter One

PANIC

January, 1988

No one has ever come right out and asked me how I feel about being infertile. Loved ones have looked at me with sad eyes and said, “I know it’s hard for you.” Friends have told me, “I’m sure it’s awful.” And once a doctor, trying his best to be empathetic, patted me awkwardly on the shoulder and said, “Tough break.” But no one has ever asked me to describe my feelings.

I have a ready answer. If someone were to walk up to me and say, “Tell me exactly what it feels like to find out you are unable to conceive,” I’d answer, “It’s just like drowning.”

Not that I’ve actually drowned before. But I came pretty close, the summer I turned twelve. That’s how I know it’s the best comparison one can give for the suffocating experience of infertility.

It was a normal day at the public pool—bright sunlight, cobalt sky, lazy white clouds. My mother had slathered herself in a concoction of baby oil and iodine (we didn’t know a thing about skin cancer in the seventies) and was lying in a semi-conscious state on a chaise lounge in a concrete sea of equally oiled-up mothers. My youngest sister, Tarri, was in the toddler pool pretending to know how to swim. My middle sister, Megan, had just hopped onto my back for a game of “taxi.”

“Where can I take you?” I asked in my best cab-driver voice.

She pointed to the deep end of the pool. “I need to go shopping. Take me to that store way over there.”

As if convinced I’d obey her, she grabbed hold of my neck much the way I imagine a 65 pound snake would and gave me a good kick to jump start me.

I looked at the far end of the pool. I’d been there before—plenty of times, actually—but never with a boa clutching my neck.

Her chronic kicking set me in motion. Traffic was heavy that afternoon, but I wove my way expertly through the crowd, beeping in all the appropriate places and saying thank you to those who yielded for us.

As we neared the rope dividing the four-foot and twelve-foot sections, the floor of the pool began to slope downward and the water rose with each step. It quickly covered my neck, and then my chin. Megan spurred me on. “Keep going!”

My plan was to grab the rope, then inch us both to the side of the pool. From there I’d just pull us along the edge until we reached the deep end.

About three feet from the rope, I began to have some doubts. It was there – just in front of us – but I was now standing on my tiptoes, and every step brought the water higher. The chlorine-tainted water sloshed against my lips. Errant waves splashed the bottom of my nose. I was just getting ready to turn us around when, unexpectedly, someone bigger and much heavier fell against the two of us. The force propelled us forward a foot or two. I had a half a lungful of air, but that was it—and now the water completely covered my head.

From beneath the surface, I could hear Megan protesting. She didn’t like water up to her chin, never mind that her taxi driver was completely immersed. She tightened her already vise-like grip and began kicking me harder.

I opened my eyes. The pool was crowded; wiggling bodies and dog-paddling arms and legs churned the water on all sides of me. I looked up and saw the blue sky just beyond my reach. A dozen sets of toes—their owners happily unaware of the drama unfolding below—splashed the surface next to the edge of the pool. Muffled screams and laughter rippled slowly through the water. Life continued on all about me, while my heart started thudding and my lungs began to burn.

It probably lasted only ten or fifteen seconds, but my time underwater felt like an hour. Megan’s slight weight was too much for me. I tried but just couldn’t kick myself up to breathe. Caught between the safety of the shallow end and the dangers of the deep end, with nothing to grab hold of, I saw no way out. I’d die out there in the deep end of McCollum Pool, while my mother tanned herself and my sister kicked my sides in indignation.

But then, right when I knew I couldn’t hold my breath a single second longer, someone dove in next to us and I got bumped again. This time, the bump pushed me beneath the rope. I could see it just above my head, floating there like a lifeline. I reached up and barely managed to snag one of the white buoys.

Nothing ever felt as good as that first lungful of hot, August air. I gulped and gasped and retched until I could compose myself. And then I unloaded Megan on the side of the pool and ran off to tell everyone I knew that I almost drowned.

On another cobalt blue day some fourteen years later, I went under again. This time I was in a sterile examination room. My husband sat on a stool next to me. My doctor sat in front of us, holding a clip board and shaking his head. Without any warning at all, he spoke words that leapt onto my chest, squeezing the air from my lungs and pulling me under. There wasn’t time for a breath; I simply began suffocating.

“You’re infertile,” he’d said.

He kept talking, but I was already so far under at that point that his words barely reached my ears.

What I did manage to hear—despite the murky thickness of shock settling over me—was the sound of a child giggling in the hallway beyond the door. Little fingers brushed against the lower half of the door and I heard a woman’s voice saying, “Hold my hand, Sweetie.” I pictured those tiny fingers, and the child I knew they belonged to—a blond little boy; a boy with my husband’s large blue eyes and my smile; a boy being swept away before I had a chance to see or touch or hold him.

The giggling drifted away, along with the last of my breath.

The doctor spoke my name.

“Shannon? Did you hear what I said?”

I didn’t.

“The laparoscopy showed that both your fallopian tubes are blocked. I couldn’t fix them during the procedure. Unless you have surgery, there’s nothing more I can do.”

Our insurance wouldn’t cover any more procedures, at least not any for the purpose of increasing fertility. We’d barely gotten them to cover the cost of the laparoscopy, and only then because I’d had recurrent pain and my doctor insisted we check for endometriosis.

The weight of this news pressed me down, further and further.

“How much would the surgery cost?” Dave asked.

“About $8,000.”

That was $7,000 more than we had in savings.

“Would they let us make payments?”

The doctor scoffed. “Sure—half down today and half the day of the procedure.”

He glanced at his watch. “Sorry I didn’t bring you better news. Let me know if you decide to have the surgery.”

He and his clipboard skittered out the door, leaving my husband to deal with me the best he could.

I don’t recall the drive home. I just remember the feeling that something was dying.

Something was.

Article by Shannon Woodward

Shannon Woodward is the wife of a Calvary Chapel pastor and the mother of two adopted children. She’s currently an editor with The Word For Today and the author of Inconceivable: Finding Peace in the Midst of Infertility (Cook Communications, August 2006) and A Whisper in Winter: Stories of Hearing God’s Voice in Every Season of Life. She is also a regular columnist for Christian Women Online.

Excerpted from Inconceivable: Finding Piece in the Midst of Infertility, Ó Shannon Woodward 2006 (Cook Communications). Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Stigma Of Mental Illness In The Church

This article is used by permission and can be found at NAMI.

Stigma of Mental Illness

The Role of the Faith

Community

(Presented at the 2003 NAMI Oregon Convention)

by: Gunnar Christiansen, M.D.

I always listen closely to the introduction to see if I hear any new information about myself.   What defines us?  Are we what we have done, or what we have not done?  Are we what we were, or what we hope to be?  Are we what others think we are?  Are we what we do, or are we the reason that we do something?  Are we who we are in spite of, or because of some one or some thing?  Are we a “work in progress?”   Who are we anyway?

One thing for sure, if we are afflicted by an illness or disorder, we are not the defect. Whether we are tall, short or medium, whether we are black, white or in between, whether we are shapely or pleasantly plump, we are all persons.   We are all an equal part of God’s creation.

God has allowed mental illness to exist in our world, but defining someone by the fact that he or she has developed such a disorder is a creation of man, not God.  Scripture tells us that God created us in his image.  It does not say that he created “schizophrenics” and “manic-depressives.”  These unfortunate terms used for descriptive purposes are marks of stigma that lead to discrimination.

“To make a difference in treatment or favor on a basis other than individual merit” is one of the definitions for discrimination given in Webster’s dictionary. Unfortunately this is what is happening more often than not in our nation and world today.

Those of us in this room appreciate that each of us has unique talents, regardless of whether or not we have a mental illness.   Unfortunately, however,  far too many of those outside of this room seem oblivious to this fact.

This lack of understanding leads to a situation in which everyone loses. Those with a mental illness are robbed of an opportunity to have an environment, which encourages their participation, and society is robbed of the opportunity to fully benefit from the talents of those with these “no fault disorders.”

However, I am reluctant to throw too many stones at others.  Prior to our son becoming ill with paranoid schizophrenia, neither my eyes nor my heart were open.  I did not fully appreciate the challenges faced by those with a mental illness.  I believe I had sympathy, but my lack of understanding prevented me from having empathy, which is necessary before a meaningful response will happen. My lack of action played a role in the continuation of the stigma and discrimination of mental illness.

Should the Faith Community be involved in the fight against stigma?  If so what role should it play?  I suggest to you that it should play the leading role, but does it have the will to do so?

The answer to this last question can be influenced significantly by us, especially the vast majority of us who are part of the Faith Community.  We are at least partially responsible for whatever actions and lack of actions that we attribute to it.

In order for the Faith Community to assume a significant role, a paradigm shift is needed.  It appears that this change of focus will not occur, however, until those of us that are affected by mental illness become the catalyst for this change.  Our combined advocacy has the potential of getting the Faith Community, as a whole, to accept ministry to, with and from those with a mental illness as a central part rather than just a peripheral part of its mission.

Don’t be discouraged if, at times, it seems that your advocacy in your place of worship is not particularly successful.  When I get that feeling, I refer to a quote by Robert Louis Stevenson that I saw on the packaging of a loaf of bread, “Don’t judge your day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”

So what should we attempt to do as one person among many?  How can we influence our fellow Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs and those of other faiths.  What is the first step?

In my advocacy, I find that looking for direction in scripture is basic to the development of an effective response.  I believe God has a significant message for us in the Book of Joshua 6: 13 & 23.

“The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the Lord …..”

“When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed …..”

New International Version

“The Walls Came Tumbling Down”

It is time for us to convince the Faith Community that it should join us in leading all of society on a march.  It is time for us to shout and blow our horns. The wall of stigma of mental illness must come down.

For the 90% of us who do not have a serious mental illness, the wall is invisible.  But those with one of these disorders can see it clearly.

A proper response by our nation to the challenges faced by those affected by mental illness involves more than just what happens in our legislature and in our medical research laboratories.  Even if we are successful in passing every law that we feel is indicated and develop the very best possible medications, we will still have the significant challenge of stigma.

Society places a great deal of emphasis on the importance of giving medication to those with hallucinations and delusions in order to return them to reality, but gives little consideration to the world of stigma and discrimination to which they are returned.  Perhaps rather than having the question, “Doesn’t God care?,” it would be more fitting to have the question, “Don’t we care?”

Webster’s dictionary defines stigma as a mark or brand indicating shame or discredit.  The stigma of mental illness makes an invisible mark, but it goes much deeper than any brand with even the hottest of irons.

No one jokes about someone having cancer or any other illness.  Why do we persistently see it happening to those with a mental illness?

Why is it so rare to see someone with a mental illness portrayed as a hero and/or recognized for positive contributions to society in movies, television shows or novels?  Is there really only John Nash who deserves recognition?

We are faced with a formidable struggle.  Our opponent is ubiquitous.  It seems to be everywhere all at the same time. It is clever.  It gets people to expand its effect without their even realizing that they are doing it.

It’s ingenious. It affects people’s ability to make an accurate assessment of others.  As mentioned, instead of judging others by who they are and what they are doing, they judge on the basis of what illness or disability that they might have.

It influences people in such a way that they become insensitive to the effect that their comments and actions might have on others.  It deceives people into feeling that they somehow elevate themselves by belittling others.

It effectively puts glasses on people that distort their vision. It prevents them from seeing that we are all created equal and that we all have the right for the pursuit of happiness.

It utilizes fear to further its cause.

Regardless of how daunting our opponent appears to be, we have good reason to believe that we can be victorious.  Our opponent is evil and can be defeated.

We are not alone in the battle. We have an ally and we could not have a better one.  With God’s help, we can cause the wall of stigma to come tumbling down.

We are also huge in numbers. The Faith Community’s troops are widespread.  We are everywhere.  We can be clever and ingenious as well.

We can provide glasses for others that will clear their vision and enable them to see that each person is considered special by God.

We can defeat unwarranted fear through education.  Attitudes can be changed.  Perceptions can be cleared up.

But to win the battle, we must do more than just talk.  We must march, blow our trumpets and march again.

As we prepare for this battle, as we focus on possible solutions to our challenge, we must first carefully assess if we are part of the problem.   I believe that Jesus’ admonition to us in Luke 6:41 is worthy our attention, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the log in your own.”

An area that demands our immediate attention is the problem of silence.  I would like to share with you a poem that I received from Louise G. Fisher of Raleigh, North Carolina, which speaks to this issue.

The Hush of Mental Illness

Hush!   Say the families.

We’d be embarrassed for others to know.

Hush!   Say the siblings.

We’d rather die than let anyone know.

Hush!   Says the minister.

Someone might feel uncomfortable, you know.

Hush!   Say the deacons.

We look after the physically sick, you know.

Hush!   Say some church members.

I don’t want anyone to know about me or my relatives, you know.

Hush!   Say some government leaders.

There’s not enough money to go around, you know.

Hush!   Says society.

Cause we already don’t want to know, you know.

Stigma produces silence.  Silence allows stigma to go on unabated.  We do need more than talk to stop stigma, but it would be a huge step toward its elimination if the voices of those affected by mental illness could be heard.

I am not suggesting that it is wrong, if some want to keep their illness or the illness of a family member a secret.   Often, when they do have the courage to talk to someone, rather than receiving support they are shunned. Rather than being understood, they are misunderstood.  Rather than being asked, “What can I do to help?, they are offered inadequate, simplistic solutions for extremely complicated problems.  Rather than receiving love, they might lose an opportunity to develop a close relationship with someone who is important to them. They might even find themselves excluded from relating with members of their own family.  The job of a schoolteacher might be put in jeopardy, if it became known that he or she had schizophrenia or manic depression.

Parents that would like to advocate concerning the illness of a son or daughter  might be requested by him or her to not to let it be known that he or she has one of these disorders.

Even though secrecy is understandable, I urge those who are affected by mental illness to avoid the attempt to carry the load alone.  The load is too heavy.  It is OK to ask for help.  Doing so is not a sign of weakness.  A trusted friend and particularly one that is a clergy person, as well, can be and usually is of immense help.

Unfortunately silence does have consequences.  When we do not go to our clergy person, we allow stigma to be the winner.  Our clergy person is not educated by us and we miss an opportunity for spiritual support.

I am thankful for the advocacy of those that do feel comfortable in disclosing such personal information to the general public. Nevertheless, I do not wish to contribute guilt to someone that desires to remain silent and already has a heavy burden.

It seems that avoidance by individuals and families to reveal the existence of mental illness in their lives is often justified, but we as a nation should feel awful about this apparent necessity.

It is amazing how many people who have a mental illness or have it in their family sit in lonely silence until they hear someone like us tell our story.  It may only be privately to us that they reveal the existence of mental illness in their life, but it is a start in their releasing this burden and a significant step in their healing process. It is in our own congregations that we have the best opportunity to have such a personal touch with those that have been silenced by stigma.

Even though we may be more prone to look at our inadequacies rather than at our attributes, we must be careful not to overlook the power of being a role model.  Our witnessing tells those that may be sitting in silence that they are not alone.  They will see that others have survived.  By openly stating the burden that the existence of mental illness and its stigma has had on our lives, we assist those in silence to understand that there is a legitimate reason for feelings of insecurity in a world that is not being fair.

Our story is powerful whether we are a family member or have one of these disorders ourselves. When we combine it with giving the positive message that there is no shame in having a mental illness, we demonstrate that we refuse to be dominated by stigma.  Those that have found stigma to be overwhelming and have sought refuge in isolation can be strengthened through our willingness to fight back.

Stigma is not just something that is around us.  It is not just external.  It can also penetrate our psyche.  It can be internalized.  For those with a mental illness, it can lead to feelings of inadequacy.  Its effect is similar to what happens to a child who is constantly berated by parents and/or peers.  It is very difficult to accept the fact that one is OK, if constantly told that he or she is not.  As a result, it is not surprising that a person might end up accepting the opinion of others as his or her own.

This result can be reversed, however, by helping those with a mental illness realize that they are so special that their opinion of themselves need not be altered by the unjustified attitude of others.We can praise their accomplishments and provide opportunities for them to show their capabilities to themselves and others.  Where better for this to happen than in our places of worship.

Providing those with a mental illness opportunities to serve others voluntarily or as an employee is particularly helpful.  The complexity of the work should be geared to the level of capability of each individual. For some it may be necessary to start with something that is not stressful and is on a part time basis. Others are extremely capable and only need the chance to show their worth.

Participation in meaningful activities can enable one to recognize that he or she can be someone who helps others instead of someone who needs help. I have been advised repeatedly by those with a mental illness that volunteering and/or employment have been major factors in rebuilding their self-esteem and confidence.

Elevated self-esteem and self-confidence will not eliminate stigma but will empower a person to more effectively resist the effects of stigma. This empowerment could be happening throughout the Faith Community, and would be happening, if ministry to, with and from those with a mental illness was central to the mission of each congregation.

The most powerful antidote for the internal effects of stigma and discrimination is spiritual strength.  Reinforcement of the conviction that God loves us and is with us even in our most difficult times is of utmost importance.

Spiritual strength will diminish, however, unless it is constantly nurtured through giving and receiving loving care in our relationships with others. Thus it is of major importance that each of us attempt to develop a welcome and spiritually nourishing environment for those affected by mental illness in our own place of worship.

For those of you who are interested, I have placed copies of an article that I have written concerning the steps that are needed in establishing ministry to, with and from those with a mental illness on a table at the back of the room.  We also have other helpful free items, such as video and audio tapes, at our FaithNet NAMI table in the exhibit area.

The word religion is derived from the Latin word “Relixio.”  “Lixio” is translated as ligament or connection.  I believe it is fair to think of religion as a means of reconnection with God.

Scripture repeatedly tells us that God wants us to come to him.  He wants us in his presence.  He wants us to have a place of refuge.  He wants us to have a sanctuary.  He wants us to have peace.  He also wants his voice of love and compassion to be heard and he wants us to do the talking just as he directed  Moses as it is recorded in Exodus 4: 11 & 12:

“Now go, and I will be with your mouth

and teach you what you are to speak”

David makes it clear in Psalm 37 that God wants to aid us in advocating for that which is just.:

“Commit your way to the Lord;

trust in him and he will do this:

He will make your righteousness

shine like the dawn,

the justice of your cause like

the noonday sun.”

Who are we?  For sure we are all special.  First and foremost we are persons that have a spiritual base through which God has offered to enter our lives with love and strength.  We are persons that have the ability to perceive not only our needs, but also the needs of others.  We are persons that are able to respond to these needs in a helpful manner.

What a wonderful gift it is to be able to give a helpful response to someone in need.  When we combine the words “able” and “response,” however, we see that there is a “catch” to this gift.  We are responsible.  We are our brother’s keeper.

By utilizing the power offered to us by God, we could awaken the “Sleeping Giant,” the Faith Community.  We could do so by picking up our trumpets, marching, blowing our horns and shouting.  We could be and must be the alarm clock.

Unless we accept this challenge, unless we accept this opportunity, unless we accept this responsibility, I believe the vast majority of our congregations will go on sleeping and stigma will continue to flourish.  Without the active involvement of the Faith Community, NAMI may be able to trim the branches of stigma, but it is extremely unlikely that we will be able to destroy its roots.  With persistence and prayer, however, I am convinced that the Faith Community will awaken and join us in our march and when it does there will be a loud shout and the wall of stigma will come tumbling down.

Thank you very much.

Prayer Requests and Praise Reports- July 25th

Psalm 5:1  Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my meditation.
Psalm 5:2  Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray.
Psalm 5:3  My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.

New Prayer Requests

Erunner–  The funeral for our nephew was this past weekend.  Please pray that his family would receive strength from God as they struggle to cope with his sudden passing.

Past Prayer Requests

Okie Preacher–  Please pray for my friend Ralph and his wife Carolyn. She has been diagnosed with cancer again and this time it appears to have spread throughout her body.

Linnea–  “Would you guys mind praying for me? Something is going wrong with my thyroid and it is getting progressively worse today.  Thanks”

Philbert–  “I am a 58 year old man and have suffered from depression and Borderline Personality Disorder all of my life. I cannot remember anytime that I did not have suicidal thoughts, it continues even today. I visualize how and where I would do “it” never frees me.”

Jan– Has been extremely depressed with thoughts of dying entering her mind.  Pray that God would bring her to a place of peace and that these thoughts would become a thing of the past.

Jesus Freak 4 Real– never again seek to take her life.

Jesus Freak 4 Real–  She is in a desperate place as life overwhelms her at times.  Pray that she can receive the correct medication that will address everything she has been diagnosed with and renew her desire to live as God touches her and fills her with His Spirit.  Keep her husband in prayer as well.

Rachel–  Prayer as she battles depression resulting from her Bipolar II Disorder and as she adjusts to weaning off of medication.  This is a very dark time for her and she desires Jesus to break through with His marvelous light.

Rachel– Prayer as she seeks direction about possibly moving to Oklahoma.

kept-by-the-king –  Please pray for my brother who suffers deeply from Mental Illness, he is suffering so much, he does not know the Lord… my heart aches for him.

Anne – To overcome the “ feeling like it is my lack of faith or not being the “right” kind of Christian or believer that prevents my having “victory” or even immunity from depression. I also struggle with maintaining prayer when in the deepest parts of depression and grief.”

Nene – Prayer for her father to be saved and to come to a place of peace. Father and brother have been  estranged 27 years.

Dusty – Prayer as she battles Depression.

Una – Boyfriend on third tour of Iraq displaying symptoms of PTSD. Pray that God would protect him and that he can get the help he may need upon completing this tour. Pray that Una would receive wisdom from God as to her role in this situation.

Erunner – Our nephew is serving his second tour in Iraq. Pray for his safety and emotional state as he serves our nation.

Our brother-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4, non-small cell Lung Cancer on March 18,

Our nephew’s wife has MS and has also been diagnosed with epilepsy. She is in her 20’s with two small children.

Cash – That God would continue to heal and lead him as he battles PTSD.

Maryellen – Please pray for my daughter Jennifer and her daughter Avery, who was born with Down’s Syndrome. Strengthen the family as they enter into therapy for Avery that is very demanding. Pray also for their 2 and a half year old son during this time. Pray that the family will not be overwhelmed and that God will strengthen and guide them.

Praise Reports-

Erunner- My visit to the dentist went great as God once more walked with and strengthened me.

Erunner- Our son and his friend made it to Indonesia.  His e-mail was filled with excitement and they have already been surfing.

Note….. As I compile this list I am eliminating those requests or praise reports that have been answered. I am also shortening the requests that are not new while trying to keep the essence of the request intact.

The Gift- Shannon Woodward

Shannon Woodward is the wife of a Calvary Chapel pastor.  She is also an editor, speaker, and the author or co-writer of eight books, including Inconceivable: Finding Peace in the Midst of Infertility and A Whisper in Winter: Stories of Hearing God’s Voice in Every Season of Life, and a columnist for Christian Women Online.

Shannon has kindly agreed to allow us to publish any of her writings here at More Than Coping.  She has a heart for women who face the reality of infertility. She writes from personal experience and this will now become a topic we will seek to provide information for and more importantly, encouragement for men and women who face this trial in their lives.

The following article, however, speaks about Shannon’s mother, who committed suicide almost 21 years ago, and the impact it had on Shannon as she faced life’s milestones without her.

the gift


“How could I ever prepare for an absence the size of you?”
~ poet unknown

Some losses are, to borrow a phrase from my grandfather, “no bigger than a minute.” These small absences are insignificant in the scheme of things, and easy to measure. You work your tongue up into the gap in your mouth, and probe the space your tooth once occupied. You plunge your hand into the pocket where your wallet should be. In those “no bigger than a minute” cases, the loss is really no larger than the space it inhabited.

But when the loss is the size and shape of love, it defies measurement.

My mother committed suicide when I was twenty-six. If a detail is needed, it’s this: she suffered from manic depression. The whys and hows of her death don’t alter the pain we suffered; they don’t buffer our hearts or close the book. We’ve been walking this loss for seventeen years and we’ve yet to spy the end of it. It’s so dense we can’t punch our way through, so high we can’t see the sun.

I’ve marked my grief by the milestones I pass. She wasn’t there when my doctor told me I was infertile. She wasn’t there when I went shopping alone for our soon-to-be-adopted son, and followed a mother and pregnant daughter from rack to rack, eavesdropping on a conversation that should have be mine. Nor was she there the day Zachary was born, or the day he took his first steps, or the day he became a brother to Tera. At each of those milestones, her absence thickened the room and dulled the light.

Every milestone hurt, but for some reason, the most recent had a disproportional sting. In September of last year, four boxes of books arrived on my front porch. I yanked open the first and pulled out a book–a book with my name on the cover. There’s no explaining the thoughts and feelings that rush over you when you hold that first book in your hands, when you realize the task is truly finished. I’m not sure even a writer can put words to that moment. But even while I sat there, holding that book, a shadow fell across the moment and stole a piece of my joy. She wasn’t there to share this milestone.

I grieved anew for weeks. What would she think? What would she say? I knew, of course, and yet I wanted to hear it straight from her. I thought again of the selfishness of her death, and how the ripple of that one moment has yet to strike a shore. My frustration was palpable. I couldn’t remedy this lack. I couldn’t take a single action that could pry the words I needed from my mother’s lips.

Early one Sunday morning, still stinging, I went out to my office (a separate building behind our house) to search my files. I was teaching the 3-4 year olds at church that morning and needed a particular item for our craft. I had a notion that deep in the back of my files, I’d stored–for some inexplicable reason–an old report from college. For my required special needs course, I’d written a fictional account of my nonexistent, vision-impaired son, Alex. I’d had to create a diary of his daily activities for an imaginary week in our lives. The cover to this report was what I was after on this morning–it was transparent blue plastic, just what I needed for our Sunday school craft.

I smiled when I saw it. How had I remembered that? I flipped the report over and released the tabs, pulled the pages out and tossed them in the garbage. I didn’t need the report. I didn’t even know why I’d kept it all that time. But I was glad I’d kept the plastic cover.

Later that afternoon, I went back out to my office to find a book. I noticed the garbage needed emptying–especially with the added pages I’d thrown in that morning. Walking over to pick it up, I glanced down and saw that the report had separated itself into two halves, one flopping forward and one flopping back. And right in the center, tucked down deep, was a half-sheet of paper. I felt compelled to pull it out. Holding it up, I saw familiar, lovely handwriting, and read this:

Shannon,
Dad and I really thought you did a terrific job on your story. You sure write well. Love you much,
Mom

Her words held me like a hug. I cried, of course, and reread her note over and over. And then I found a frame for it, and placed it near my desk where I can see it easily. I can’t count the times my eyes have drifted to her words. God brought me a gift–a whisper across the years, a nod of approval, a touch from a hand I long to hold. He brought me what my mother couldn’t, on her own.

I will never stop missing her. But I’ve realized something odd: I know my mother better today than the day we buried her. I suppose that’s because I’m a mother myself now, so I understand the pride she felt for us and her gladly-made sacrifices. I recognize, now, those times when she gave her portion to us and lied about not being hungry. I understand the odd combination of love and anger and fear that filled her heart those nights she waited up to hear my key turn in the door. I know the questions she had about the future, and her place in it. I know her better, and if she were alive now, she’d be my friend.

I know my Father better, too.

www.windscraps.blogspot.com
www.shannonwoodward.com

Thoughts on Suicide- Dr. Larry Taylor

Suicide is not a comfortable topic for any of us.  Yet it is a grim reminder of the reality of the world we live in.  Larry Taylor has written about this topic in a plain and straight forward way that will educate and hopefully encourage the reader.  Larry speaks with the experience of having lost his oldest son to suicide in 1986.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention service available to anyone in suicidal crisis. If you need help, please dial 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You will be routed to the closest possible crisis center in your area. With more than 130 crisis centers across the country, our mission is to provide immediate assistance to anyone seeking mental health services. Call for yourself, or someone you care about. Your call is free and confidential.

2000 by Lawrence Russell Taylor, Ph.D

Suicide is not a subject anyone much likes to think or talk about, and whenever we suicide survivors bring it up, we are thought to be obsessed by people who wish we would “just get over it and move on”; and simultaneously thought to be less than edifying by fellow believers. Assuredly, we are moving on with our lives in ways that are hopefully meaningful, and, as ministers of the Gospel, it is certainly our desire to uplift the Body the Christ. However, edification of the believers does not involve ignoring and refusing to address the problems in society; indeed, our biblical mandate is to directly confront society’s ills with the healing of Christ. There may be no balm in Gilead, but there certainly is in Jesus. Those of us who have lost loved ones to suicide are not obsessed or unable to move on, we are personally aware of an area where the church has historically failed to minister appropriately and biblically. Our concern is no different than the concern of those who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, had a child killed by a drunk driver, or who are involved for personal reasons in the American Heart Association or in promoting cancer research and cures. We are seeking to comfort others with the same comfort with which God has comforted us, and we are simultaneously seeking to educate those not touched by our tragedy so that, cognizant of the need, they can respond biblically.

Suicide is a monumental problem in American society, and the epidemiological information becomes particularly poignant when we take the time to realize that every suicide statistic represents a wasted life and a death that left behind scores of hurting people. Death certificate information from the National Center for Health Statistics, coupled with population based psychological autopsy studies, show that suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in the United States (as of 1999 – the last year for which statistics are available), up from ninth place five years earlier, and now ranking behind heart disease, cancer, cerebrovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, accidents, pneumonia and influenza, and diabetes mellitus. In 1999, there were 30,535 deaths by suicide, which is an age-adjusted death rate of 11 deaths per 100,000 population – a number that is probably lower than reality because suicide is sometimes underreported to protect the reputation of families. Suicide rates are highest in the mountain areas of the western United States, with Nevada having the highest overall rate, and Alaska the second highest; they are lowest in the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions. Speculation abounds as to why the western area of the country is higher than the rest of the nation in suicide rates, with theories including the ready availability of firearms, western individualism, displaced families and lack of support systems due to transience.

Although women attempt suicide more often than men, men complete suicide far more often than women because men generally choose more lethal means, usually firearms, while women more often attempt suicide by poisoning themselves with medications which allow for medical intervention. Nationwide, about 60% of all suicides are completed using firearms. The highest rate of suicide in African-American, Native American and Native Alaskan populations occurs in men between the ages of twenty and twenty-nine. The rate of suicide among children and adolescents has risen dramatically over the last forty years – quadrupling between 1950 and 1990; it is the fourth leading cause of death (after accidents, cancer and homicide) in adolescent and young adult females, (age 15-24), the third leading cause of death among males age 15-24 (behind accidents and murder), the sixth leading cause of death (after accidents, malignancies, congenital anomalies, homicide, and heart disease) in girls age five to fourteen, the fourth leading cause of death among boys age 5-14 (after accidents, cancer and murder), the fifth leading cause of death among female 25 to 44 year-olds (after cancer, accidents, heart disease and HIV), the third leading cause of death among males age 25-44 (after accidents and heart disease), the ninth leading cause of death among women age 45-64 (after cancer, heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, accidents, liver disease, and pneumonia/influenza), and the seventh leading cause of death among men age 45-64 (behind heart disease, cancer, accidents, cerebrovascular disease, liver disease, and diabetes). Suicide is the ninth leading cause of death among African American children age 5-14 (after accidents, murder, cancer, congenital anomalies, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, HIV, and anomies.); the third leading cause of death among black people age 15-24 (after murder and accidents); and the seventh leading cause of death among African Americans age 25-44 (after HIV, heart disease, accidents, murder, cancer, cerebrovascular disease). The rate of suicide in older adolescents has doubled in the last few years. It is the second most common cause of death among white males ages 15-44 (behind accidents), the second leading cause of death among white females age 15-24 (after accidents), the fourth leading cause of death among white women age 25-44 (after cancer, accidents and heart disease), and the third leading cause of death among white boys, age 5-14 (behind accidents and cancer).

A “one size fits all” approach to preventing suicide will not work. The causes of suicide are ubiquitous, and in the professional literature appear to include the increase in alcohol and drug abuse, the increase in depression, the increased availability of firearms, increased rates of divorce and family dissolution, increased numbers of working mothers, greater family mobility which cuts people off from larger extended family support systems, societal pressure on adolescents to act “grown up”, the breakdown of predictable support systems, the stratification of the social classes, society’s tolerance of violence, and the decline in religious practice and observance. In addition to suicide, other self-destructive behaviors are proliferating in adolescents – alcohol and drug abuse, smoking, self-mutilation, eating disorders, and dangerous and demeaning sexual practices, to name a few. Although suicide cannot be predicted in many instances, nor, sadly, prevented in all, it can be prevented in some.

In a recent paper entitled “Can Suicide Be Prevented? A Professional Journey” by Pamela Cantor, Ph.D., republished in the Harvard Medical School “Guide to Suicide Assessment and Intervention” (Douglas G. Jacobs, M.D., Editor, Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, 1999), Dr. Cantor, a lecturer in psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Cambridge Hospital, Harvard Medical School, former syndicated columnist for the LA Times, and a renowned expert on teen suicide, lists twelve likely factors involved in the possible prevention of suicide, viz.:

  1. Having a specific plan that is lethal combined with the availability of the means to complete suicide makes a person at very high risk. Somewhere between 18 and 38 percent of those who commit suicide have made a prior attempt, yet 90% of those who attempt suicide do not die that way.

  1. The more impulsive, anguished and agitated a person is, the greater his risk of suicide.

  1. Those unable to see any solution to their problems are at risk for suicide because they feel overwhelmed and have lost hope.

  1. Access to a lethal weapon, especially firearms (and most especially hand guns) increases the risk of suicide dramatically. In England, a popular method of committing suicide was by asphyxiation with home heating gas. By changing the lethal coke gas to a less lethal natural gas, the suicide rate dropped 33%, proving that suicidal people will not often switch to another means of killing themselves when their method of choice is denied them. Removing access to weapons, especially from the hands of impulsive teenagers, would most likely save lives just as the epidemiologists claim.

  1. Depression carries a lifetime risk of suicide of 15%.

  1. The suicide rate for those with panic disorders is high.

  1. Schizophrenics have a 10% lifetime risk of suicide.

  1. Borderline Personality Disorder carries a 7% lifetime risk.

  1. Alcoholism carries a 3% lifetime risk.

  1. Anyone who has identified with or witnessed someone who has committed suicide is at risk – the so-called “copy-cat” syndrome that occurs when a rash of suicides follows the suicide of a classmate or rock star.

  1. Post-traumatic stress disorder carries an increased risk of suicide.

  1. Anyone abusing alcohol or drugs is at high risk for suicide.

In other words, a person is at risk for suicide if she has no inner psychological strength to cope with problems, cannot envision a brighter future, and is convinced suicide is a viable option to end the misery. The suicidal person may be frustrated, angry, depressed, anxious, mentally ill, physically ill or disabled, but not necessarily. Her risk increases if she has a history of suicidal behavior, a family history of suicide, has witnessed a violent death, and has access to lethal weapons. The combination of being impulsive and angry is deadly in adolescents.

Although the scientific literature does not yet support my conclusions because few if any controlled studies have been done, I am convinced that other risk factors for increased suicide besides those mentioned above include suicidal music, occult oriented games like “Dungeons and Dragons”, occult and violent “slasher” films, the demise of the family unit and of organized religion, and the pervasive philosophy of biological science that asserts a naturalistic, mechanistic, materialistic view of the universe.

While recognizing that many suicides defy explanation and others do not fit into any specific categories, it appears, based on the best available evidence that the most common causes of suicide include:

  1. Agitation, anger and/or anguish coupled with impulsivity.

  1. The collected stress of difficult circumstances out of which the individual can see no hope of relief.

  1. Depression.

  1. Mental illness.

  1. Drug and alcohol abuse.

  1. A family history of suicide.

  1. Occult/violent games and themes in literature, music and entertainment.

  1. Access to lethal weapons.

How then can we help those around us who may be suicidal?

  1. First, determine the lethality of the one to whom you are speaking. If a person has a viable plan with which to kill themselves, as opposed to a vague unspecified death wish, and has the means to carry out that plan, they are highly lethal and should not be left alone. Instead, accompany them as quickly as possible to a mental health clinic, psychologist or psychiatrist who can assess the need and take appropriate action.

  1. Next, remove any means of committing suicide as much as you are able – clear the person’s home of guns and lethal weapons, alcohol and drugs, for example.

  1. Third, make the person aware of the sinfulness of her decision, and of its devastating and life-long effect on loved ones.

  1. Fourth, give them hope in the form of the Good News of Jesus Christ, who alone can fix any problem, and turn around any life. He is able to restore, forgive and redeem in the most adverse of circumstances.

  1. Help the person locate, afford, get involved with, and stay committed to high quality professional psychological and/or psychiatric intervention, including the diligent use of prescribed medications.

  1. Over the long term, be a friend – supportive, caring, listening to feelings, concerned, and forgiving of wrongs without allowing the suicidal individual to become unhealthfully dependent on you.

  1. Finally, involve yourself in the greater community-wide effort to reduce the number of suicides.

What then are the practical steps individual Christians and congregations of believers can take to help reduce the number of people who choose to end their lives?

  1. We can arrange our own homes, and encourage others to arrange theirs, so that no child, teenager, or impulsive, depressed, or mentally ill adult can ever have any access to any firearms. We need to be certain that not only are our homes gun-proof, but that the homes our children and teenagers visit are as well.

  1. We need to clear our homes of any Internet, television, video, musical, or other reference to the occult, suicidal ideation, and violent material.

  1. Together, we can campaign for and politically support candidates and legislation that will restrict the access of lethal weapons by teenagers and children, reduce the graphic violent content of music, videos, games, television and the World Wide Web, and increase suicide prevention interventions in communities.

  1. We can use our influence as family members, clergy and coworkers to strongly urge those around us who appear agitated or depressed to seek medical intervention and faithfully take any medication prescribed. Medical researches have recently discovered that low serotonin metabolite 5-hydroxy-indole-acetic acid (5-HIAA) and homovanillac acid (HVA) levels in the cerebrospinal fluid are associated with violent and aggressive behavior, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, migraine headaches, premenstrual syndrome, and suicide. Although psycobiochemistry is in its infancy as a science, these discoveries are almost certain to lead to effective medications that can be used to balance the brain chemistry of some suicidal people and thereby prevent death in some instances. Mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (manic depression) have long been successfully treated with medications.

  1. Together, we can campaign and lobby for an ubiquitous variety of effective interventions ranging from advertising and educational campaigns to treatment options, targeted at reducing substance abuse, particularly alcoholism.

  1. On the local level, we can influence the public and private schools in our neighborhoods to open their doors to suicide prevention and anti-violence education taught by both experts and people who have been personally affected by suicide.

  1. We can strive for more solid marital commitment to prevent divorce and family dissolution, teach coping techniques to married couples, and increase our involvement in the community of believers we call the church.

  1. We can teach our children and the adults in our churches the sinfulness of suicide, and its devastating effect on those left behind.

Indeed, suicide is a dreadful sin – it is probably the single most self-centered act a person can commit; an act that devastates innocent spouses, children, parents, siblings, friends and relatives, and breaks the heart of the God of life. As believers, our response to the sin of suicide needs, however to reflect the love and infinite grace of the Cross by tenderly and effectively ministering to the broken and hurting, rather than condemning those weaker than the majority. The church’s response to suicide has historically been dismal. In the middle ages, the Church had accepted the doctrine that salvation came via good works and that therefore a person who committed suicide, because he did not have time to receive last rights, would be forever tormented in hell. Those who committed suicide were denied church funerals and burials, their property was confiscated, and their families were banished in disgrace. The Protestant church after the reformation did little to correct these errors, but instead continued with many of the same practices. Both the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches have since corrected their doctrine, but the disgrace of suicide remains in society today. It is precisely that disgrace that causes the powerful stigma associated with suicide and ruins the reputations of bereaved families. In formulating a Christian response, we first need to explore what the Scriptures say about suicide.

It is noteworthy that there are seven instances of suicide in the Bible that are recorded without comment as to the wrongness or sinfulness of the action, and with no mention in any case of what happened to the suicidal person’s soul after their self-imposed death. They are:

  1. Abimelech, a judge of ancient Israel, was mortally wounded when a woman of Thebez dropped a millstone on his head, and then asked his armor bearer to kill him so that he could avoid the disgrace of being killed by a woman. (Judges 9)

  1. Samson, blinded, defeated and bound by the Philistines due to his own rebelliousness to his Nazarite vow, killed himself by pulling the pagan temple down on himself and his enemies. (Judges 16)

  1. King Saul, defeated by his enemies, given to insane fits, fighting to maintain a position he should have resigned, fell on his own sword. (1 Samuel 31)

  1. King Saul’s armor bearer likewise fell on his sword out of loyalty to his master. (1 Samuel 31)

  1. Ahithophel, David’s counselor, was disgraced after he betrayed David to the usurper Absolom who then did not follow his advice, so he hanged himself. (2 Samuel 17)

  1. Zimri, a wicked king, died when he burnt down his own palace. (1 Kings 16)

  1. Judas, having betrayed Jesus, went and hanged himself, then his body fell and was broken on rocks below. (Acts 1)

Nowhere does the Bible indicate that a person who commits suicide is in hell; in fact, the eternal salvation of a person is not determined by how he dies, but by the atoning death and resurrection of Christ. Our salvation depends on what Jesus did, not what we do. Probably most believers die with some unconfessed sin of which they were not cognizant (and some they were aware of). Salvation is by grace, a free gift, not determined by a person’s ability to understand and confess sin. That is not to imply that suicide is all right; conversely, it is a hideous and selfish sin that wounds hearts deeply, but it is not an unforgivable sin. The only sin God cannot forgive is the refusal to be forgiven. In seeking to prevent suicide, I do not tell people they will go to hell if they kill themselves (who am I to make that judgment in any case?), but I do point out to them how deeply such an act will wound the innermost heart of God and all the people around them, and, if they are parents, how such an act will forever teach their children to escape life’s difficulties with self-violence. When I talk to those left behind after suicide, I can assure them of God’s infinite omnibenevolence and mercy, of His profound understanding of all the factors that go into the making of a particular human being, and that He is ready to forgive and embrace both here and in eternity on the other side of the veil of death.

In 1986, my oldest child Elliott killed himself at home with a 22-caliber rifle. He was not insane, had no history of mental illness or violent behavior, and gave no warning to his friends or family. His death was sudden, shocking and impulsive, and resulted in years of heartache, intrapsychic pain, familial trauma, social stigma, confusion, depression, anxiety, phobia, anger, sadness and grief for his siblings, parents, extended family and friends. Elliott’s decision to end his life while a junior in high school was a tragic, sinful, self-centered, hateful, wrong decision, but it was his decision, for which no one can take blame but him. Sinful as it was, however, it was not an unforgivable sin – his family has all forgiven him even though he wounded us deeply, and we are certain God has forgiven him also. After all, God’s willingness and ability to forgive far outshines ours.

One day, some months after his death, I was standing at his graveside weeping and hurting more deeply than I could have imagined possible, when I became somehow mystically aware of a holy Presence – Jesus was with me. I did not see or hear anything, no hallucinations or visions occurred, it was more an inner feeling than anything else – a feeling a skeptic would attribute to my parental grief. Nevertheless, in my heart I know the Presence was real and that my Lord was sobbing with me, doubled over with His arm about my shoulder, He wept like He did at Lazarus’ tomb, and in that instant, I knew that Elliott’s tragic decision had wounded the heart of God as deeply if not more deeply than it had my own. In a profound yet ineffable way, I understood that the universe was hard-wired in such a way that prevented God from preventing such tragedies, but that, far from aloof, He was touched by the feeling of our infirmities, a Man of sorrows and personally acquainted with grief who participates with us in our suffering with an empathy that is deep and lasting. At that realization, I stopped ranting against God for His failure in preventing Elliott’s death, and began to accept the participatory fellowship of His love.

In spite of our best efforts and most fervent prayers, some suicides will not be prevented and loved ones will be left behind to cope as best they can. When a person in your circle of acquaintances loses a loved one to suicide, you can help by:

  1. Being present with the bereaved person – just be there; you do not need to know what to say, in fact, you do not need to say anything, just be there and stay there; hold them, cry with them, hug them, weep with those who weep.

  1. Doing little things to help. When a loved one dies suddenly and tragically, we often feel overwhelmed and in a state of shock that makes even the most menial tasks difficult to accomplish. Having someone there to take out the trash, fix the meals, wash the dishes, do the laundry, pay the bills, and change the oil in the car, can be a great comfort.

  1. Knowing the stages of grief. Bereaved people universally feel hurt, sorrow, sadness, loneliness, loss, emptiness, isolation, confusion, anger, intrapsychic pain, fear, anxiety, numbness, seasons of denial, self-blame, victimized, and hopeless. Because everyone is an individual and no one had precisely the same relationship to the deceased other than the particular bereaved, everyone grieves differently – some feel all of the motions listed above intensely and profoundly, others feel them sequentially, others seem to major on one for long periods of time, some show their feelings, others hide them well; but, unless there was no love, all grieve. It is normal for bereaved parents who have lost a child suddenly and unexpectedly to feel these feelings intensely for at least five years after the death of their child. Spouses typically feel these losses for at least three years. There is no time-limit on grief – people need to feel whatever they are feeling for as long as they feel it, and they need to have someone with them for the journey who accepts the validity of those feelings, is nonjudgmental and forgiving, and can offer more love and support than hollow answers or well intentioned Bible verses.

  1. Speaking of the Bible, I have discovered personally and seen it confirmed in the lives of others, that most often believers are most profoundly affected by the Book of Psalms as they journey through the difficult work of grief, because the Psalms contain the entire spectrum of human emotion without religious platitude.

If we are willing to courageously face the problem of suicide directly and collectively confront it politically, pedagogically, sociologically, psychologically, medically, and religiously, we will positively impact our world with the healing ramifications of the Gospel by which we live, and in the process save lives and alleviate the suffering of the bereaved around us.

(Statistics and professional information for this article were taken from the Harvard Medical School “Guide to Suicide Assessment and Intervention” (Douglas G. Jacobs, M.D., Editor, Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, 1999) and from the National Center for Health Statistics of the United States government, “National Vital Statistics, Volume 47, Number 19, June 30, 1999”).