It was a Tuesday in September when my sister killed herself.
My brother rang me to tell me what had happened. When he said she was dead, I asked "How?" imagining that I wanted to know the answer. But when he said she had hung herself, I realised that I didn't want to know after all. The image came into my mind of her hanging there, and it stayed and wouldn't go away.
I got off the phone. I was stunned. My mind reeled with the shock. I knew she was unhappy, but why didn't she ring me? I would have helped her. The answer came, she would never ring me, not me whom she hated and despised.
For a while I tried to take it in, and then my thoughts turned to her immortal soul. Don't people who commit suicide go to hell? I loved her, no matter how she felt about me. I cried out "Lord have mercy on her Soul and take her up into your loving arms. It wasn't her fault."
It had been a still night outside, suddenly there was a gust of wind and the house creaked, then it was gone and the night was still again. God had spoken, and whatever was to happen now, was in his hands. Though she was married; well, recently separated; and with two children of her own, we, my brother, her husband, myself and my mother, all took part in arranging her funeral. I have another sister, she made arrangements to fly in from England, and even she took a part when she got in. So we filled our days until the funeral with phone calls and meetings, sorting out this and preparing that. We went and saw her body, laid out at the funeral directors, after the coroner had done the Post Mortem. If there had been any doubt that she was dead, it was laid to rest there with her.
It was hard to sleep in the time between getting the news and actually having the funeral. We each had our jobs to do and it fell to my brother to read a tribute. The tribute had to be written and I was roped into helping write it. This wasn't easy.
We'd managed to put something together for my other brothers funeral two years before. He'd died of leukaemia. But what do you say about someone who had deliberately taken their own life? We talked of her struggles and how she had overcome many of them, but not the final struggle.
I was asked to do a Bible reading, but which one? I prayed and then I asked the minister at our church. He suggested that Romans Chapter 8 verses 38 and 39 would be appropriate, they say:
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."He was right this was just the right reading.
There are a number of emotions that you go through at a time like this and several states of mind. There is denial. When my mother first got the news she wouldn't believe it and tried to get in touch with my sisters ex-husband to confirm it. She was unable to get in contact with him so she rang the police, who confirmed it.
There is shock. We all went through that, it makes you ask the questions which can never really be answered: Why? Wasn't there a better way?
There is anger.
Anger manifests itself in many ways at a time like this, but mostly in blame. It is quite natural, even necessary, for people to look for the cause of a suicide and blame is part of that search. It can be very unreasonable at first, but needs to be sorted through.
There is anger at the person who took their own life, they let you down, why weren't you enough to stop them? Anger that the police or ambulance officers weren't quick enough. And anger at yourself for not being enough or for just not being there at the right moment. Blame, is one of the most destructive things to come out of suicide. Often people blame each other, we managed to avoid this, but after my sister's funeral I found out that there were many people who blamed themselves.
She had had emotional problems and there were a large number of people available to help her. There was her respite nurse, who she could ring at any time, her psychiatrist, and her doctor. Our mother and father felt responsible, as did her husband, friends and workmates and of course, we, her siblings felt that we should have been able to do something.
There is pain/loss/grief. It is terrible to know that this person will never be a part of your life again, with any death their is grief, but with suicide there are other emotions tied up with it that make it harder to deal with. If you have struggled to save this person, there is failure and frustration.
For anyone closely involved there is rejection and often depression and even suicidal feelings of your own. For a while everything can seem quite pointless. And there are the unanswered questions that need to be satisfied. If you didn't see it coming, the WHY? question is one that won't go away.
My sister had been emotionally, even mentally ill for some time, and had made many suicide attempts before, so perhaps I should not have been surprised when she succeeded in killing herself, but I was. The policeman that I spoke to regarded it as very understandable considering her state of mind.
In many ways I have avoided the worst part of this loss, not that I have come out unscathed, but my sister would have very little to do with me in the last few years of her life. I don't know exactly why she disliked me, but she was older than me and it seemed to have begun from the moment I was born.
The last few years, however, I think things became worse between us because I kept saying that God was the answer to her problems. That may make her seem awful and me self-righteous, but I have to confess that I was probably pretty irritating, making the point over and over again.
I still believe God is the answer and has the answers for those who feel suicidal.
Wanting To Die
If you feel suicidal because of rejection, loss, abuse, entrapment or illness, there is help. God does not want us to feel this way and that is a strong truth that anyone can hang onto. First of all, anyone who is feeling this bad needs to pray and hold onto that truth and then start looking for help.
Try not to be discouraged if you don't find the help you need with the first organisation you contact, getting help can sometimes take persistence, that may not be easy when you're feeling depressed and unhappy but it is worth it.