In August of 1999, I was in the President of Nigeria’s office when I got a phone call that continues to ring in my ears today. It was my wife’s voice informing me that my mother had taken her life. At that split second in time, I unknowingly became a victim of suicide. Even now, I have to work to forget the helpless feeling that came over me. As I tried to grasp my loss and grief, I fell to my knees weeping. My mother had stolen my relationship with her—and there was nothing I could do about it but cry and moan.
To this day, I have tried to redeem some good out of that situation, and all I have been able to recover is the lesson of how to overcome the victimization of suicide. I hope that this can help you or someone you know who has experienced the trauma of a loved one committing suicide.
Victimization is the consequence of a bad situation happening to you over which you had no control. It can be the result of an accident or a violation such as abuse, rape, abduction, or a robbery. The main victimization of suicide is that your loved one has stolen their relationship away from you. When someone you loved and knew so well commits the abuse (in this case, suicide) it sets it apart from a situation where a stranger has committed the offense.
The whole direction and focus of your life from that point on will be determined by how well you are able to forgive the offense your loved one committed against you. A victim of any tragedy can be tempted to carry a helpless, hopeless attitude that affects every area of their life, including all their other relationships. Yes, people do get victimized, and suicide is one of the ways this happens; but there are ways to overcome it. It is not easy, but it can be done.
The only way I know to overcome the victimization of suicide is to forgive the one who committed the act of taking their life. I learned this lesson rather abruptly after carrying the unforgiveness of my mother around for almost 10 years. At a deliverance conference, I was confronted with the question of who I needed to forgive. I cannot tell you how many times I have asked this of others in my deliverance meetings, but this time, the question was addressed to me. When I consulted the Lord, He responded with, “Your mother.” Even though I had counseled others about this very thing in their lives, I was stunned by His response and realized I had been weighed down with the same offense. The realization hit me that I needed to forgive my mother for stealing my relationship with her. What could be more dastardly that to steal someone’s relationship with their mother, especially when it is the mother who steals it? The betrayal and loss is irrevocable. So there I was, staring down this huge offense and realizing that I had to forgive her—for my own sake. My dilemma was—how?
Forgiveness can be tricky. I actually believe it is one of the most difficult Christ-like characteristics to develop. It necessitates acting from your spirit and not your soul. Your soul, or mind, struggles against it because it holds the offense in its memory. Therefore, the decision must be made from your spirit, contrary to your mind, and then spoken from your mouth. It is a heart decision that presents itself in the physical realm by speaking it out. In my case, it was saying, “I forgive my mother,” and then, in essence, handing the Lord her I.O.U. note. We give Him the offense and trust Him to do justice with the debt that the person owes you. It is not that the person gets off scot-free but that you allow Jesus to hold the note and decide what to do with it. As you continue to speak forgiveness towards the offender, you will accept it in your heart. You will know it has reached your heart when you can trust Him to handle it.
As I said, forgiveness of the person is paramount. Another concept that helped me in processing this was trying to imagine what caused the person to have such thoughts. This helped make me more empathetic toward them. The one who commits suicide at some point believed a lie that was exacerbated by demons of deception, including self-pity. To some degree, the study of iniquity can open our understanding of generational curses to help us see why people are the way they are and why they act the way they do. On the other hand, there are some things we will never know or understand in our earthly lives.
Don’t Play the “What If?” Game
When our mother took her life, my brother Larry shared something he heard Charles Stanley say, “Those things you don’t understand, put them in a bag, tie it up, give it to the Lord, and never open it again.” Great advice! Failure to do this can open the door for the devil to play the “What If?” game. What if you had been with the person or had gone to see her or called, then such and such would not have happened. NO! Don’t play that game! The devil tried to play it with me by whispering, “Well, if you had been with her then she would not have done this.” The truth of the matter is that she would have done it anyway. Don’t play the game. Control your thinking and give the things you do not understand to the Lord.
Remember the Good
Don’t let their suicide overshadow your loved one’s goodness and accomplishments. Remember the good things about them. It is easy to allow tragedy to overcome us in times of weakness, but we must “hold fast to the good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
I hope that this article helps you or someone you know who has become the victim of a loved one’s suicide. The ultimate peace and reconciliation of the tragedy rests with the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the judge of the living and the dead. He holds the keys and only He truly knows the heart of man. He is a just and righteous judge.