She is not responsible for her husband’s suicide

I received this morning the following heartbreaking letter from a woman named Erin:

Dear John,

What happens when you do something that you can’t get forgiveness for?

My husband committed suicide three years, four months, and 14 days ago. He needed me, and I wasn’t there. I was too wounded; I was masking it; I pushed him away—and he couldn’t hold on. I left him at the precise moment he needed me the most.

He is gone, forever gone. I’ll never see him; we’ll never speak; I can never say I’m sorry. He can never forgive me. I will live with it forever.

I asked God to forgive me, so I guess he did, right? Great. Honestly. But in this lifetime, I don’t imagine I’ll ever feel any better for knowing that. I can’t go back and change things. I did not do everything I could have done. I am guilty; trust me on this one. I can’t forgive myself. That’s what guilt is right? So, really there is no way to process it.

Dear Erin:

Listen to me now: Your husband’s suicide was not your fault. Trust me on this one. Any counselor (and please 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 invariably leave behind at least one person who suffers profound, often lifelong guilt over the certainty that they could have done something to prevent their loved one’s suicide. And virtually every single person who has ever felt that way about an adult suicide is wrong about that: there’s never anything that they, or anyone else, could have done to prevent their loved one from taking that tragic final step. (I stress “adults” because younger people are influenced by others to a degree that adults generally are not.)

The real reason an adult ever commits  suicide—the only reason adults ever commit suicide—has little to do with events or circumstances that happen outside of themselves. Trillions of people every day get depressed and emotionally desperate, but don’t kill themselves. The only adults who ever commit suicide are people infected with condition of being suicidal. Your husband was suicidal. It’s who he was. He had that terrible illness in him. It’s not your fault that you didn’t have the cure for it.

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 someone can interfere and stop a suicidal adult from taking his or her own life—but that’s almost always just a postponement, not a true salvation. A suicidal person who is stopped from a serious suicide attempt most often tries 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 quite often even then), they almost invariably find themselves drawn back to that terribly dark place. And there’s nothing anyone but they can do about that—and, as I say, they are very often ultimately helpless to help themselves.

It’s just so awful.

But do know that no matter how understanding, patient, wise, or compassionate you had ever managed to be, your husband would have still 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 seek for yourself. (He would have also must certainly benefited from pharmaceutical therapy.) Please seek that counseling. It will help you to begin to loosen the burden of your guilt, which is not yours to carry.

One more thing, if I may. The degree to which you are suffering now, Erin, moves you into God’s territory. You just don’t “ask” God to forgive you for the kind of pain you’re suffering, 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 counseling, which is now indispensable to your healing. But at the same time put yourself as fully as possible in God’s hands. Open your heart to his healing through the power 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 so that you, right now, could be healed—and so that your husband, where he is right now, could also find himself whole again.

You and your beloved husband will meet again, Erin—in a matter of what amounts to the blink of an eye. And once reunited the two of you will hug, and kiss, and cry, and remember when your earthly lives felt so awful, so painful, so unbearably difficult.

You will have those memories. And then they will slowly begin to fade. And as those memories fade you and your husband, hand in hand, will slowly turn your faces toward the great golden light of the Son.

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  • Yep…what John said…

    Beautifully put.

  • While I disagree with John’s final paragraph, I could not agree more with the intent in which he wrote it.

    If you read this Erin, whatever you do, do not disappear inside yourself. Let the people around you help you, because they are there and they do want to help. Talk to your family and friends. Maybe not even about this if you don’t want to, but just talk to them. Spend time with them. Let them know if there’s anything they can do to help, because I can assure that they all want to help you and that they just may not know how.

    Don’t push people away. Let your friends and family in and they can help you start to heal.

  • Sabina


    Twelve years ago my now ex-husband attempted suicide after I confronted him about an affair he was having. I was angry and threatened to leave, we had a five year old, six month old and I was pregnant. My ex-husband went to the basement, got drunk and hung himself with a heavy duty extension cord-after I calmed down I went to talk to him and see if we could work our way through this and found him hanging-I held him (more than 250lbs) up until someone could come and cut him down. My sister in law was upstairs and heard my screams and later said that she had never heard such a sound before, my five year old saw her father hanging. He survived and was diagnosed as bi-polar, I lost the son I was carrying and I stayed and for the next five years felt responsible for his life. If he wanted to stay home sick, I stayed home because I was afraid he would try this again. If I couldn’t stay home I worried the entire day until I could see that he was ok or I would call every half hour to check on him. If he felt overwhelmed I tried to make things easier to the point that I no longer had a husband-full partner and felt alone. I am a christian, but nothing could have prepared me for the toll this took on my spirit. My faith did teach me that I needed to pray over this and allow God to take on this because I could not-but I still held onto the guilt and became disconnected from my life. He tried killing himself other times and there was no way I could have prevented it because I couldn’t be everywhere all the time or everything to him all the time. We are human and the expectation that we do all and be all is unreasonable.We have are weaknesses and struggles too and we can’t expect others to be all that we need either. You were absolutely not responsible for your husband choosing to take his life, but you are absolutely responsible for taking back your mental health and living your life to the fullest without the guilt that I know is inhibiting your growth as a human being. I was stifled in my guilt, I was not able to parent my children the way I needed and that night I held him trying to save his life, the life of my son ended. So which bit of guilt should I pick up-I picked up all of it and for years carried a burden that I could not imagine before that night. I still struggle but with my faith and my therapist as my guide I am taking back my self and my life. Erin, I know how difficult this time is for you but its important that you understand that individuals make choices and they are only considering what’s going on within themselves when they make a choice to take their lives. They are only dealing with how their pain affects them. It took me five years to stop calling when he didn’t go to work. It took me five years to stop worrying when he was out of my eyesight. It took too many years of my life burdened by the guilt to move on with my life. God’s healing power and an objective ear has changed my life, made me closer to whole again and I won’t compromise myself with guilt again. I pray that you get the help you need and deserve.


  • Erin: John is absolutely right that you need to get into counseling. Talk to a professional about your guilt, about your inability to forgive yourself. You took the first step in contacting John, now please take his words and use them to heal.

    I am no expert by any stretch of the imagination, but you need to heal, and you can’t do it on your own. In 1998 I was diagnosed with clinical depression and started on medication and counseling. It was the best thing I did for myself. Though I am no longer on medication or getting counseling, I’ve applied what I learned thru counseling to my life, and I am a better person for it. But, you must see a counselor, a psychologist, someone who is trained to help people like yourself. You do not have to bear this burden. Let God lift this off your shoulders. He knows it’s not your fault.

    Take care and God Bless you.


  • MM

    My prayers form you Erin. May you find peace of mind and God bless you. He will definitely help you recover in His own time.

  • Sergmummy

    WOW – what a way to start my morning at the office – GOD IS GOOD – Thank you John.

    Let Go and Let God, Erin. You won't lose anything else if you do. He is ALL-POWERFUL. You have a new family to take care of, and you must be in the right frame of mind to do it. You don't want your new husband to 'leave' you (that could be read in a few ways), listen to great advice, Breezy, Sabina and John did it beautifully. God sent you to this site, and he had them waiting on the other end to help you along. That is how He works. The next step is yours – believe and do.

    God Bless you all.

  • Erin

    Ok, so I’m pretty much overwhelmed. I’ve never posted anything anyhwere about this. I was having a hard time last night and actually did a google search for “how to deal with guilt,” and John’s article was one of the first links.

    I did go to counseling. I know I need to go back. I’m remarried now and trying to cope with a difficult time in this marriage, also. Sometimes I find myself acting so badly, just complete and total dependency. Neediness. The other day it occured to me – and I feel embarrassed to say so- that I might be literally acting out a situation where I get my husband to save me, so that I can feel that I deserve to be saved. The things I “need” from my husband now are the exact things my late husband needed from me.

    Or maybe I just act so unloveable to proove to myself I don’t deserve to be loved. Man, I’m so messed up.

    This is all on the inside. My husband and I have communication issues, and he doesn’t like to talk about the death anyhow. When he died, my late husband left our 3 1/2 year old son also (he’s almost 7 now). My current husband has adopted him and we’ve tried hard to make sure he knows my current husband as his only father. So its not an open issue in our lives. He views it as an act of cowardice and has a hard time understanding my grief.

    Wow. I never talk about any of this and its just kind of tumbling out right now. Thank you so much for responding, all of you. Soon I will give therapy another shot. I went there the first time trying to find a place to put my pain. I wanted spiritual sanctuary. I wanted someone to tell me with authority, beyond a shadow of a doubt that he forgave me, that he still loved me, that he was waiting for me. Most of what I took away after about four months was, ” this is all normal. You’re supposed to cry. It will all get better with time. Give it time, give it time.” My issue with therapy is that I don’t really know what reasonable expectations are. No one, as someone pointed out, can say anything that will actually make me feel any better. And the more I talk about it, the more I’m sure I’ll never feel better until I can feel at peace about my relationship with him.

    Faith. I need to find a way to :believe: that he is with God, that his pain is over now, and that he will always love me.

    I grew up in the “you had better not or you will BURN IN HELL,” church. It wasn’t all bad by any means but I have this baseline imprint of God as strict, jealous, and vengeful. And my best friend, high school sweetheart, murdered himself. So… so I love him, and I always will, and I just need to know he’s ok. I know God has Grace, and Mercy, because I’ve heard about it… but he also has all these rules, and this pretty imposing punishment for breaking them.

    I understand always knowing that God existed, John. (I kept reading last night) I know there is more beyond all this. I just do. But what it is, how it works, the “real deal.” I don’t know anymore. Has anyone seen the movie “What Dreams May Come?” That was our favorite movie. How tragic is that? Or wonderful, or tragic, I dont know. Its abour love, and untimely death, suicide, redemption, and so much more. So, is he somewhere waiting for someone to speak on his behlaf? To fight for him? I don’t have any control over it though, do I? The cosmic order of things. Whatever they are, they are and I’ll find out in due time. I’m so zen about it in this moment, which is rare.

    For any who are wondering, he left three notes, one to his mom, and two others which I assume were to our son and myself. The military was involved and took all of his/OUR things: computer, camera, camcorder, cds, dvds, floppys, letters, pictures, and, most importantly, 3 notes and a journal. They presented me with an official memo saying they destroyed the notes and the journal because the content would be damaging (to me… or them?)- . I was told I would get the rest of the items back when they finished thier investigation. I haven’t gotten anything, the case is closed and I live in another state now. The only things I ever got were his clothes, and they were nice enough to release the vehicle he killed himself in to me the very next day. Geeeez, ok thats enough of that. Oh, I know about the one to his mom because they gave her a copy of it, and she told me about it. (I never got to see or read it) She told me he said it wasn’t anybody’s fault though. She told me the letter was dated almost two weeks before the actual d-day. He was still in the hospital then, being treated for depression.

    Rationally, I know I did not choose for him to do this. So that means it was his choice. SO that means it wasn’t my fault. See? I can do that with my brain, just not with my heart. Have you ever wondered if there are parallel universes or realities? I look up sometimes and think I can see right through the wormhole where my “real” life is playing out. I know its not useful to think that way, but being honest, thats just the way it is.

    I just turned 26 last month. I don’t know the average age around here or general flavor but there is a song playing on the radio currently by Pink called “Who Knew?” the lyrics are here:

    It has captured a moment in my life. Again, thanks to everybody, from the bottom of my heart. Simply to be communicating with real humans and not just the ones inside my head, it – hmm- well look what you made me say- it feels a – little – better.

  • Erin, the 'just give it time'…to me that falls into the empty platitudes category. Yes, time has a way of giving us perspective, but I think it's a little dangerous as well…ideally you'll feel better and be able to internalize God's forgiveness, but maybe you'll just become numb in order to make the pain stop. God doesn't want numbness either…he wants to heal you and make you whole.

    I can't speak to the theology of what happens after we die…regardless of what we believe, we simply don't know that for sure. I can tell you what I look for when I enter a 'season of growth' (ie painful time that I need to deal with)…I need someone who will listen to my honest thoughts, no matter how insane or warped they sound. I need someone who I can trust spiritually to not twist scripture to fit how they think God 'should' work…who has a strong knowledge of God and the Bible but also humility to let God do his work on his own terms. And frankly, I prefer someone who has been thru struggles of their own; who can share with me how God has worked in their life. To me it gives them credibility, and I feel like they will really come alongside me in my pain, processing, etc.

    I can get more specific and name names & resources, but I don't want to sound like a commercial here on John's blog. No pressure, but if you're interested please email me at skerri_bATyahooDOTcom and I'll be glad to tell you what I know.

    I'm 30 and a military wife…maybe that helps, maybe it doesn't. I do like Pink though. 😉

  • Wow. Reading the lyrics to the Pink song was just gut-wrenching.

    Well, one thing's clear about you anyway, Erin — and if you're going to have ONE thing be clear about you, this is a good one. You're smart — really, REALLY smart. Better than that, you're wise — and clearly growing wiser by the day.

    There are two kinds of people in the world: people whose suffering has made them wiser and more compassionate, and people whose suffering has made them closed up/bitter/crazy. CLEARLY you belong in the first group. Which means everything hurts you more now–but later, when this phase of your life burnishes down into something less immediately … trenchant, this capacity you have for feeling will be a blessing to everyone who knows you. As it must be now, already.

    So much of life so utterly sucks. I'm awfully sorry you had to go through so MUCH of its suckiness so early in your life. For what it's worth, it's absurdly clear that you're going to grow into one of those extremely rare people who really, REALLY understands people.

  • Sabina

    Yes. Definitely! I agree that Erin is awesome just in reaching out and can be even more so once whole again. Do the work Erin to be whole again, it is so worth it and if the first therapist doesn't fit, find someone else. Read God's word for yourself, study, pray and join a faith community that works for you. It took me two years to finally find a therapist who really listened to me and helped me process all my pain and find my way back to myself. I have been studying and teaching God's word for several years now and some scriptures that helped me a lot were: Romans 10:6-11, Psalm 23:1-6, Psalm 31:1-14 and Proverbs 3:1-6. I encourage you to get a bible that has reference pages that you can use to direct your study so that you get what you need.


  • breezy

    Dearest Erin,

    My heart is breaking for you and I wish I could hold your hands in mine and tell you all the things I have been learning about the awesome, uncontainable, unfathomable love Our God has for you and the ‘sweetheart’ that you lost.

    First, I hear you crying out for truth. The Word of God will speak to your heart about the very questions you have asked, because your brain does know you are not ‘guilty’. When you spoke about the movie ‘What Dreams May Come” my heart literally leapt into my throat. I’ll tell you, you write so heartfelt and eloquently that it feels as though I am reading something that I wrote about my own past and pain and loss.

    God tells us that those who have died are not aware of anything, they are in a very deep sleep. No dreaming, no knowledge of what has or is happening. So while you are grieving and suffering and hurting your former husband knows nothing of your pain and heartache.

    For him the period between taking his last breath and when he opens his eyes to behold Our Savior will not even register, it is instantaneous. This should bring you some peace as well as joy because he will also see you and it will be as though he had never commited suicide. You read that right, he will feel as though he failed to kill himself and is suddenly standing before God. All the truth he always longed to know will be immediately shown to him. Jesus is His attorney and judge so he is completely in God’s care

    Because of this fact, what will bring you the greatest amount of comfort now is to go to God and ask Him to help you fully forgive your former husband for leaving you, for abandoning the life and dreams and hopes that you shared, for leaving you alone to raise your son without his father, for leaving you alone with the mess of dealing with his death and leaving you without your ‘best friend’ to help you get through it.

    What you describe as guilt is in actuality anger and hurt for the loss of the life you know you should be living, the life that he has deprived you both of.

    You probably think you just can’t do it. That’s ok, because Christ will help you, he will give you the strength to forgive, the desire to forgive and the power to believe. “I am the vine, you are the branches … for without me you can do NOTHING” (John 15:5). “Who then CAN be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE” (Matt. 19:25-26).

    Many ‘theologians’ will criticize me for what I am about to share with you, however God has led me to the very scriptures that speak the truth about His final judgment.

    Christ became a sacrifice for ALL mankind. HE IS GOD so I trust His word when He says ALL will be saved. Those who have accepted Him as their saviour will have immediate rewards in heaven with Our Father, those who have not yet learned, those who have up until then refused to believe or have not accepted Christ’s sacrifice will be subjected to the ‘refiners fire’.

    It is this fire that burns but the process of ‘refinement’ will vary for every single person. Just as the process of refining pieces of silver take differing amounts of time depending on the imperfections and impurities within.

    Malachi 3:3. tells us God sits as the refiner, so just as a silversmith, God will hold us to the hottest part of the flame to cleanse us of our impurities and He will be with us every step of the process, sitting right there with each of us until we are changed and ready to enter into paradise with Him, sitting there holding us until He sees His image reflected in us, just as the silversmith sees his own image reflected in the piece of silver he is refining.

    I know with absolute certainty that Satan has led many to believe in ‘Hell and Damnation’ but this is another lie Satan uses to attack the character and nature of Our Loving God.

    The christian concept of hell is not in the bible but rather taken from pagan ideas and taught as though they are scripture.The passages in the bible that refer to ‘hell’ actually use the hebrew word for grave or pit (sheol) or the greek word for the valley of Hinnom (Gehenna), the never ending fire pit was a trash incinerator on the outskirts of Jerusalem, they burned trash day and night in it.

    These are references God makes to help us understand the ‘process’ of refinement and salvation for all. And this is why Christ desires us to accept His free gift, He has taken our punishment and knows there is no logical reason for anyone to have to suffer punishment needlessly

    If Christ has defeated death and the wages of sin are death, what does this tell us. Christ in His ultimate love for us has defeated sin.

    I too was brought up in the “you had better not or you will BURN IN HELL,” church and it has taken me decades to learn the truth through intense reading and studying and cross checking and re-reading the Bible. There is only one ‘rule’ Christ gave us. He said “If you love God, you will keep His commandments, they are not grievious.”

    But don’t take my word for it, the Word of God is there for everyone to discover the truth…it is good for instruction (about what we need to know) and correction (for the wrong things we have been made to believe in the past)

    We were made to worship God, everything else is distraction…the hurt, the confusion, the problems of this life, the disappointments, the losses…

    Everything I thought I needed was lost in the fire, I too cannot even hold an object or read a word to comfort myself of this loss I experienced. I think it happened that way so that my hands would be free to cling to God all the more tighter…so that nothing could come between my God and me as He embraces me and holds me and brings me into my future…with Him

    Here are some scripture you can check out for yourself…be prepared to change your mind about almost everything you thought you knew about God.

    “And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers…” (Deut. 31:16).

    “David slept with his fathers…” (I Ki. 2:10).

    “Solomon slept with his fathers…” I Ki. 11:43).

    “…lest I sleep the sleep of DEATH…” (Psa. 13:3).

    “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep…Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead” (John 11:11-14).

    “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything,…for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest” (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10).

    “For in death there is no remembrance of thee(God): in the grave who shall give thee(God) thanks” (Psalm 6:5).

    “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth (John 5:28).

    “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:52).

    there is LAID UP for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me AT THAT DAY: and not to me only, but unto ALL them also that love HIS APPEARING” (2 Timothy 4:8).

    even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” (Matt. 18:14)

    even death itself will be abolished (I Cor. 15:26)

    All who are dead asleep in their graves will be resurrected from death to life (Ezek. 37:13-14).

    It is God’s WILL that they come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved (Tim. 2:4).

    Every tongue in heaven and earth will, ” … ACCLAIM that Jesus Christ is Lord, for the Glory of God, the Father” (Phil. 2:11).

    ” … one Father of all, Who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph.4:5)

    SURELY, He Who spares not His own Son, but gives Him up for us all, how shall He not, together with Him, also, be graciously granting us all” (Rom. 8:32).

    “And I (Jesus), if I be lifted up [on the cross] from the earth, will draw ALL MEN UNTO ME” (John 12:32).

    “And He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for our’s only, but also for THE SINS OF THE WHOLE WORLD” (I John 2:2).

    “That at the name of Jesus EVERY knee should bow, in heaven, and in earth, and under the earth; and that EVERY tongue should CONFESS that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11).

    ‘That if thou shalt CONFESS with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised Him from the dead, THOU SHALT BE SAVED (Rom. 10:9)

    If you find you would like to talk or vent or figure out where to look in the bible for more answers feel free to e-mail me at, you should also check out , one of the most beautiful ‘love letters’ I have ever read, with love in Christ, your sister, Breezy

  • Thank you John for you blog, your compassion, and your encouraging words going out to the world.

    Erin, I echo John's words of compassion and love. Especially John's closing paragraph. Please seek counseling anew. I strongly recommend Christian Counseling because you are in pain and you are seeking God (and the god you were taught of as a child is not the God of love and mercy). Books, blogging, and articles can be very good and have, in some cases, helped people actually come to terms with their individual pain. Most of us however, require one-on-one time with a caring counselor.

  • Erin, just wanted to let you know I'll add you to my prayer list. Remember the Word of the Lord: "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."

  • Tamara

    Dear, dear Erin,

    I just clicked onto this site a few minutes ago for the first time.

    It is amazing to me that the very first letter I read was yours about the loss of your husband to suicide.

    My heart goes out to you.

    I just turned 55. My father took his life when I was 12.

    There are only a few things I can say to you that I hope will be of help.

    Guilt is pointless.

    Counceling may help, I don’t know, I wasn’t given that oppertunity when I was a child but this much I can say, if you are ever going to seek it, seek it now, from someone you REALLY trust. The longer you wait, the more imposssible it will become to talk about it.

    Jesus will wipe away all (and I mean everyone of us) all our tears when we see Him and our lost loved ones in heaven. God bless your sweet heart.


  • Lauren

    Hi Erin,

    My husband shot himself several days ago and it has been one of the most emotional times in my life. I don’t know that i will ever be able to put aside that scene in my head. EVERY day, every moment of the day it plays like a bad scene out of a horror movie. We had been living apart for about 2 weeks and he wasn’t able to cope with letting my son or I go. That day that he died, he just got onto anti-depressants. That day, we argued. That day, he told me he was going to kill me. That day, he told me he was going to kill himself and only 10 minutes after I told a friend I sadly hoped he would-my wish came true. For 8 years that we were married, there were moments that were good. But, he was a hateful man and told me how useless and horrible I was, threw things at me, threatened me with violence and divorce, punched me, and tried to strangle me about 5 times. Everything he did, I always went back and always forgave him. I moved out for our son, because I didn’t want him to be the same way. And despite being apart I was trying to remain on good terms with him. I feel like I should’ve seen the signs that he was capable of this, but in my heart I never thought he was. Maybe he was calling out for help, and I let him fall. The hardest part about suicide is the fact that it leaves unanswered questions. Despite everything, I cared for him and in some ridiculous sense I wanted to be able to help and change him. But, you can’t. His terrible childhood, his low self-esteem and the fact that he felt helpless I think were factors in his decision. I want to forgive him because I know that he was sick, it’s just really hard. Often times I go from uncontrollable sobbing to anger. I really wish I could go back in time, slap him and say SNAP OUT OF IT, and get him more help that I wasn’t able to give him. But, I can’t and I know that I can’t go back in time. What’s done is done at this point and I really hope that his last few moments he was sorry..because he really cheated his son and himself. Sometimes I feel so strong about everything, that it seems wrong. Almost wrong to laugh or smile or to feel happiness. It’s confusing, but taking one step at a time is the most important thing. The road to forgiveness and acceptance of something so traumatic is always a long one. If you want to talk, e-mail me as I know I really could use someone who’s been there too.

  • Hey, Lauren. What an extremely difficult dynamic. I have sent Erin your email; I do hope she writes you. All the best of God’s blessings to you during this unimaginably grueling phase of your life.

  • Lauren

    Thank you, been the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with. I'm lucky to have friends and family that have been really supportive. Do you know any support groups for this kind of situation online by any chance?

  • arlywn

    to lauren and erin,

    death is always hard no matter what flavor is chosen. Sadly the living seem to have a harder time living with it than the dead. I think john is right in saying suicide is a disease. one of those nasty incurable diseases. The side effect being grief and guilt.

    the good thing is that these side effects will go away. it'll take love and support, faith and just plain being happy with lots of time thrown in, but eventually it will go away.

    Erin, I personally love What Dreams May Come, and while I personally dont think you'll have to go all the way to hell to find your husband- I do think you will find him. And I tihnk both of you will get second chances in your next life. who knows, maybe you'll just have to go to jersey to find him again.

    I iwsh you both lots of luck in hanging in there, and this is not the end of the road. Try not to be sad when you find your selves being happy.

    John, off a little bit of topic- how would you explain some one who is suicidal, as in thinking about it, even setting up for it: but can not even try to go through with it?

    I asked this because both times my guy has gotten a gun, loaded it and thought that he would pull the trigger- but instead he ended up either calling me, or just sitting there looking at the gun. Neither times did he pull the trigger. ( he is in therapy currently, and getting help)

  • Diane

    These responses are hugely inspiring. I lost my husband to suicide four years ago and can only say that the pain WILL subside.

  • Thank you, Diane. Very much.

  • Hi

    I recently lost my husband, I feel exactly like how Erin does. In May this year my husband assaulted me he had a alcohol problem. But at heart he was a good person. I have two children six and three. I called the police and had him taken away for the first time in 14 years I did that I was extremely frightened but thought that this would give him a wake up call and he would change. But as usual my husabnds family took him out of jail and brought him to there house . My husband hang himself at there house and I still feel guilty.

  • Melanie: Wow. What a terrible story. How awful for you and everyone touched by this tragedy. But, again: Not your fault.

  • nonameplease

    For those of you who can’t forgive yourself over a loved one’s suicide…please…forgive yourself. When someone contemplates suicide it isn’t because of something you have done…it is usually self loathing or an inability to cope with the way life has “turned out”.

    The unfortunate premise of cultural America today is that you can and should have it all and quickly…that is not real and it is a lie. One of the things that causes those thoughts of suicide is that because I am not perfect like the world tells me I should be and my life is not perfect…then I must be a total screw up and therefore I don’t deserve to live or I have been cheated and I don’t want to live.

    When those thoughts come into the mind we are not willing nor wanting to deal with the pain. The good news is this: God loves the worst of the worst and can use even the worst screw ups to accomplish his plan. Since suicide runs in my family, I do believe there may be some kind of inherited “chemical” thing, or lack thereof, that does cause the irrational thoughts. The thing that I had to come to terms with was that, while suicide may deal with MY pain, it would cause horrible pain for family and friends left behind…and how selfish is that?

    In this present day and time we simply cannot believe the lie that every problem can be resolved within a 30-60 minute time slot (ie tv/movie scripts) or that it can be fixed with a pill. Instant relief and gratification simply is not a reality and anything worth anything takes work…HARD work and time.

    So if I may, those of you who are feeling guilty…please don’t ; it really isn’t your fault. The responsibility of the act lies with the one who commits it and would be carried out no matter what you think you should have done. Please forgive us, for leaving you behind with such an enormous load to carry….and then allow He who loves us to carry it for you.

  • Peter

    Erin, everyone is giving you such good advice. But so much of it is for the mind only. You feel guilty. "True" or not, this has to be healed. So open your guilt to God. Rip your heart open and beg for mercy. Ask God to come in and to heal you. Stand naked before Him and beg for forgiveness. Don't defend against any feeling at all. Allow everything to be present before God.

  • Hope

    My husband shot himself 2 years ago. I can honestly say I know how all of you feel. Don’t wish this to happen to anyone. One of the most difficult parts in all of this…my deceased husbands family blame me, his friends blame me. We had been separated for 6 months due to his infidelity, but also because he was ill and refused to acknowledge his condition and take care of himself. He and I had still been seeing each other a couple times a week, trying to sort through things. It hurts so much that he couldn’t talk to me.

    I was asked not long after his death by a family member of his…”We are all just wondering how a wife could leave her husband in his time of need ?” I have a question, but will never ask..because I would never wish this guilt they have thrusted on me on anyone…but my question would be this, if I could ask…”Where were you?” We were separated! Where were you? How many prospective x-wives whose husband is dating on online singles sites and seeing his x-wife come and make sure their husband is taking his medication, the house is clean, laundry is done…how many prospective x-wives parents are checking on him everyday? Where were you? I want to know.

    I put together an event and raised funds for suicide prevention. I had the passion to see that no one else suffered the loss of a loved one to suicide. After a few TV interviews for the event…I was accused of further hurting the family because I was talking about it. Not shoving it under the rug like this family has a history of. But, after his surgeon took his life 6 months later…the suffering had to stop. I wanted those who contemplated suicide to stop and think about the long term effects on people they leave behind before they get into that “tunnel vision.” I also wanted the surviviors to know they aren’t alone. Yet, I am a radical person and insensative. My husband was a good man, yet ill. He made choices that slowly ate away at our marriage. Was I totally I will tell you…if he hadn’t done this…and after his surgeon took his life (they were close), he would have been there right with me in getting this message out. “TO CHOOSE LIFE,” “If Given the Choice to Sit it Our or Dance, I Hope you Dance.”

    Yes, life has moved on, I am a strong woman. But, there isn’t a councelor, pill, drug, life changing event of any kind that will take this pain I feel every day.

    I understand that people have to grieve, and sometimes they have to find someone to blame, but, how do you live with your own feelings of guilt and have to carry every one elses judgments? I have been yelled at, ignored, shoved aside. I live in a small town. I cannot move because this is where my family lives.

    Evidently, there is an unwritten protocol on how a person is suppose to behave, grieve as a widow as a result of suicide. You are told that is wasn’t your fault and each day will get easier…you are told that you have to let go and move on..yet, when a special person does come into your life without warning and you choose to try to move on, because the alternative is too painful…then you are looked upon as uncaring, insensative and a monster.

    The effects, destruction of suicide is very real. It is a snowball effect of feelings that there are quite frankly no words to descirbe.

    If you know of someone who is trying to survive the result of suicide of a loved one…you don’t have to have the perfect words, do the perfect thing for them. Just be there. Love them. Sometimes when we don’t know what to say…we avoid them. Don’t. There is a 52% chance the the survivor takes his or her own life after this happens.

    Secretly hurting in Indiana.

  • nancy

    Hi, I am one yr passed this horrific event. My husband took his life and I think

    he’s also taken mine. I feel such guilt. We were married 39yrs. What can I do? The movie plays on and on all day, I can’t stop it.

  • DR

    I cannot imagine what this is like for you. Our hearts are so durable but house such fragility as well. Sometimes too much, sometimes they just can’t bear the weight of our brains that don’t work, that continue to process information we receive in burdensome ways too difficult to bear.

    I’ve nothing to offer you except that I wish we had some kind of way to physically share the burdens of pain we feel when yours – mine – ours – feels to unbearable to bear alone. I’ve been there on those very late, sleepless nights, so deep in grief that I remember thinking to myself “I honestly can’t *handle* this – I can’t take it.” I can’t remember what made it go away – it still washes up on my particular shores from time to time, but gentler now, easier to bear. All that helped was time and silence and even those, just terrible companions at times.

    I pray for your heart – that it finds durability that you don’t believe it has. And for you, that you discover sources of wisdom, of comfort that supernaturally lift that oppressive cover of darkness that can smother and terrify. Much love to you.

  • love your answers John….. you are certainly called to do it…

  • Becky Lowery via Facebook

    I have been reading your blog for a few weeks but have never commented. You say some good stuff, John, but this one is exceptional! I am finishing up a class on pastoral crisis intervention and I am going to put your words in my “for future reference” folder just in case. Beautiful, just beautiful!

  • erika

    Sabina, thanks so much for sharing your story. what a remarkable testimony!



  • karen

    Erin, I echo what others have said. I have a slightly different perspective, though because I battle depression, and at one moment consider taking my life. After my daughter was born, postpartum depression hit me like a brick wall. I remember sitting on my back deck with my perfect little angel thinking “you deserve better than me. You would be so much better off if I were just gone”. My point is that this perfect, sinless baby would have had no fault if I had killed myself, and you bear no blame either. Depression is a horrible, crippling illness. You could have no more cured you husband’s depression than you could have healed him if he had cancer. I truly believe God’s grace saved me that day, and it will save you too.

  • Jeanine Byers via Facebook

    That was really beautiful! And what you said about staying with God was so powerful. Well, the whole thing was, really. I hope that other people with any kind of unresolved guilt will find their way to your post.

  • A’isha

    Erin, my heart goes out to you. I understand the feelings of guilt, thinking there was more you could have done. I think those thoughts every day.

    Something I heard a long time ago that has stuck with me is this little personal affirmation: If I could have, I would have.

    It covers so much. If you could have helped your husband you would have. If you could have stopped his pain you would have. His decision was his alone. Nothing you could have done would have changed that…only he could have changed that decision.

    Something I’ve come across recently is how incredibly different grief is when the person who dies, does so suddenly and tragically. It’s not to say that when people lose a loved one from natural causes or long illnesses doesn’t grieve intensely, it’s just different. Sudden, traumatic death leaves the survivors with guilt that no one can fathom. There are other things that are “normal” like imagining the final moments of our loved ones’ lives and imagining all the things we could have done to change the outcome. It’s horribly difficult to go through but it’s all normal for this kind of loss. It often also takes much longer to recover from a loss of a loved one suddenly. Holidays, anniversaries, etc are all are extremely hard.

    I would totally second what John said in that you need counseling. If you haven’t already, please find someone to talk to. There are also support groups online for survivors of suicide.

    Much love to you as you continue on this journey. Know you’re not alone.

  • Rev. Cynthia Wood

    Thank you, for this wise counsel. I needed to read this letter at this point in my life. The daughter of a suicidal woman, I, too, fight depression everyday., and often think that this life is very, very hard….. In those times, I need to intentional turn to God, who lifts my soul, and fills my cup to overflowing.

    One more thought…. God redeems our suffering. It prepares us to help others through the hard times we all face.

  • Cynthia: There are few burdens greater than being the child of someone who committed suicide. It just haunts and hounds you like nothing in this world; it’s like a shadow that keeps you forever slightly chilled. But … look who I’m telling. My love to you. That you’re a reverend is mightily encouraging; clearly, you do know a life beyond that shadow: you do know what it’s like to be in the light. That’s so wonderful.

  • Hanna

    Thanks, John, for the post. It was good. My heart goes out to all the sweet, good people on here.

  • John, thank you.

  • John Baker via Facebook

    That article, John, is what my late A.A. sponsor would call “Gettin’ down to th’ nut-cuttin’.”

    He was known for being quite direct when directness was called for. Bless him! He was a 6’4″ drag queen who dropped dead at an AIDS fundraiser while lip-synching Shirley Bassey’s “Nobody Does It Like Me.”

    Couldn’t wish for a better way to go out.

  • Don Whitt

    This weekend, a friend, a mother, confided that their daughter had confessed and recognized her own anorexia. I encouraged the mom to deal with the issue immediately – to check her daughter into a program today. Now, before the young woman has a cardiac arrest.

    That won’t happen. The young woman will be given a couple weeks to find resources at her college campus and start the process herself. That gives Her “the space” she needs to deal with the problem – or not.

    How often do we walk by a pending train wreck and let it happen?

  • Christie L.

    I am so, so scared that one day I will be in Erin’s shoes…

  • Thanks, you guys. I really appreciate these very kind words.

  • John C Hoddy via Facebook

    You have a gift for compassionate and sound advice.

  • My cousin’s husband killed himself about ten years ago. He had suffered for years with terrible depression. They had separated for a while when his issues were too much for her to bear and she feared he would take his life then, but he did not. It was after they reconciled and he came back to the house that he decided to go through with it.

    I wish I could get you in touch with her, because she has a lot of experience and wisdom and she went through all of the emotions you might imagine — guilt, anger, shame, fear.

    It is NOT your fault. People who commit suicide make this choice on their own. No one is responsible for another person’s actions. Other people can do or say anything, but how you respond to it and how you live your life is up to you and you alone.

    I pray for healing for you in this terribly difficult time, and I strongly encourage you to look for a group of people who have lost a loved one to suicide. Just being with people who have been where you are right now will do you so much good.

    Love, love, love and much peace to you.

  • Lauren

    My uncle killed himself when i was a kid—my “favorite” uncle. You know the kind i mean: that relative you just absolutely adore as a child. At least, i’d adored him when i was little. By this time, though, i’d seen through the cracks in his facade and begun to understand, as best as a pre-teen can, that there was something very /wrong/ with him. I’d seen first-hand that he was battling alcohol abuse, and an assortment of other personal demons. I became terrified of the person i used to adore.

    And then he was gone. And you know, i blamed /myself/. I was sure that he was dead because of me, that somehow i could’ve—should’ve—stopped it from happening. “Counterfactual thinking” is what they call that. It was ridiculous and terrible and damaging to my psyche and my soul for me, as a /child/, to think i could’ve done something to change it, that somehow it was my fault; and i will go so far as to say it’s the same for /anyone/ who loses a loved one to suicide: Trying to imagine how, in some alternate version of events, you could’ve stopped it will do nothing but break your heart. Suicide is a disease.

    Have you seen the Joseph Fiennes movie about Martin Luther? There’s a scene in there where he remarks that people lost to suicide are no more to blame than a man overcome by robbers in the woods. Seeing that scene, years after the fact, changed the way i thought about my uncle. The urge to commit suicide is a terribly, usually incurable disease; and a person stricken by it can’t be said to be to blame, because they are no longer themselves once it takes hold. But here’s the important thing: If suicide is a disease, then the people it leaves behind cannot be blamed, either. If you lose a loved one to suicide, you are no more to blame than if they’d been consumed by cancer, or struck down by a heart-attack.

  • Lauren

    Just wanted to say i love that “if you could have, you would have” phrase. It gets a lot done in very few words.

  • Brilliant, John … a blessing to read.

  • Lee Marshall

    Thank you for another wonderful letter of comfort. You reminded me of some of the qualities that first attracted me to Christianity.

  • Soulmentor

    Thanks John. Your response to Erin reached into my spirit. I spoke of regret over the suicide of a young man I knew in a comment to your blog “My gay Christian cousin committed suicide”

    I don’t suffer as deeply as Erin apparently does. John was not a lover or a spouse and I know I had little if any influence on his fate, but he was someone I loved, really did love, if only for that moment and I failed him. Yes, I did. I could have delivered him to his grandmother’s house that nite and, in my fear, I didn’t. I understand that, as you say, it may have only postponed the inevitable tho I don’t think I look at suicide quite as fatalistically as you do. Looking back, I can see where it really wouldn’t have cost me anything I didn’t lose later anyway….and wasn’t happy with in any case.

    So I am not suffering or agonizing over it…..just feeling the regret. We all have those and I think that a great part of being forgiven lies in forgiving ourselves. For if, again as you say, God is within us, then as we forgive ourselves, we are letting God heal the wounds of life that we inflict upon ourselves and others. And how can we forgive others if we cannot first forgive ourselves.

  • Donald Rappe

    Suicide is a consequence of a serious (mental) illness. Two in my family were also accompanied by homicides of wives and daughters. So I give God thanks when the suicide is all. I have a recollection of being in that “tunnel” as a young man and inexplicably the grief and pain my death would cause for those I loved did not even enter my mind. I think most suicides become unaware of the grief and pain they will be causing others. Perhaps this can mitigate some of the anger we justifiably feel towards them. Let’s give them to God. He is their loving parent as well as ours. Let us leave the unfathomable mystery and shock to him as much as we can. I am not the only one who loved them. So, let us not grieve as those who have no hope.

  • Donald Rappe

    I meant to say: We are not the only ones …

  • Deb Fullwood via Facebook

    What a beautiful response!

  • There is all sorts of negative stigma around suicide and some horrible things that people say about people who’ve had their lives end that way.

    “Well got won’t forgive them because they committed murder”

    “Suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness”

    “They are going to hell, because what they did was a sin.”

    No wonder there is so much guilt by those who lose a loved one to suicide, which is likely more like a terminal disease then many realize. I can look at it as one of those silent killers, that we often don’t see until its too late. Yes there is prevention, and I am glad that more work is starting to be done to help those suffering, but help isn’t always enough, as with any deadly disease.

    A few years ago a good friend succumbed to the disease. She had plenty of other serious health conditions that robbed her of the ability to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. She was in constant physical pain. She was also one of the most generous people I’ve ever met. She and her husband struggled to put food on their own table, but they both went out of their way to help those in need around he. I have no idea how many benefits she chaired for sick kids in her community.

    Her funeral was one of the most memorable ones I”ve ever attended. The pews held pieces of stationary and pens, so that we could all pen a goodbye letter to our friend. The pastor talked about her faith, her giving nature, that she loved to dance, and was saddened that she could no longer do so. He told us that she was dancing now, and probably tearing up the floors of heaven with her footwork.

  • Richard Lubbers

    The son of a man very dear to me took his life 27 years ago. It is alway devastating. Having struggled with severe depression myself, I felt deep compassion for both Larry, who took his life, and his family, who struggled with the question of “how did we fail him?”

    Several years later I tried to explain to Larry’s father that depression is sometimes a terminal illness. I have been suicidal in some of my more difficult depressions, but thankfully I also had a strong determination to find a way to live. I wanted Bill to know that the battle for that will to live is a personal battle he couldn’t fight for Larry.

    Now the issue of guilt is quite different. I hope this woman takes your advice, John. One of the aspects of my depression-prone personality was that I carried self-hate like a life sentence. It was easy for me to wallow in self-pity, guilt (whether real or imagined), and an unwillingness to forgive myself or others. I had been wronged as a child, and by gum, I was plenty pissed about it. Only thing was, I was the one suffering from the load.

    Feeling guilty for my shortcomings was a specialty of mine. Then one day I had a dialogue with God. I had done something I considered sinful, confessed it, but held on to the guilty feelings. The conversation went like this:

    God: What are you doing?

    Me: Feeling guilty.

    God: Why?

    Me: Because I sinned.

    God: Did you confess it?

    Me: Yes.

    God: So what are you doing?

    Me: Feeling guilty.

    God: Do you think your penance of guilt will erase your sin? Thinking your suffering is a form of payment to atone for your sin is an insult to me. You think you can pay for your sin better than I can. Child, understand, Jesus did that for you. So don’t try to atone for your sin. Accept the forgiveness I give when you confess, and let go of guilt.

    Me: Whoa! I never looked at it that way before.

    God: I love you! (He always has the last word.)

    I used to be a person who couldn’t forgive myself. Then I understood what the sacrifice of Jesus was really about. I learned to live in forgiveness, and the depressions began to lose their hold on me. Eventually I heard God’s voice telling me that I spent my whole life listening to the wrong voices, and it was then that I started putting the “one who does not love us” on the run.

    Your answer to this woman was beautiful, John. I hope she will open up to your words of hope, and learn to turn away from the internal voices that would try to destroy her life too.

    “Prince of Peace Jesus, find this dear woman and draw her close. Speak to her in the depths of her pain, and help her to see that she is not at fault for her husband’s suicide. Help her to become comfortable walking in the light of your truth. Give her the assurance that her husband is well, healthy and living with you so that she can experience freedom to live her life as you intend. Thank you for what you did and continue to do for each of us, and thank you for this dear woman.”


  • Oh I love the conversation with God that you had!

  • My goodness John, you really know how to pull a tear out of a man’s eye. Such beautiful words; such kindness and compassion.

    Erin, you’re in my prayers. I have no idea what it’s like to feel that pain, but take John’s words to heart and abide in God. Things may not be what you would ever expect or want them to be, but God’s the only dependable one in our lifetimes we can wholly trust.

    Christie, I would listen to John as well. If you really do fear for your husband, please address your concerns soon. Keep praying and please seek counsel!

  • Cat

    A year and half ago, I made the call that put my husband in harm’s way. I knew when I did it that he might die as a result, but was also concerned about who else might have been hurt had he continued driving around in the state he was in. I have come to understand that even if he had miraculously survived that night, or if I could bring him back or undo anything that happened it would not have solved the problems that brought him to that place at that time. He now knows the perfect peace of understanding and light that eluded him here on earth. It’s certainly not the end that I would have chosen for him or for anybody, but I have come to realize that it was not my choice to make.

    I grew up in a progressive Christian home. My mother never let us dwell on past mistakes. “Clean it up, learn what you need to learn and move on” was the prevailing philosophy. (Not quite as harsh as it sounds in black and white.) I think that foundation, 50+ years in the making helped prepare me for the events of my husband’s illness and death. As secure in the love of God on this side as I was going in. There have been some times of doubt and guilt and fear, usually in the middle of the night, but in the light of a new day the path becomes clear again and the dots are reconnected.

    I do hope and pray that Erin finds a way to communicate with her husband and to integrate the story of her son’s dad into his life. Stories like that repressed almost always come back to the surface. The harder you try to hide it the more damage is done when the real story inevitably comes out. If anybody else knows the story, it WILL come out. I think a gentle truth is the way here. Slowly, let him know what happened, some good things about his dad, what attracted you to him in the first place, that he loved him, that your current husband also loves him very much and adopted him. From what she says in her post I also agree that professional counseling is a good way to start figuring out how to do that.

  • Melissa Chamberlin

    Don, we cannot stop a pending train wreck anymore than we can stop the rain. When you are dealing with an adult with mental illness, we, as relatives, do not have any rights that allow us to intercede on their behalf, we, just have our love and compassion to lean on. I have a sister who has schizophrenia and I have lived an entire life waiting for her to get the help that I cannot get for her. She lives in misery and I truly believe that one day she will die of her own consequence. I wish I could force her to get the help she needs. My hands are tied. Seriously. When that day comes, and it will, I hope that she doesn’t take someone else with her. Our mental health system is archaic and practically nonexistent for the people who reach adulthood and are incapable of lucid thoughts.

  • Lymis

    For me, this is where our own eternal life comes into play.

    I don’t know whether or not it is “true” to tell someone they are not to blame for something like someone else’s suicide. Or whether it is helpful. I’ll leave that to those who know more from personal experience or professional training.

    But without in any way minimizing or avoiding our own sufferings, our own responsibilities, and our own human experience, we have to also hold onto the fact that, from the perspective of eternity, what happens to us here in this life is only a tiny part of all that makes us children of God.

    When we play a sport or a board game, we do our best, follow the rules, and win or lose, but when the game is over, our real life takes back over, and the details of how the game was played are incidental to what the game was for, and what we take away from it.

    Our human lifetimes are at the same time both far more important and more serious, but also far more fleeting, than a Monopoly game or a football match.

    Whatever effect her actions had on his human life and decisions, she did not do anything permanent or evil to her husband’s immortal soul – and as such, she did nothing to who he really is, especially not who he is in the eyes of God.

    As such, the important thing isn’t whether or not she should feel guilty or forgiven, whether or not she deserves to suffer for her past actions, but rather, who she chooses to become going forward, as a result of everything that has come together to make her who she is today. And that is a fallible, human, and beloved child of God.

  • David Crass , MD

    I agree our mental health system is archaic, but in some states a blood relative can file a request for a commitment hearing if their loved one is unable to provide for their own basic needs, or is dangerous to self or others. If the commitment board is wise enough, they make a decision based on the person’s past several months of life, rather than if they can “rally” to put on a good front for the board. Many states also have a mechanism to commitment a person to court ordered out patient treatment, usually with medications being mandatory. If they do not comply, they have to go inpatient. I realize there are vast holes in these systems for people to fall through, but sometimes you can get a relative into treatment this way.

  • Cat

    I believe it is true and it is helpful and necessary to realize that you are not responsible for anybody else’s actions. What drives people to suicide is internal to them, and not something that external actors have any control over.

    You do the best you can however, there should not be any guilt around not behaving perfectly which is of course, impossible. And in the end you have to take care of yourself and your children or others dependent on you.

  • Erin D.

    Lauren, I was JUST going to post about that scene in “Luther.” I just watched that movie again on Friday!! Having lost my mother-in-law to depression/suicide, it brought tears to my eyes to see that scene…to know that there were Christians even back then who did not think it was an unforgivable sin…and to see Fiennes’ Luther digging the grave for that boy….what an emotional scene. Our entire family was grateful to be able to give my m-i-l a Christian burial without anyone judging her or telling us there was no way she was in heaven.

  • Allie

    I also have a sister (half sister) with schizophrenia. She believes people are living in her house, and she set her neighbor’s house on fire. We were told that the only way to get her into treatment in her state was to allow her to be convicted for the arson so she could be committed as a danger to others. Since her mother died in an institution (she was also schizophrenic), my other half-sisters are very resistant to the idea of having her committed. It’s painful and terrible that there’s no better way of dealing with seriously mentally ill adults.

  • Allie

    Erin, I’m so sorry this happened to you, and it sounds like the military’s reaction hasn’t made it any easier on your family.

    I want to talk about feeling guilty for things that aren’t your fault. I’m an expert at that.

    I took riding lessons as a teenager and competed seriously, spending all summer traveling to shows, and was even in the Junior Olympics once. My trainer was like a surrogate mother to me during these years and I saw more of her than of my own parents. When I gave up riding, she stayed close to our family, and every year she would give me box tickets to a local show for my birthday and we would go together. One year it happened that I was a little bit sick with a cold, and not really feeling like doing it, so we said (over the phone) “Oh well, we can do this next year.” And that year on my birthday she was murdered.

    Now, I realize this is comparing a little thing to a big thing, but I felt absolutely terrible that I blew her off for what would have been my last chance to see her alive. If I had it to do over again I would definitely go with her. If I had only known.

    And that’s the thing – I didn’t know. Just as you didn’t know your husband was going to kill himself. If you’re anything like me, people can tell you until they’re blue in the face that nothing you could possibly have done would have changed your husband’s mind. And those people are absolutely right. But if you’re like me, that doesn’t change your feeling that you could have done MORE. If you had only known, maybe it wouldn’t have made any difference, but you would have done things differently, and then you would feel easy that you had done everything you could.

    But you didn’t know. You’re not a bad person because you didn’t know. You don’t see into the future. No one does. If you had known, you would have done things differently, because you are that good person, and I know that because you’re beating yourself up about it now. But you didn’t know, and you did the best you could with what you did know.

    I wanted to say one other thing, which is that John is absolutely right when he calls suicidal tendencies an illness. It’s easy to forget that it’s an illness because most people who are suicidal stay that way for some time, and it starts to look like who they are. And most people who aren’t suicidal, that looks like who they are. But then there are people with experiences like mine – I was depressed following a severe illness in college. I almost died of the illness, and afterwards I had what would today probably be diagnosed as a chemical imbalance. But in 1987 there weren’t the drugs and diagnoses we have today. It lasted only about three months. But during those three months it was like being kidnapped by aliens. I would literally drive down the street and everything I passed was a potential method of suicide: If I took my seatbelt off, and gunned it into that telephone pole, I might die. If I took the whole pack of cold meds instead of just one, I might die. I tried EVERYTHING to fix myself, read my favorite books, went to good movies, laughed with friends, and every moment of every day I wanted to die. Fortunately for me as my body recovered my brain recovered too, and in 20 years nothing like that has ever happened to me again, but while it was happening it was completely inescapable and nothing, nothing anyone could do, would have helped, short of medication.

    Illness isn’t anybody’s fault, it’s just a thing that happens. It’s not your husband’s fault that this happened to him and it’s not yours that you couldn’t stop it. And I can tell you from the very bottom of my heart that God doesn’t blame him, and doesn’t blame you.

  • Allie

    I know when I was suicidal what pulled me back was thinking, “My dad would be so mad if I did this.” Whatever your husband has that kept him from pulling that trigger, here’s hoping and praying it gets stronger every day.

  • Two people I was close to killed themselves, both within two or three years of one another. In both cases there was some anger at the world they were manifesting: Anger their lives had not gone as they had hoped/planned, anger that their dreams/schemes had not brought them the success & happiness they longed for.

    Their suicides were horrible, selfish actions. They were trying to leave chaos & carnage in their wake.

    I know not all suicides have the same motivation, but an awful lot do have some element of “they’ll be sorry when I’m dead” to them, which is pure selfish thinking.

    One of the suicides ended his life exactly at the same point where another friend of mine re-booted his. Both mean had confronted wives/ex-wives with handguns, in both cases SWAT teams were summoned & they barricaded themselves in a bathroom.

    One friend killed himself. The other thought about it, realized “this is stupid”, tossed his gun out & surrendered.

    He was taken in for observation, paid some fines, did some community service…

    Now is out, making low budget horror movies & having a great time doing so.

    He decided to live, and as a result, nobody got hurt. My other friend decided to die, and left devastated family & friends behind.

  • Cynthia Haug-West via Facebook

    Beautifully written and compassionate as always. Bless you, John Shore.

  • Thank you, Cynthia.

  • Allie

    Hi, Nancy. I’ve been married 19 years. I can’t even imagine losing a husband of 39 years. I don’t have any advice for you but I pray that time brings you peace. Please know that my thoughts are with you.

  • Allie

    It’s not wrong to feel strong. I hope wherever he is now he knows better, but this isn’t about him anymore. You are out from under the darkness he cast over you and you have every right to be happy.

  • I can only echo what Cynthia said. Your loving response brought tears to my eyes.Keep doing what you’re doing.

  • Michael Eric Hund

    Thank you for sharing the wonderful you, John.

  • Christie L.

    I love your conversation with God, too! Thank you for sharing of yourself. You are so right about the self-hate. Hopefully your lessons will help me and my fiance.

  • Noelle

    John, thank you for such a compassionate and honest response to Erin’s horrible situation. Guilt sometimes seems like a huge weight that we continue to lay on ourselves. I think we sometimes become addicted to it like people who mutilate their own bodies as a form of relieving suffering with suffering. It’s like emotional/mental cutting. And I still do it to myself sometimes. I lost a loved one to suicide when we were both seventeen. There are things we did that I thought I could never forgive him or myself for, but I’ve realized that rather than continuing to flog my soul like a hopeless disciple I’ve learned to slowly remove the power of the pain and replace it with joy. Guilt will only destroy. Love renews eternally.

  • Just to add a thought regarding those affected by suicide that most of us never think about….

    I’m 60 y/o and retired. I now spend part of my free time as a volunteer with my local police department as a Victim Advocate. Of all the calls I respond to, the worse is suicide. Two weeks ago I got called out to the suicide of a 39 y/o woman. Part of my responsibility was to inform her parents and then the woman’s 12 y/o daughter.

    In the last two years I’ve been serving in this capacity, this was the most difficult call I’ve received. I still struggle with it, as do the detective, coroner, and police officers on the scene. We tend to forget them, perhaps assuming that it’s their job and, therefore, they are immune to the heartache tragedies like this bring — or at least better able to cope. They are not…especially when children are among the victims — loved ones left behind.

    Suicide touches us all….


  • Richard lubbers

    I did too! Those conversations, though few and far between, are life changers.

  • Richard lubbers

    Christie, thank you for commenting. I would love to hear from you. My story may be a source of encouragement for you and your fiancé. Tammy and I have both been through a lot, and now rejoice in grace. You can find me on Facebook, Richard Lubbers in Holland, MI. Or write me at: if you would like to communicate.

    I wish you both God’s blessing for health, growth and love.

  • Richard lubbers

    She really is dancing with the stars! And who could have a better dance partner?

  • Skip Johnston

    Years ago, the father of a childhood friend committed suicide. The family was devout Catholic and, in their grief, unsure how to handle the funeral. But their parish priest, who was young and new at the job, didn’t hesitate to celebrate a full Mass for the man. Much like John did above, he explained that the man died of an illness not a moral or spiritual failing. That young man’s wisdom and compassion produced one of the most healing worship services I’ve ever attended.

  • Definitely a great way to check out!

  • Erin,

    I am sorry for your loss of your husband, I cannot fathom the depth of pain one might feel with losing a spouse so I won’t put on airs thinking I know what you mean. Please hear me and don’t consider what I say to say as pithy or cliche, it’s not your fault…it’s not your fault…it’s not your fault.

    You are created in the image of God, and His heart breaks when ours do as well, please (even if it takes time) release this unwarranted weight and give him all the pieces. It will take time to extract all this “shrapnel” from your body, God knows, but I hope you’re able to do so. Not so much “to get over it” but so that you can heal. May God help you get to that place.

    Be blessed and continue to bless others,


  • Next Feb will be 5 yrs since my husband’s suicide. I feel like half of me is missing and still have daily jabbing pains in my heart when reminded of certain things during the day. Tom was 61 at the time and depressed for maybe 2 weeks prior to taking his life in a horrific way and also took our dog’s life ; he was 15 yrs old.

    I think the reminders keep us stuck and some of us are not able to move due to our economic situations. I am now 61, still attractive people say but for me life has really stopped in many ways.

    I try every day to laugh and live and have 2 wonderful grandchildren that I care for sometimes. They are the light of my life and thank God for them.


  • Linnea

    I know where Erin is coming from. I’ve lost two people I knew to suicide, and one of them was my pastor. Seth was one of the gentlest, most progressive Christians I knew. When I arrived at my current church, I was giving faith one last try, after being driven away by spiritual abuse at the hands of fundies when I was younger. Seth showed me there was another path, a much healthier one, and he’s the reason I found a much healthier faith that still sustains me to this day. I’d never told him that, and it’s a source of sadness even today, nearly eight years later. Seth had battled depression for many years, and it finally defeated him. But I know that he has found healing and unconditional love in the arms of God. I also believe that Seth has shown up, in spirit, in times when I have been deeply depressed and contemplating harming myself. He’s still with me, and still with many people at my church.

    Erin needs to know that the same is true of her husband. He is still around, watching out for her, and she needs to know that God is in the process of healing his wounds as well as hers. If she needs to, she can pour out her rage and sadness to God… it’s okay, God can handle it. Through the experience of my own rough times, I do know that God truly *is* love, and absolutely nothing, *nothing*, can stop that love, not even death… we need only to let ourselves feel it and embrace it. Blessings to Erin… she and her husband are *both* loved by God.

  • Thom

    thanks for those words, john. i am severely depressed and facing some very difficult times right now. . . and suicide has been on my mind. even though i know it, it was helpful to hear from outside myself how it would affect my children. thank you, cynthia. you have helped both me and my children.

  • Hannah Grace

    I know what it’s like to be suicidal. I wanted and needed support, but support couldn’t heal me or keep me from doing it. It could just give me a place to deal with my issues myself.

    People can’t be saved, at least not by other people. That’s the tragedy for those who love people who can’t keep afloat. When the problem is mental illness, the struggle is long and dark, overpowering and almost unstoppable. There is hope, but healing comes slow, and sometimes people can’t bear the wait. I did, and it got better. I hope everyone on the verge waits it out, if they possibly can. But the fact that people can’t be saved by someone outside of themselves, no matter what that person gives them, no matter what hoops they leap through or how many hours they listen, or what tears they shed, also means that there is no guilt for those people left behind. Not being able to solve the problem, means that it isn’t your fault when it doesn’t get solved.

    Please, don’t carry this guilt.

  • God bless you, Thom. Thank you so much for reaching to us/me/the world in this way.

  • DR

    Thom, I recently experienced some depression in a way that I felt completely untethered from the world. It was an odd, surreal and excruciatingly painful time but it was very short and thankfully contextual. As I worked it out in therapy (medication helped as well) and came out of that cloud, the thought of those of you experiencing that every single day for a sustained period of time was almost unthinkable. That you keep choosing to wake up and survive and slog through that cloud is indicative of extraordinary inner strength and faith. I’ll pray for you because now that I got a glimpse of what you’re enduring, you have my respect, my concern, my prayers and my love.

  • elaine

    My husband lost his job of 15 years and we lost our house my husband never got over losing are house cos he was a joiner and did loads work in our home he got small jobs but they never lasted long I think we both got depressed after losing everything and my husband took his life this year I blame myself cos I should known and got help I feel terrible hate myself

  • elaine

    My husband took his own life this year and our dogs who was 15 people say things get better but I cant see that all I want is my husband back I hate every day and its horrible such a waste of life he was only 46 dont no how to cope I never thought he leave me this way we still had so much left to do if only he reslised the mess and heartache he left behind

  • Widowed in 05

    I remember when the therapist told me “He killed himself where you would find him because you were the person he was most angry with in the whole world”. So no, therapists aren’t always helpful.