I attended my first military memorial service today. At times, there was some discomfort for me in the formality of the event, but at the same time there was a sense of honor and respect being paid to the deceased because of the protocol being followed. Overall, I left very impressed with the way the memorial service was handled.
The reason for the service was another reason. The sergeant we were memorializing committed suicide last week. My fiance was deployed with him in Afghanistan until they came home in Dec. All I heard about this sergeant that may have played into his suicide were that he came home from deployment to his wife divorcing him and then the weekend before he passed away, his girlfriend broke up with him. These issues on top of reintegration from war, send a "well duh" thought through my head. However, it seems no one else saw it coming. He had future trips planned, he wasn't giving away everything he owned, etc.
Many of those (including my fiance) that I had the privilege to speak with are in total shock. I understand their shock. Even with friends that have committed suicide and I knew they were in a space they might do that, there is a shock that comes along with not being able to believe they actually followed through. At the same time, being someone who was suicidal for so many years and watching close friends of mine struggle with suicidality, I highly doubt there were no signs. The signs were just too subtle for the "normal" person to notice.
I say "normal" b/c I believe those of us who have been suicidal at one point or another in our life or have people close to us who are gain a better understanding of what to look for and a gut feeling of when someone else might be struggling that much, even if they're hiding it from 95% of the people in their life. I believe it's also hard for a person who has never been suicidal to fathom situations or feelings that would push someone to that point. I bet you anything, those closest to him didn't realize the internal turmoil he'd probably been dealing with since returning home in Dec or even before. All it took was something big (or small) to be his breaking point.
Memorial services for someone who dies from suicide always feel so much sadder and more painful for me. When someone dies in battle, or in a car wreck, or in some way that is out of their control, for some reason it is easier to cope with. It's easier to think they've found peace with Jesus. NOTE: I do NOT believe suicide equates the inability for God's grace to cover you and grant you eternal life with him. I do find myself feeling more that the person's life was cut short though. What great things might they still have seen, done, or felt in the name of the Lord if they'd just stuck it out? Feelings are ever changing. I do know what it's like to be chronically depressed and suicidal for 5 straight years, so I know it's tiring, but I also know that the depression and impulses did wax and wane during that time, and it is possible to overcome.
I think part of the sickening thud that settles in my stomach when I hear of a suicide and especially if I attend the person's funeral or know the person personally is b/c I know how close I was in the Spring of 2008 of causing that pain on so many around me. In the moment, I couldn't see past what was directly in front of me, so I don't hold guilt per say. I was very sick. But I constantly praise God that he put me in a place where people could intervene and I could be given another chance and receive help from people who could help me.
At the memorial service today, I cried. I never met this sergeant. My fiance didn't know him all that well. Yet we were both greatly affected today by his death. For me, it's just another reminder that people I don't even know might be effected if I chose to end my life before God calls me home.
I am very much in prayer for the family and friends of this sergeant and of anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide. In addition, I am in deep prayer for those people I know and those I don't know who are having suicidal impulses. God always provides a way out, we just have to choose to pay attention to it and take it.
And praise God that he took care of me when I didn't want to pay attention or take advantage of my way out of my suicidal impulses and acted on them. If I had succeeded, I would not be getting married to the man of my dreams in less than 4 weeks, I wouldn't have been able to realize my dream to be a therapist - and a good one at that. And I for sure wouldn't have realized my desire to function well and happy on only 20mg of Prozac instead of 10 psychotropic meds at one time.
God is bigger than suicide. I wish I knew how to help people (including myself) remember this in moments of utter despair when all you can see, think, feel, act on is getting out of this world and ending this life as soon as possible!!!!