Tag Archives: suicidology

How Can We #HoldOutHope? World Suicide Prevention Day 2015.

For some, suicide crashes into their lives without warning, it tornadoes through families leaving a painful wreckage in its’ wake.

For others, suicide is insidious. It’s the flash of a thought, the ache for an end to the pain.

For still more, suicide is a reminder of the guilt and despair that lingers after a suicide attempt.

Some of the pain experienced in life can be sympathised with; the loss of a loved one, or the diagnosis of a critical illness, but all too often, people touched by suicide aren’t sympathised with.

The man who’s desperately trying to hold on, but unable to escape the the suicidal thoughts which assault him every day.

The teenager whose life ended too soon, whose family are trying to pick up the pieces and make sense of a new normality without them.

The woman in her hospital bed, trying to come to terms with the scars her arms now bear and the reality that she tried to take her own life, her family at home, wondering what went wrong.

In the face of the darkest parts of the human mind; how can we respond?

 

 

Whatever feelings may be at the forefront of our own hearts and minds; hurt, anger, shame (and these are important and valid and must be cared for) the response has to be one of compassion.

Compassion, reaching out to share in the person’s pain can bring hope in the most tangible of ways.

Compassion is what the angel who nourished Elijah on Mount Horeb and it was what empowered Paul as he spoke to his desperate jailer. It doesn’t just speak trite words of sympathy, it’s the gut wrenching cry for someone else’s pain.

It’s an expression of love – and it’s a beacon of hope.

So in whichever way you face suicide, whether personally or professionally; respond with compassion. It can be the brightest light to get someone through their darkest night.

Wounds that Heal?

Two days ago I completed my third year project. A 10,000 word dissertation which has been a labour of love for the past year. “Towards a pastoral response to the suicidal” was the title and it has not been easy. And yet, it has been full of hope. Writing about suicide and suicidal feelings is not the happiest, most upbeat of topics – but writing about how we can support those suffering and educate the Church and society in which we live has inspired and encouraged me.

I wanted to share the final paragraph of my dissertation, because it expresses (briefly) the journey I have been on during the writing. It reads:

“In practice, suicide prevention is more complex and nuanced than can be written on paper. It is not merely a matter of adhering to rules and guidelines, but connecting with the pain and despair of the suffering, using our own pain behind us as an easel and painting a picture of hope, rooted in the biblical narrative and person and work of Jesus Christ, His palms bearing the scars of the nails and arms open wide leading his people home.”

During the writing and researching I have delved into the darker side of humanity, and yet I feel I have been able to glimpse the light that shines from and through Christ Jesus. It is a light which is not afraid of the darkness. It is a light that fights when the darkness threatens to drown it out.

It is my hope that my dissertation will not sit at the bottom of a drawer, gathering dust -but that I may be able to put it to good use and utilise what I’ve learned in the real world. It has, in some ways formed my own pain. It has reminded me that we have the gift and responsibility to use our pain to comfort those who are still in the depths that we once fought through. It is by the wounds of Christ that we are comforted and healed and saved. I am beginning to realise that our pain becomes the fire which burns for others. It is the fuel of our compassion.

As Nicholas Wolterstorff writes so beautifully:

“By his wounds we are healed”. In the wounds of Christ is humanity’s healing. Do our wounds also heal? This gaping wound in my chest – does it heal? What before I did not see, I now see; what before I did not feel, I now feel. But this raw bleeding cavity which needs so much healing, does it heal while waiting for healing? We are the body of Christ on earth. Does that mean that some of our wounds are his wounds, and that some of our wounds heal?” (1)

I believe, have to believe, that our wounds do heal and that in the process God may show his healing power through our wounds and the healing of those wounds. It is my prayer of petition, and my prayer of praise.

Balancing the Ethical and Pastoral

As you may know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, I’m currently writing my third year dissertation on ethical and pastoral responses to the suicidal.

It’s a challenging project, not least because of some of the pro-suicide sources I’ve had to engage with.

And yet, above all that I’ve learnt, am learning, is how to balance the ethical and the pastoral. How to be faithful to the biblical text whilst also serving the struggling and the suffering. Particularly with the issue of suicidality, it can be all too easy to either neglect the ethical or to simply judge and criticise. Neither of these approaches are helpful.

We have to try and get this balance right. I really hope that I’m going to manage it! I feel burdened more than ever to reach into the word and reach out to the suffering. Suicidal feelings are distressing and can devastate lives. It is my prayer that some of the research I’m doing is going to make a difference. That the study of such a despairing topic, will, somehow bring hope.