Shame and suicide

I know that this is probably not the the first topic on anyone else’s mind as we enter Lent. But a phone call from someone close to me yesterday, put me in the space of thinking about shame and suicide.

Suicide only entered my personal world in my mid thirties. First, someone who I lived with in community and then a member of my extended family. This time it is someone I knew in adolescence – late teens, early twenties. Someone who was a good friend to someone close to me.

I cannot begin to understand what it is like to feel suicidal – my brain simply doesn’t work that way. But I have been close enough to people who have been left behind to begin to glimpse the complex web of shame, guilt, anger and loss that is left.

I am grateful to people like my friend Robin Craig who has chosen to bear witness to her own journey – her 24 year old son committed suicide (you can find part of her story here:

As I hold this news, together with the crippling shame of so many who have suffered a similar loss, I pray for the day we no longer stigmatize suicide as we seem to now.

Perhaps the question we ought to pose ourselves – how would we journey alongside those who have suffered the loss of a loved one as a result of violence?

And then add to that burden the terrible weight that the violence was self-imposed.

It doesn’t matter whether there appears to have been a terrible climactic cause or not, the shame of those who were closest and who are now left behind can be almost unbearable.

If we have any judgement whatsoever, we do greater kindness by staying away.

Today I pray for every single person who is battling with their own sense of shame – their own questions over what they might have done differently – that they will find support in their grief.

2 thoughts on “Shame and suicide

  1. Thank you for sharing from your own place of sadness. I know Robin through her blog and was privileged to be invited to get together with her when she was visiting Toronto a few years ago. We are called by God to be present to other people in their grief and most often, to be quiet. Our presence gives the strongest message of support and I thank you for advising those who feel they have any judgement, not to visit. An excellent reflection.

  2. Thank you for this post. I’m grieving for a loved one who committed suicide 2 weeks ago. It is devastating, and there’s so much guilt. And thinking of the deep despair that drove him to take his life intensifies my grief.

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