When a Loved One Commits Suicide
By: Dr. Dillon Burroughs
One of the greatest pains a person can face is the loss of a loved one to suicide.
I know. When I was only two years old, my grandmother ended her own life. I was too young to understand at the time. For years to follow, however, I faced many times when I wished my grandmother was there. From Grandparents Day at school to family holiday gatherings, something—someone—was missing.
Many other loved ones face similar pain. While there are no magic words to remove the heartache involved with losing a loved one to suicide, I have found encouragement in three important spiritual truths.
First, suicide is often misunderstood. We tend to believe a person “commits” suicide, ending his or her own life. The situation is often more complex. Mental illness frequently serves as a factor, leading to actions a person would never make under other circumstances.
Second, we don’t have to live overwhelmed over the suicide victim’s eternal destiny. In the Bible, Samson ended his own life, yet served as an example of godly faith and is certainly in heaven today (Hebrews 11:32). On the other hand, other people in Scripture committed suicide as unbelievers (1 Kings 16:18). In some cases, uncertainty remains (such as with Saul’s servant in 1 Samuel 17:23). Suicide is not a mortal sin (as often taught in Roman Catholic tradition). God knows each person’s heart and handles the situation according to His perfect wisdom.
Third, it’s not your fault. You may feel guilt as the result of losing a loved one to suicide, but that does not make you responsible for his or her actions. Do not second guess yourself, saying, “If only I had been there,” or, “If I had only done something sooner…” We are not in the place of God. In our human frailty, we do our best to love the Lord and love our neighbor as ourselves. When tragedy strikes, it is a time to mourn and comfort one another, but not to take blame for a tragedy we did not commit.
God knows your heart and understands your pain. We can trust Him in our weakness, looking to Him for strength. We are “not to be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6), but are called to trust in the Lord to help us walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4).
In crisis? Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org. This page is not monitored 24/7 and is not intended for crisis intervention.
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Dr. Dillon Burroughs
Dillon Burroughs serves as senior writer at The John Ankerberg Show and has written nearly 40 books on issues of faith and culture. He is also an associate editor for The Apologetics Bible for Students and has contributed to many works on apologetics and Christian worldview. Dillon is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and holds a PhD in Leadership from Piedmont International University. He lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with his wife, Deborah, and their three children.