Suicide Prevention

Someone that I cared about a lot recently died by suicide. He was 16. I could go on and on about how great he was. His smile was contagious, and every time I think of him, I smile.

More importantly, I want you to know this resource:

(en español: 1-888-628-9454; deaf and hard of hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Please put this number in your phone. Put it in your kids’ phones and all those you love. In some areas, you can just dial 988. That will be available everywhere across the U.S. later this year.

For those in Minnesota, call **CRISIS (274747) from anywhere in the State of Minnesota to reach the local County crisis team.

In Hennepin County, we have these local options as well:

Adults 18 and over

Call 612-596-1223.

Children 17 and under

Call 612-348-2233.

Again, if you’re local, please put these numbers in your phone and your kids’ phones and give it to all your loved ones too.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has declared a national emergency in child and adolescent health. The effects of the pandemic are far-reaching. We have been in this new isolated way of life for 22 months. This is the third school year affected by Covid-19. It is ok to be admit that things are hard right now. We wish for normal, and I don’t think any of us thought it would last this long. We need to be gentle with each other, because we all are facing tough times.

Losing a young person is never easy. When someone dies by suicide, we ask what could I have done to help? We can never know what is in someone’s head. We do not know the pain that someone may be experiencing. Often the person feels like the most loving thing s/he can do is leave. A suicidal person may feel like a burden, or that s/he makes everything harder/worse/complicated for family and friends. In the dark moment, choosing to exit may feel like the only choice. I have only gone to that very dark place one time, and I am thankful that it was brief, that I chose to just go to sleep, hoping the next day would be better. It does get better!

The opposite of hope is despair. In seminary, I took a whole class on hope and despair. One of my favorite books is Miriam Greenspan’s Healing Through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair. In it she writes:

“Despite its bad reputation and the sense of shame associated with it, despair is a legitimate and eminently human emotion. More than grief and fear, it has a moral and social dimension that calls us to pay attention to and make meaning out of human suffering.”

Hope and despair, faith and doubt, pain and healing are all parts of our spiritual journey. We all may have “dark nights of the soul,” as St. John of the Cross named it. It is human to have a whole range of emotions, some that are uncomfortable. The only antidote is each other. We need one another to love and be loved, to care for one another, and to walk together in the sunshine and the rain. Despair wants us to isolate. When we need each other most, we often shut others out. We think we have to face our pain alone, but that is not true. Stay connected. We were literally made for each other, to see each through.

This youth I lost was someone I had confirmed. I had watched him wrestle with what he believed and what he did not as we talked in class and as he wrote his faith statement. My senior pastor and I had placed our hands on him and prayed. In fact, when my senior pastor and I had lunch a few weeks prior to the student’s death, we talked about him. Though we had both left that congregation, we still talked about this kid. He was that important to us. He was that important to many.

Sadly, we do not always tell someone how important they are. We assume they know. If only he could have heard what everyone said about him at his service! If only we told one another what we truly feel now instead of waiting until after death.

I do not believe that death by suicide is an automatic sentence to hell. To that person, the pain means the hell is here on earth. I believe that God was with my student before, during, and after his death. Even if his pain did not allow him to recognize God, I believe God was there. Because of our free will, we are able to choose not to live, even though that grieves God. I know in my heart that God embraced my student.

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