It has been quite a lot of times that I presided over funeral masses where the person died taking his/her own life. Each time was always a struggle for me as to what would I say in my homily. After the Mass was even more challenging when I would approach the loved ones to show them comfort. Before the Mass, I could sense that it was altogether difficult as well for the family to tell me what the cause of death was.
To say that suicide is a complicated issue is an understatement. While it could indeed involve and affect anyone, nobody dares to talk about it at all. Not talking it out is itself a grave problem. Possibly, the more we refuse to confront this case the more it would certainly kill people. The truth of the matter is, suicide has become one of the leading causes of death in our times.
By all means, we would rather discuss it bravely than be sorry. Gone should be the days when it is taboo. People we least expect would unbelievably succumb to it. Of late, in a span of one week, two icons of global fame fell victims. In a not so recent past, it was the son of the runaway bestselling-author of “The Purpose-Driven Life” who also tumbled. And who would ever forget the award-winning actor who was always funny who made us lighthearted after watching his movies. Remember Robin Williams?
Who is likely to commit suicide? Some netizens ponder with a tinge of sarcasm: “Why do we keep losing the good ones and getting stuck with the bad?” Truth be told that I am inclined to agree a bit. They are good to the extent that they refused to become burdensome to loved ones. They maybe so polite that amidst life’s unbearable and insurmountable concerns they would think that taking life would be the best option available. Perhaps they could also be of extremely achievers’ footing that any failure is deemed unacceptable. That saying, who is bad? Nobody. Just as nobody is to judge any person as well.
Instead of passing judgement, we are called instead to place our lives in the hands of God. Only God knows our deepest self. We leave the judgement to Him alone. Accordingly, our Church teaches that grave psychological disturbances, anguish or grave fear of hardship, suffering or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide. We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. (CCC, 2282-2283)
Furthermore, times past when the remains of the person who committed suicide would be prohibited to enter the church. That has significantly changed now. Nobody must be discriminated, much less in the Church. But it should not in any way encourage suicide. By no means. What it conveys rather is to treat just like any other sickness the person who commits suicide. That person too suffers deficiency and disorder. Mental, that is. Hence, the dire need that they be accorded with so much care, understanding and utmost compassion.
Where is help? Certainly not empty platitudes like: “You need to get out more.” “It’s all in the mind.” “Things could be so much more.” “There is even nothing wrong with you.” “No one ever said life is fair.”… These are the things that we must dare not say to suicidals. Conversely, we cannot actually say what to say. There are just proper ways how to say what we should say. Sometimes we do not even have to say anything we just have to be there for the person. “You say it best when you say nothing at all.”
What one must do? Listen, aggressively that is. Be present, profoundly. Meditation helps. Laughing to a heart’s consent makes sense. Being charitable eases any pain. Avoiding negatives like gossips and fake news will make a difference. Having a true friend and becoming one yourself is a blessed opportunity. Definitely, this listing is not all there is but it could indeed help somebody not to become suicidal.
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