Sunday, August 2, 2015

How to deal with "Where is my loved one now?" as a SOS and a Christian

As a Christian, I had some immediate fears following Andy's death. However, the church has come a long way since her medieval days where suicide was considered unpardonable. Today, we have a greater understanding of the psychology of depression and the factors that might cause a victim to commit such an act.

I spoke with my parish priest not long after Andy passed. I was terrified. I wanted to make sure we did everything exactly right for him. He gave me much comfort.

1. Free Will vs. Disease
To start, we looked at the document Andy had left for us titled "Reasons". It was a long list, full of negative views of himself and on life, that attempted to explain his decision to die. I was told this alone was evidence that Andy did not have free will, one of the 3 conditions for mortal sin (this being #3- deliberate consent, following 1- A subject of grave matter, and 2- committed with full knowledge). Here's why:

I don't want to go into full details behind "Reasons", but I will say this: it was not Andy. This may have been physically written by him, but it was not written by the Andy we all knew and loved. At the time "Reasons" was written, it is clear that Andy was very, very sick. This is something that came from that sickness, not from Andy. Eventually the sickness became too much for him -just like any terminal illness- and his free will was gone.

Grief gets complicated when the loved one is both the victim and the cause of death. With Andy, I wanted to blame something out of our control like a drunk driver, stroke, or cancer, but I couldn't. At least not at first. Now I look at his death like the result of an illness or disease, and it becomes easier to understand. Suicide stems from depression. Though similar, a depressed person isn't necessarily suicidal, but a suicidal person often began depressed. Depression should be treated like any other illness, especially when it can lead to death (suicide is currently the 10th leading cause of death for all ages in the United States).

I don't believe Andy had free will in what he did. He was sick; "Reasons" is a perfect example that he was not himself, and therefore not able to consent. He hid it very well, and I wish he hadn't. I wish he had sought out help like we're supposed to do whenever we are ill. 

2. Psalm 139:
There is nowhere on Earth I can escape you,
Even the darkness is radiant in your sight.

God's has enduring love for us all, however we die.

3. This Franciscan's story:
(Taken from Harold Ivan Smith's "A Long Shadowed Grief: Suicide and its Aftermath") An unknown Franciscan monk first told a story of a man who, after suicide, found himself in God's presence. The man, overwhelmed by fear of God's wrath, heard God say, "It was tough down there, wasn't it? I know. My son had a tough time of it. Welcome home."

4. Compassion found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
2283 We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

And again:
"By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance."  Salutary repentance means even after death. God is always kinder and more loving than we can even imagine. "...equal to his majesty is the mercy that he shows." (Sirach 2:18) 

Lessons: Suicide is not the unpardonable sin that some have made it seem. We are children of an all-loving God who understands us better than we understand ourselves. God's mercy is wide, and includes those who have suffered and suicided. 

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