What to Say by Jennifer Lane

posted in: Uncategorized | 11

Whenever you’ve lost someone to suicide, one of the most difficult things about your new normal is figuring out what to say. The stigma attached to suicide is unlike anything I have ever experienced before. It makes the whole matter so murky, it can be tough to navigate.

As I have begun to heal from the loss of my brother, I have felt more empowered to speak out, to drive away the darkness of that stigma by shining the light of the hope I have in Christ.

There are times, like as I write this now, I feel strong when I share about living with my brother’s suicide.

I even begin to think it is my responsibility to speak up, to elevate the stigma, to be a crusader that educates every chance possible. Doing any less feels like a disservice to my family.

But there are other times when I just don’t have the peace or the braveness to talk about my loss. Worries about making others uncomfortable or how others will think about me creep into my brain, and I stay silent.



Another thing that makes it difficult is reactions I have received when sharing about my loss with friends that have experienced losses very similar to mine. I can get a range of reactions.  Sometimes they are thankful that I have reached out and brought up how difficult our loss feels. They are grateful someone else recognizes that about their life. But sometimes I have gotten puzzling responses that seem to just change the subject.

In receiving those reactions, I have to remember that they are in the same murky “what to say?” waters I am. I have to have grace. I also hope to receive grace when I’m having a tough moment with no words.

Grace always applies, especially to yourself. Don’t criticize yourself, thinking you are responsible for pushing back all the stigma, when you find those moments when speaking out and sharing seem impossible.

The ugly truth is that some people are incapable of giving grace and understanding. Sharing your story of suicide loss might be completely wasted on their ears. They will judge you and decide you’ve done something to warrant such a devastating time in your life.

These judgements grow out of their fear. They don’t want to think that a person just like them could experience this loss without deserving it.  They want to think that there is something they can do to make sure they are never in your position.

But we all learn something as we experience a loss from suicide. We all now know this could happen to anyone. It happens to typical, everyday families about 117 times a day in the United States.

Don’t let fear rule your life, but don’t take it personally when someone treats you ungracefully because of their fear.

Even well-meaning, kind people who are trying their best will say offensive things. It is just so easy to be ignorant of what loss from suicide is like. Before I had lost my brother, I would have had no idea what to say or how it felt. I pray most people will never experience this type of loss.

Even people who have become familiar to the issue of suicide through research will never be able to have enough information to know what this loss is like. They can be more sensitive with their words and actions, and that is such a gift to someone who has suffered this type of loss.

What to say, now that you are a survivor of suicide, will always be an internal struggle. What might be right in this moment will be wrong in the next. Just know that you are far from alone in feeling the ache from the stigma. Let grace be abundant in your life in the times full of brave truth and times full of silence.

11 Responses

  1. Denise Varga
    | Reply

    Thank you Jennifer. I lost my father when I was 5,which was 59 years ago. I still wonder why. Through God’s love and grace I’m at peace. I wish I would have been enough to keep him here,but it’s not about me. As in 1John 4: 16, God’s love will take us through even the most difficult trials into victory.

    • Anna Smit
      | Reply

      Dear Denise, I hope you don’t mind me replying to your comment. I am so sorry for your incredible loss at such a young age. I just wanted you to know that I came close to committing suicide and have two little girls (3 and 6). I was suffering from PTSD at the time and it meant that there were periods during the day that I was trapped in a cocoon of indescribable emotions attached to lies of the enemy that had rooted within me as a little girl (when faced with trauma). Moments later I felt completely normal and couldn’t believe I’d ever even considered killing myself. I have beautiful little girls, a wonderful husband and such loving family and friends, but in those moments it was as if I was locked in a different world, where I felt I had nobody. I don’t know why I got to live and your dear Dad didn’t, but I just wanted you to know that I am sure he loved you so very much and that like me he was most likely trapped inside trauma from his past. I now see it all as a spiritual attack of the enemy. If your Dad gave his life to Christ, then I am certain that this verse (which I recited over and over again through PTSD) also applies to him and you’ll get to hug him again: Romans 8: “38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

      I hope and pray this blesses, rather than hurts you more.

    • Jennifer Lane
      | Reply

      I’m am deeply sorry for your loss, Denise. I love hearing that The Lord has brought you peace. Praise Him!

  2. Joann Jungels
    | Reply

    I am so pleased to read your story, and I feel the exact same way. When I decide to share my story, you are so correct that they either don’t understand, or don’t know what to say. Some are so understanding, and some people just don’t know how to react because it has never happened to them and think it never will. Your story is a real comfort to those of us who have and are still going through the grieving process, and will until our last day. Thank you for sharing your feelings and thoughts with the rest of us survivors. I wish you serenity and peace as you continue on with your own journey into your new life.

    • Jennifer Lane
      | Reply

      I love your comment, Joann. I am so glad sharing about not knowing what to say was a comfort. I pray you will have peace as well!

  3. Susie
    | Reply

    I also lost my brother to suicide. It happened on May 15, 2015. He was 50 years old. At the time it was the hardest thing I ever went through, but there was beauty in the ashes as my mom and I clung to each other. A relationship that was never there before, emerged and it wonderful. I never hid how he died and people had/have a hard time with it. After a while, I had to chose wisely who I shared with because often I could not emotionally handle their response while I was in the depth of those murky waters.
    10 months after my brother’s suicide my 23-year-old son died after a horrific motorcycle accident. Strangely, having gone through my brother’s death, under different circumstances but with much of the same shock and trauma, prepared me a little but for what it is like after having lost my son. People do not know what to say or how to act. Death scares people, even though who claim the same faith in Jesus Christ as we do. The added layer of suicide makes the journey complicated to navigate. Sorry for all of us…

    • Jennifer Lane
      | Reply

      I am so sorry for the loss of you brother and your son, Susie. Thank you so much for commenting and sharing part of your story. As Christians we should all know we have victory over death, but you are right that death still scares people. I’m sorry for all of us too. Well put.

  4. Carol Borrelli
    | Reply

    Ah, those dreaded changed subjects! I thought I was the only one who experienced the silence, or the changed subjects, over and over and over again. Thanks for sharing. Your words are wise and reassuring. Maintain your hope in Christ, he will conquer the stigma one day, once and for all!

    • Jennifer Lane
      | Reply

      Thank you , Carol. Only Christ can bring light to such a dark subject.

  5. Faith Raider
    | Reply

    I almost my brother to suicide too. It was his birthday two days ago. I feel like for me the only way to make anything good out of the awfulness of his death is to speak up as often as I can. To do what I can m, where I am, to speak light and love into the darkness. It is hard. But it is necessary.

    • Jennifer Lane
      | Reply

      You are so brave, Faith. Thank you for speaking light. God bless you.

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