Tuesday morning my daughter learned a dear friend, she once considered a sister, took her own life. Why? No one can say. Jennifer was a beautiful young woman with so much to live for. Unfortunately, she didn't think so. It shatters my heart to think this young child felt ending her life was the only answer. That no one close to her even knew she carried such a darkness inside her. She was a special person and she will be deeply missed.
While online earlier, I found this article by Sarah York, a Unitarian Minister who specializes in grief counseling. Her words were comforting to me and I hope to you. I hope she doesn't mind my using her words.(I changed the names to Jennifer).
Early this week, Jennifer completed a decision. Where there is pain and confusion, despair and doubt, we long for the end to suffering. For some, life no longer has any choices but one. Life leaves scars that the suffering can not find the inner resources to heal. The inner pain was too great – pain that she had contained within herself for years, pain that often lashed out in anger, mostly at herself. Jenn chose to end the suffering for herself. The mind was exhausted, the heart frightened, and the end taken. The suffering does not end, however, for those who have loved and cared for her. Friends and family are left with feelings of shock, betrayal, anger, sadness, and – in time – compassion and forgiveness. Those who are left ask and continue to ask, “What could I have done? Why didn’t I see it?”and this
No one knows. And nothing will bring her back.
No one is responsible for Jenn’s choice but Jenns
We come into this time with a range of emotions as deep and complex as the young woman we are remembering.
Here there is love – and the searing pain of separation.
Here there is anger – and the futile search to understand why Jennifer could not weather the despair that locked her alone into her self.
Here there are questions – why, mostly. Why?
Some of you come feeling bruised by this death and asking what you could have done to prevent it.
Jenn’s choice to die touches the despair that courts many of us in our own moments of loneliness and threatens the structures of meaning that affirm our own lives. Let us remember that no single act of desperation can define a life. No matter how stalked by pain, Jennifer’s life also had its moments of delight and happiness, caring and friendship, sharing and love. Death by choice is not a denial of life; it is the cry of despair for more life. It grows from a deep personal alienation or profound suffering and is carried out alone, after a struggle within the self.
When a death such as this cuts across life in its fullness, we are left with a certain incompleteness. We know that Jennifer leaves much unfinished, unfulfilled, unsaid. There are still other things you wanted to share with her, and she with you: Graduations, weddings, the birth of grandchildren; another walk on the lake at sunset with friends, another shopping spree, another video game. This sadness for the loss of this life, full and blossoming, mingles with the sadness for the loss of possibilities not realized.
It's so difficult to find words of comfort for the family and friends suffering through this tragedy, but Ms. York says them well.
Rest in Peace, Jenn.