There are many tragedies in this world and few departings from it that do not involve at least some degree of sorrow and sadness. Even when we can see the release that death brings from some long lingering disease, we still feel the pangs of sadness in the separation. It is a futile thing to try to compare degrees of despair and heartache; all of grief holds pain.
All of that notwithstanding, there is something peculiarly painful when a loved one takes his or her own life. We feel something of the knife’s own edge ourself, feel that our lives have taken some of the impact. It seems unlikely than any life is so completely solitary that its taking doesn’t leave a void in the lives of others, that no one else feels the pain of its dying.
We find ourselves wondering, even in the midst of our anguish, what we could have done differently, what we might have said at some particular moment that could have pierced the gloom, brought some light of hope. How do we explain to children and grandchildren? How do we help the spouse or sibling understand the depth of darkness that overwhelmed the soul? What do we say that can possibly help stave away the blunt-toothed gnawing of guilt or its long-fanged sharpness?
Even when we reach that point of understanding that reminds us that we cannot control the choices that other people make, we still sorrow, we still grieve, we still miss the one we loved. Even those of us who have ourselves slipped to the very edge of that dark chasm, even though we believe that we can understand the depth of that despair and hopelessness, still feel the pain of those left behind. We cannot keep from thinking about all of life that could have yet been lived, priceless moments that will go unspent.
In the end, we know that it takes a greater grace than lies within us to heal the woundings of a loved one’s suicide. It takes a soothing greater than what we can offer to bring a balm of comfort to the aching hearts, torn lives. We should not pretend to know what others feel, even when we believe that we have been through the same thing ourselves. Perhaps the best that we can offer is to acknowledge their aching and offer our sympathy and love. And to pray for them in the fervency of truest compassion.
Even in this, we may feel inadequate. But no matter how clumsy our offerings, we should keep in mind that the most awkward caring is far more loving than the most eloquent pretension.
Maybe we can remember that the purpose of our expression is not to erase their pain but to let them know that it is shared.