Thursday, December 24, 2009

Suicide: Is God judgemental or compassionate?

My first exposure to suicide was in high school when a girl in my circle of friends took her own life by chasing a bottle of asprin with a bottle of Nyquil. I still vividly remember the black dark hole of sad emotions that engulfed my world and took weeks to lift away like a sun-rise in slow motion. So many of us were devestated.

Simple death (if there is such a thing) causes enough grief and pain for survivors, but things change when a person ends his or her own life purposefully. Simple conclusion: Suicide hurts a lot of people, I dare say, more than it hurts the victim.

I've oft heard suicide referred to as very selfish, but I've always kind of winced at such statements. But I'm also very torn on this one. From what I remember, my friend in high school was under an enormous amount of emotional pain, relationship stress and family anxiety. She suffered by simply being awake. But at the same time, her release from life caused thousands of tears and intense greif reactions from her friends and peers who all cared for her.

I've talked with quite a few hospital patients who made suicide attempts. And one conclusion I can draw is that suicide is not as easy as it looks! Lots of people survive. You might say they're bad at suicide.

I must have seen half a dozen people recover after shooting themselves...mostly in the head! One lady shot herself in the chest, went to minor surgery, stayed one night in the hospital and went home. Some wind up in ICU, some are rushed into extensive surgery, some go to the psychiatric wing, and some ultimately succeed after hours of excrutiating pain.

Some patients call the chaplain to ask, "the suicide question:" Does God send you to hell if you commit suicide? I've been called to the psych unit for just this question. My theology (though I'm not even sure I believe in a literal afterlife hell) says to this question, absolutely not! But, I dare not be so adamant to a psych patient who may be looking for theological persmission to try again guilt free.

Some of the worst emotional pain I've witnessed in the hospital is from families of suicide attempts. When I see such unecessary suffering I feel the selfishness of suicide. But when I talk to the patients themselves, more than once have I felt the overwhelming need for releif of life's troubles.

I think God's heart breaks when one of God's children ends his own life; but it may be that God's heart has broken a thousand times over the string of suffering that leads a person to such drastic action. I know this to be true, because almost everytime I feel my own heart break for these people. And if my heart is breaking, I must believe that the heart of a loving God is doing the same.


Erin Miller said...

Sensitive handling of a heavy topic. Going to keep this in my "refer back to" file.

Vicki Hesse said...

where did you get that picture! good reflection to go with it. hang in there, elefy (today's word)