Over the weekend I received news of a family that lost their teenaged son to suicide. It’s heart wrenching whenever anyone has bury their child, but when the loss is due to suicide, the loss is even more excruciating.
I can’t even imagine the pain those parents are experiencing.
Not only his parents, but siblings, distant relatives, and friends must all be grappling with questions that will never be answered.
How could we have stopped this?
What should have done differently?
Was there something we missed?
What did we do wrong?
Was he hiding something?
Was he being bullied?
Why didn’t he come to us?
As much as I would like to, I can’t answer those questions. The truth is that sometimes, there wasn’t anything that anyone could have done. Sometimes the pain is so deep not even the most discerning eye can catch it. Even the best of parents can experience this kind of tragedy.
Sometimes though, something can be done. Sometimes there are clues. If anyone is looking closely enough to see them.
This tragedy got me thinking about my own children, and my failures as a parent.
I know I’m not alone in catching my mind wandering when one of my children is trying to tell me a joke they heard at church. Or being too busy to play a game with another. Or being so absorbed in my own thoughts that I don’t hear my daughter telling me something that happened while she was at a friend’s house. Or just wanting my toddler to let go of my leg so I walk across my kitchen, when all he wants is cuddles from his mamma.
What do I miss in those moments? If my children were struggling would I notice? Or would I be too wrapped up in what was on my phone screen?
We have to pay attention to our children. The enemy wants them desperately. They have to be more important than the dirty dishes, or the grocery shopping, or whatever it is that calls us away.
Not only do we need to pay attention to what our children want to tell us, but we also need to communicate with them more freely. I don’t mean “the talk,” I mean our love for them, the things that make us proud to be their parents, and even sometimes our own struggles.
And not just with words. Our actions speak volumes. When we put their needs before our own, we shout louder than we ever could with words “I LOVE YOU!”
When we stop what we’re doing and listen, we’re telling them they are more important.
Have I communicated my love to my children? Do my children know they can come to me with their problems? Have I shown them that I will fight for them? Can they trust me to be there for them when they need me the most? Do they know I would lay down my life for them?
I hope that they do. But, just in case they don’t know it well enough, I’m going to tell them more. I’m going to say more “I love yous.” I’m going to give more hugs, and make more time for the silly games.
And I will make it a point to listen. No matter how important what I’m doing may seem, it isn’t more important than they are. I will make it point to know the state of my little flock.
Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. Proverbs 27:23
I have been speaking from a mother’s perspective, but what if you are the teen who is struggling? Know that there is hope. How ever bleak your circumstances, God can make a way.
I know what it’s like to believe that suicide offers a way out, that dying is better than living.
But that is a lie. Don’t believe it.
The only life that God can’t restore is the one that is no longer living.
Hope stops when your heart stops beating.
Get help. Talk to someone. If you can’t talk to your parents, find someone else, another relative, a teacher, a counselor, or leader in your church.
Remember that God created you for a purpose, and that He loves you so much more than even the most loving earthly parents ever could.
And nothing you could ever do, and nothing that happens to you can make God love you any less.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39