Letter From a Christian Woman Whose Non-Christian Husband Committed Suicide

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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:

John,

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.

*****************************************************************************************************************************

Email: johnshore@sbcglobal.net

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Christine

    To the lady who wrote the email: all my heart is with you, I am so incredibly sad for your loss and for what you are now dealing with. You are not in this alone, try and seek out someone who you can talk to who can help you deal with this. Words do not do justice to your pain, nor to our responses, but all I can say is there are people out there who love you, who are crying with you.

    When a close friend of mine took their life I was struck by a quote someone told me by Martin Luther:

    (maybe slightly wrong but close enough) "is this [suicide victim] any more to blame for the despair that overtook their mind than a man who is killed by bandits in the woods on his way home?"

    John is right, it is suicidal people can not control it, can not get rid of it (without much help), and no one can be blamed for it.

    Find strength in God, he is right there with you

  • http://dancinginthemoonlight-dee.blogspot.com/ Dee

    My heart breaks for that woman. Her husband belittled her for her beliefs for years and now that he has taken his own life she blames herself? Please do not blame yourself. You cannot control other peoples actions.

  • http://mymenandme.wordpress.com Janelle

    John, this is a beautiful response to a hurting soul. Your final paragraph, especially, is so important, and I echo it. My prayer is that this woman, and any other person hurting in such a profound way, will do what you suggest, no matter how corny it sounds. It is truth.

  • http://mommamindy.blogspot.com Momma Mindy

    Erin,

    May the Lord wash you and make you whiter than snow, may you feel His everlasting arms wrapped around you and may you learn the blessing of feeling the glory that the Lord gloriously marches beside suffering. May you be able to show your strength in the Lord to your children, as you lean on Him for healing and for the ability to just rise each morning and live in faith. Many are praying for you.

    I heard a preacher say once there is a misconception that suicide is an expression of self-hatred, he said it is the highest expression of self-love. That person loves to think about how he is going to make everyone else suffer and they spend time imagining their funeral, everyone's grief, etc. Friend, do not let your husband win this final argument, if this is the case. Soar with wings of eagles and let your feet be as hinds feet as you seek to live the Christian life you discovered a few years back.

    John, thanks for ministering to souls with healing words. Blessings to you all.

  • Glenda

    My husband commited suicide this past weekend. He had tried several times in the past to do it but never succeeded.

    I feel so guilty right now. I had separated from him 2 months ago because of mental abuse. I thought if I left it would be a wake up call to him to get help. My intentions were to go back to him when I saw he was trying to change. He sent me a letter the day before he died and in it stated that he loved me and could not live without me and If only I had talked to him. I was afraid to talk to him without him first having gone to counseling. Now I wish I had talked to him,maybe that would have stopped him. I feel so guilty.

    My sister had commited suicide 9 years ago and my husband did it the same way she did. How do I go on living?

    • Gem

      I am sorry to hear about your husband's death. My husband committed suicide three and a half years ago on Christmas Day, I had left him two months earlier because of our relationship troubles. My husband had childhood issues that made him an angry adult and there was alot of abuse, verbal, physical and alcohol in our relationship. I decided to leave and when he shot himself that night I had the biggest sense of guilt,horror and a loss of control I've ever felt in my life. We have two children together and had spent almost 15 years of our life together. so losing him broke me in half. I have to say there is a light at the end of the tunnel. My answer came in God, through prayer and some key Bible verses and a very good counselor, I am beginning the healing process and it's been a rocky road but one I am determined to do. I have started a local support group and just reaching out and helping others has been a blessing to me. I will share with you, one day I got angry at God and asked "why, why did you let him do it" and the response was simply this "He had free will, it was his will" It struck me then that yes, I had left the marriage and divorces hurt, but what he did with his depression, his anger was up to him. I told my husband to seek counseling, go to our pastor. but he continued drinking and raging and threatening my life. Like God told me that day when I questioned Him, "It was his will" We all have choices and my husband made his, a bad one but one he made. My husband could have had other options and God was there for him, but my husband turned his back and gave way to his depression and rage.

    • Christy

      I had also left my husband and he committed suicide as well. SUCH GUILT overwhelmed me until I believe the Lord showed me that I had to get out of that situation before he took me and his beautiful daughters down with him. I tried for 17 years to protect him and show him love. To show him that life was worth living. He spoke the worst profanities toward the Lord. He said he wanted to see God face to face and tell him what he thought of Him. I guess he has done that now. As my heart was in turmoil for almost 5 years with this…I have now found peace and my relationship with the Lord again. Suicide is NOT fair. Especially for the children. Keep moving. You’re not alone. Life is so beautiful now.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    By realizing that what your husband did was a viciously bullshit attack on you. I mean, just now I'm on my way out of town and don't have the time to be subtle about this, but that's the bottom line. You couldn't have saved him. And the fact that he tried as hard as he could to hurt you on his way out—by blatantly blaming you, and THEN with his own chickenshit suicide mimicking the tragedy of your sister's death–proves it. He wanted what he got: to burden you with horrible feelings about who and what you are. He gave you guilt. You accept that guilt, and he wins. Fuck him. Fuck anyone who would do to anyone what he did to you. Okay? It's not your burden. People do what they want, period. He wanted to hurt you in the worst possible way he could. He did. That needs to be HIS problem, not yours.

  • Christine

    Glenda: I know you must be hurting so much right now but John is right, this is not your fault, this was never about you or what you should/shouldn't have done…..this was the selfish acts of a man who was obviously way past you helping him. The fact that he was abusive before you left tells me that this was his final attempt to control you……my ex husband tried something very similar and it screws with you only if you let it.

    I know it will be hard to do but hear what we are saying here, this is not your fault!! Your sisters death was not your fault, your husbands is definitely not your fault….You ask how you go on living. By refusing to let this define you, by refusing to accept responsibility for something you had no control over, by listening to the words of those who can see this from the outside and can see the truth in it. You keep living because you will not be like him, you will not hurt those you love by doing to them what has hurt you so much. You keep living by being thankful for the people who do love you, by repeating the truth to yourself everyday, by putting one step in front of the other and keeping on walking. Sometimes it will be hard but it does get easier.

    THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT!! Read, reread, and read again what John has written above,surround yourself with loving people and tell it to yourself even when you don't believe it.

    My heart is with you, my prayers are for you. All my love and my sorrow XX

  • Anonymous

    It still hurts, even now. :(


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