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The Words at a Funeral Service That Helped Ease My Shame About Suicide

This past summer, I attended the funeral of a fellow member of my church who had died by suicide. Death by suicide is despairingly sad, and it can be especially scary when a fellow warrior dies from a disease you share. I didn’t know him much at all, but I was and still am in complete shock by this great loss to our community. As many do in the face of death, I wanted to do something. I wanted to be there to offer support however I possibly could. The tangible manifestation at the time was this: I offered to provide nursery care during the service so that any families who wanted to attend the service could do so and have space and peace to grieve.

So I found myself there, sitting on the floor of the nursery, playing with my kids and a darling 6-month-old baby. I sat with a few other congregants and listened to the service as it was piped in on an old cathode ray tube TV. I listened to the hymns the congregation, bursting at the seams, sang mournfully together, while playing with an assortment of trucks and trains. And then I listened to the message from our pastor. And I never could have known the impact the words he used that day would have on me. I didn’t realize the words spoken — and the open and honest hearts from his family — would give me an incredible gift. It would allow me to finally let go of the shame I’ve felt surrounding the time I almost died by suicide.

As I reflected on the words in this sermon months later and I allowed myself to feel the intense emotions that were coming up for me, I thought about how I write, talk and think about my own journey with mental illness and my own brush with death. And now I wish I could go back and erase every journal entry I’ve ever written and re-have every conversation. I want to change every time I’ve uttered the words “I attempted suicide” to “I almost died by suicide, a complication of my illness.”

The brave and honest and compassionate language our pastor and his family gave me through the message at his funeral service this summer has forever changed me. A message whose words I go back to in my head again and again and again. A message that has helped me begin to ease the shame I’ve always felt about my illness and transform it into compassion for myself and my fellow warriors. This small gift of freeing language has meant so much to me. Thank you.

Image via Thinkstock.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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