The hearts of those who know of Pastor Rick Warren’s ministry in Southern California ache for him, his wife Kay, and the family as we learn today of the suicide of his twenty-seven year old son. Suicide is not a comfortable subject for anyone, but it happens at an alarming rate, and our hearts break for those left to deal with the “whys, “if onlys,” and “what could I have done?” Here are a few things I have learned in my time as a church counselor to minister to families that are hurting in this way.
- It is never a time to throw stones. In the aftermath it is common to try to access blame. The grief and loss are bad enough. It is not a time to point fingers, it is a time to simply grieve and have compassion for one another. Ultimately the act was something within that person and he or she, as hard as it is to accept, is responsible.
- It is a time to be gentle. The Bible’s admonition to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” is most applicable at this time. Creating a climate where the person who is left can express their feelings is helpful. It’s not a time to tell someone how to feel, it is a time to listen. Or perhaps it is simply a time to quietly weep with that person. Tears say a lot.
- No one and no family is immune to some of the most difficult things life can throw our way. People in ministry hurt and grieve and feel the same feelings as everyone else. Make no judgments on the family. If our family has not experienced something terrible, it is simply by the grace of God, and we should humbly be thankful and not think for one moment that tragedy could not happen to us. We are all human, we all struggle.
- Encourage the survivor to find avenues of support, and stay involved in their life. Simple phone calls mean a lot.
- Offer to pray with the individual. Pray asking for God’s comfort and peace within this most difficult chapter of life. Gently acknowledge that our compassionate God was also a suffering Savior and intimately knows what it is like to hurt, and experience intense pain and grief. He cares in ways we cannot fathom.
Dr. Norman H. Wright shares a poem by Iris Bolton written in 1981. It is from the book, Crisis & Trauma Counseling.
I don’t know why…
I’ll never know why…
I don’t have to know why…
I don’t like it…
I don’t have to like it…
What I do have to do is make a choice
about my living
What I do want to do is accept it and to
The choice is mine.
I can go on living, valuing every moment
in a way I never did before,
Or I can be destroyed by it and, in turn,
I thought I was immortal, that my
children and my family were also,
That tragedy happened only to others…
But I know now that life is tenuous and valuable.
And I choose to go on living, making
The most of the time I have,
And valuing my family and friends in a
way I never experienced before.
May Our God, Our Great Physician heal the broken hearts of those left behind who hurt and grieve.