I get my fair share of heartbreaking letters and emails. But this one, which came in yesterday as a comment to my post When Your Husband Derides Your Faith, is especially painful:
I have been so deep in this situation for the past several years. I grew up unchurched but came to Christ about three years ago.
My husband mocked my faith, ridiculed my beliefs in front of our children, insulted me and all the other “hypocrites in the church,” openly expressed his hatred for my participation in church, and often picked fights with me concerning church. When I couldn’t take it any longer and would finally snap back at him, he would say things such as, “Now, is that the way a Christian would act?” or (sarcastically) “God loves you and so do I.” I prayed and prayed.
It never got better, only worse. I tried talking to him, but his behavior continued. I was torn about what to do—there didn’t seem to be any good solutions. When It became unbearable and our safety was in question, I called for help. My husband then took his own life. I have so much guilt, but I continue trying to cling to my faith and pray for my children that one day they will know the goodness of God.
If the woman who wrote the above is out there reading this, please click on and read To Erin: You Are Not Responsible For Your Husband’s Suicide. It’s what I once wrote to a woman who wrote me about how her husband, like yours, committed suicide.
Actually, let me save you that trip to the other post, and cut and paste here what I there wrote to Erin:
Listen to me, Erin: Your husband’s suicide was not your fault. Trust me on this one. Any counselor—and you have got to get counseling for this—will tell you that your husband’s suicide was absolutely, 100% not your fault. That you feel guilty about that tragic event is as natural as snow being white. That’s the deal with suicides: they always leave behind at least one person who suffers profound, often life-long guilt over their certainty that they could have done something to prevent that suicide from happening. And they’re invariably wrong about that; there’s never anything they or anyone else could have done to stop what happened.
The real reason anyone ever commits suicide—the only reason anyone ever commits suicide—has nothing to do with events or circumstances that happen outside that person. Trillions of people every day get depressed and emotionally desperate, but don’t kill themselves. The only people who ever commit suicide are people infected with the profoundly serious condition of being suicidal. You husband was suicidal. It’s who he was; he had that terrible illness in him.
You absolutely must understand that you could no sooner have stopped your husband from acting the way his sickness made him act than you can control the weather. It’s possible that in any given circumstance you could interfere and stop a suicidal person from taking their own life—but that’s just a postponement, not a solution. A suicidal person who is stopped from a serious suicide attempt will try to kill themselves again, because that’s what suicidal people do. That’s the very mark of a suicidal person. Unless they get intense professional help (and often even then), suicidal people always try to kill themselves again. And there’s nothing anyone but they can do about that.
Erin, you are no more responsible for the fact that your husband committed suicide than you would have been if he had been born blind or with one arm. He was infected with a condition of which it was entirely beyond your powers to cure him. What gives you the right to let go of your guilt around this is that your guilt is based on absolutely nothing that’s real. You are suffering for no objectively valid reason at all. Maybe you could have been nicer. Maybe you could have been more responsive. Maybe you could have been less self-involved. Sure: we could all be better versions of ourselves, all the time. But no matter how great, understanding, wise, or compassionate you had ever managed to be, none of it would have mattered. Your husband still would have killed himself. The only person who could have stopped him from doing that was him, by seeking the kind of psychological counseling that you must now not fail to seek for yourself. Do it. Learn to let go of this burden which was never yours to carry in the first place.
One more thing, if I may. This terrible event in your life created for you a pain that is not of this world. Once you’re suffering as you are, Erin, you’ve moved into God’s territory. You just don’t “ask” God to forgive you, and then sort of move on. Stay with God on this. God has a lot to tell you now, and you have to carefully and attentively listen to it all. And it may take some time for God to tell you everything he wants you to know. Absolutely get the kind of counseling referenced above, which is indispensable to your healing. But at the same time (and as corny as this tends to sound to people who haven’t yet had the kinds of life experiences that strip this of cornyness), put yourself as fully as possible in God’s hands. Open your heart to his healing through the power and direction of the Holy Spirit within you. The Holy Spirit really is God inside of you, talking to you, whispering to you the truths that right now your mind, soul, and body need to hear. Avail yourself of the one who did allow his own life to be taken in order to not only heal you, but to keep you healed, forever.
If any of you have any additional words of comfort, I’m sure they’d be appreciated. Thanks.