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On suicide and surviving the storm

Southwest Kansas Catholic

This advice came from my wife, Charlene, before we were married: “Despair,” she said, “always lifts.”

I’ve had to remember this from time to time when the bluesman has come to call, taking me into that deep, dark well.

“Despair ALWAYS lifts.”

Earlier this year, two issues of the SKC contained back to back obituaries for young people who had taken their own lives. And Alex Gleason, Page 13 in this issue, a fine young man, left his family and friends agonizing as to the “Why?”.

Everyone is wired differently, affected in their own deeply personal, and totally unique way, by the world around them. It is impossible to fully comprehend the uniqueness of the depths of each person’s emotional well, which is why it is equally impossible to fully surmise why someone might choose to end their own life. It is a depth which we cannot fathom.

Sometimes, of course, the answer is apparent. It is a rash decision housed in despair that (if only they had known!) would have lifted, eventually.

The Catholic Church understands that deep depths of anguish can diminish responsibility of those who take their own lives. The Church offers Mass for the repose of the soul of a suicide victim, “invoking God’s tender love and mercy, and His healing grace for the grieving loved ones.”

The Catholic Church assures us that God alone is left to judge the state of one’s heart and mind at death.

“Despair ALWAYS lifts!”

Several years ago I found myself in the deepest depth of despair I had ever experienced before or since, due to a loved one’s illness. I prayed, but the depth didn’t decrease. Depression gave way to a panic-state. I could have and should have called a help-line. I needed help. Badly.

Fortunately, today, here I sit at my computer drinking coffee and trying to share some words of comfort with others. Time, I realize, was the gift God gave me that night. I just needed time to get through the storm. Despair lifted, just as Charlene said it would.

The storms can be unfair. They can be damaging, physically and emotionally. They can blind us to any sort of reprieve. They can be so unbelievably harsh.

In my experience, the best solution for calming the storm is to talk. If you don’t feel comfortable turning to family or friends, call 1-800-273-TALK. And in the meantime, never, ever forget:

“Despair ALWAYS lifts!”

What can we do for others? All of us must embrace the notion that many people we encounter are carrying a great burden, and that they must be treated with compassion. We must practice constant empathy, reaching out to each other in as Christ-like a way as possible. We have to fight the nationalized hate that has come to the fore. Hate for others breeds hate for oneself, and visa versa.

If you find yourself with someone deep in the depths of despair, LISTEN to them. When I was deep in that well, I called a friend who talked. And talked. And talked! I needed to talk, not to be talked to. His words were a blur. Try as he might to help, he might as well have been reciting a recipe for lasagna.

We have to laugh; we have to celebrate. We need to teach one another not to take life too seriously. We must remind each other we are all in this together, brothers and sisters—family—children of a loving God.


Diocese of Dodge City

910 Central PO Box 137 Dodge City, KS 67801 | 620-227-1500

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