The purpose of this post is to help you, the person reading this who has lost someone to suicide, feel empathy for the person who killed themselves which in turn induces the desire to forgive. Would it surprise you to hear that most of us lack empathy? It’s sympathy almost everyone has. When we have sympathy for another person, it’s because we would (or think we would) feel the same way they do if we were in their position.
Empathy is a whole other ball of yarn: when we empathize with another person, we have not been in their shoes, and we have almost no idea what it would be like (which is why Hallmark doesn’t make empathy cards for funerals). But because we’re human and the other person is human, and we know what that’s like (sometimes awful, sometimes awesome, usually somewhere in between), it is possible to ask ourselves a series of questions in order to induce the ability to emotionally relate to them despite being unable to relate to their experiences. So, they’re in pain. Have we been in pain before? Yes. For the same reason? No. But we know what pain is like, right? Yes.
Now, think of the worst pain you’ve ever been in, whether that was while enduring a migraine (physical pain) or betrayal (emotional pain). While you were enduring the pain, you very likely hurt someone that you loved using words as weapons, even though you had no intention to, and later apologized. When you explained, “I was in so much pain from my headache/back ache/sports injury/cramps that I could barely see straight,” the other person most likely nodded, in sympathy, and forgave you. Why? Because they’ve lived on earth for their entire life too and know what it is to experience the physical pain of a headache/back ache/sports injury/cramps. And if you lashed out because you were in emotional pain, no doubt they have experienced that too at some point in life, and could empathize with the pain of a bad breakup, betrayal, psychic attack, malicious gossip, physical attack, sexual attack, etc., etc. So when you apologized later, they accepted the apology.
When we are in a little pain (either emotional or physical), we are usually a little irritable. And when we are in excruciating pain, we are usually a lot irritable (think woman in labor making threats of imminent castration). Now imagine anguish — the torture of being unable to feel love at all. How irritable would you become? And now imagine that anguish lasting for years. Not hours of child birth or eight weeks in a hospital burn ward but years of despair that will not go away. How irritable would you become? And how long do you think it would be before that pain just literally broke you? How long before you stopped fighting it? Years? Decades?
Now think of this person you have lost and how angry you are that they could take for granted the value of their own life, how sad you are that they could leave you, how mad you are that they didn’t ask for help, how angry you are that they didn’t say why they did it, how bad you feel that you couldn’t prevent it, whatever combination of regret and anger and sadness you personally feel, and now go back to a time when you were in pain and hurt someone you love.
You couldn’t feel love at the moment you took the action that caused pain because you were in pain. And so was the suicidal person who eventually took their own life: they were in pain when they took an action that caused you (and the rest of their friends and family) pain, that’s why they did it.
Now, ask yourself a question, please: Do I understand that this person I love was in pain when they committed suicide and that’s why they committed suicide?
If the answer is yes, then give the desire for their ability to feel Joy to God, in the form of a prayer. This may sound strange, but that’s all forgiveness is — a prayer. When we love someone, we desire their happiness (the ability to feel Love). When we forgive them, we desire their happiness anyway. To forgive a suicide, we ask, “God, please let me be healed of all pain and sadness and filled with Joy. And please let [the person who committed suicide] be healed of all pain and sadness and filled with Joy.” We request both our and the other person’s healing when we forgive.
God is Love and there is no punishment for those who take their own lives. Indeed, punishment would be redundant. There is no worse pain than the anguish of being unable to feel Love for prolonged periods of time with no hope of relief in sight.
For more on the link between physical and emotional pain, please read my CIPA post.
For the longer version of the forgiveness method, please visit my other website.
If you are suicidal, call 911 or go to an emergency room and ask to be admitted right now. Your life has intrinsic value. Your life matters. Forgive daily and get professional help right now.