Woman staring at the ocean

Finding Healing from the Pain of Suicide

I learned that being left behind by suicide is difficult and painful—but there is hope.

view of under the sea with picture quote. "It is OK to hurt. But it is also possible to heal."

Photo by Tim Marshall

Grief is like the tide: vast, unfathomable, and alternately crashing on the beach or pulling away into the sea. Often without warning, those grieving are fine one moment and broken the next.

The morning I received word about the death of my friend Nancy (her name has been changed for privacy), my mouth was dry and my heart clenched like a terrible fist. But as it became clear that Nancy hadn’t died of natural causes, my grief became more complicated. She had, after struggling with terrible depression, committed suicide. My grieving experience was compounded into something much stranger. Had this been merely an unexpected death, I would be expected to move on—maybe even say that it was the hand of God. But how could I think that way when it wasn’t his hand, but hers?

There is a term for the loved ones of those who have committed suicide: left behind. It’s poetic, but accurate. It’s also part of the title of a Mormon Channel podcast: “Left Behind by Suicide.”

As I listened to this podcast and heard the experiences of the Crockett family, I felt the emotions from that day all over again. Jane Crockett’s experience was especially touching. As she prayed, soul in turmoil, she heard these words in her mind: “Be still, and know that I am God.”

I received similar spiritual witnesses throughout the following weeks. Most days, the pain was great enough that I felt myself carried in the Lord’s arms, sustained by quiet moments when the waves pulled from the beach and the Spirit whispered that things would be okay. My testimony was stronger than ever in those weeks immediately following Nancy’s death.

It soon became obvious that, in moments when the pain was the worst, the comfort friends and family tried to give was insufficient. I didn’t want to hear that our Savior had atoned for us, or that families are forever, or that we would find joy in the Resurrection. Those expressions made me angry because even though I knew everything would be okay, most times it didn’t feel that way. The pain was so great that, though my faith was stronger than ever, I found myself biting my tongue to keep from misplacing my anger and frustration on these would-be comforters. My pain demanded to be heard.

“I think the best thing anyone can do is just listen,” Jane Crockett says.

I miss Nancy every day. And the more I keep going, keep walking, the more I realize that it is OK to hurt. The pain that demanded to be felt was real and powerful, and it would have been wrong for me to ignore it. Even after all this time, I still feel that pain in moments when I least expect it.

However, I have also learned through the pain that it is possible to heal. I’ve found a way to cope, through relying on the Savior, close family, and good friends. In the end, I am a better and more sympathetic person because of this experience. I have learned that I can be grateful for where and who I am without being grateful for the pain that got me here, just as I can be grateful for the marvelous life Nancy lived without being grateful for the terrible depression that took her away.

If you have been touched in any way by suicide, please reach out and get help. Please do not stay silent. Your Savior loves you and is there, waiting, arms outstretched. There is happiness ahead. But for now, we must endure.

To learn more about the Crocketts’ experiences and how you can help those left behind, listen to the Mormon Channel‘s podcast Enduring to the End, episode 20, “Left Behind by Suicide.”

Source: Mormon Channel 

—Liz Blodgett, Mormon Insights

feature image by jonatan becerra

Find more insights

Read “Combating Suicide,” a Mormon Insights article by Faith Sutherlin Blackhurst about the Church’s new suicide prevention website.

Read what Elder M. Russell Ballard has to say about suicide, as discussed in Carli Hanson’s Mormon Insights article “Talking about Suicide.

Read lds.org‘s Gospel Topics article about suicide.

Read “Healing Spiritual Depression,” a Mormon Insights article by Joshua Felix.

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One Comment

  1. Thank you for the article “Finding Healing After Suicide”. I have recently loss my 16 year old son to suicide. It’s been heart wrenching. Like the tide our grieving have been up and down. It is comforting to have the gospel and our knowledge of the atonement. I found comfort as I read the article. Thank you so much.

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