We’re continuing our series of Pray A to Z Stories where individuals share their experiences, helping us know how to better pray through the topics in my new book Pray A to Z: A Practical Guide to Pray for Your Community.
*Before we jump into today’s post, I have a request. I have begun working on a new book project. It’s for families, and I’m very early in the planning and proposal stage. I’m looking for people who would be willing to pray for this project and me and my family as I write it. I believe this is a much needed topic for families today and could become a powerful resource for God’s glory. If you are willing to join a prayer team for this, please e-mail me at amelia @ ameliarhodes.com. I will send updates about once a month or as a big need arises. I would so appreciate your prayers, if you believe this is something you would like to commit to!
Today, we’re focusing on the heart-wrenching topic of suicide. January and February are high months for depression and mental health struggles. When I first heard Rosanne’s story, I knew if she would be willing, her story would help us all love and pray for those grieving the loss of a loved one to suicide, or those who think about committing suicide. Rosanne and I attended the same small high school, and I knew her brother way back when. Her story moved me beyond words, and I’m so thankful she’s sharing with us.
It’s funny how you remember weird things when a tragedy hits. On July 28, 2015, I was making hamburgers when my phone rang, and my mother asked me to come to their house. When my husband and I arrived, my parents told me that a police officer had stopped at their house to let them know that my brother’s body had been found in an abandoned building. It was apparent that he had taken his own life.
I remember sitting on my parents’ couch, trying to breathe calmly, but this sob just sort of wrenched out of me. All I wanted to do was hide, to be alone to process what had happened. But that’s not what happens when someone dies tragically. Someone has to make all the phone calls, and that someone was me. Strangely, the thing I remember the most about those calls was feeling so badly for ruining the evening of the person on the other end of the line.
While all grief is hard, and I have lost my grandparents and even a few friends, grieving someone who has taken their own life is a different kind of grieving. It is filled with what ifs and if onlys. There is a constant refrain that runs through your mind, “What could I have done to prevent this?”Grieving a suicide is also very lonely.
Our culture isn’t very comfortable with death in general, but if you want to kill the mood in any room in a nanosecond, mention that you lost someone to suicide. The silence that follows is deafening. I don’t blame people – they just don’t know what to say or do. All those comforting platitudes and phrases you generally murmur to the grieving don’t really work. So people tend to avoid you.
Although my brother’s death was the most difficult thing I’ve ever gone through, it was also, in many ways, the most beautiful. I know that sounds weird, doesn’t it?
But I saw, over and over again, God’s provision, His faithfulness and His tenderness during those weeks and months following that visit by the police officer.
While I felt lonely in my grief, God continued to give my husband just the right words to say to comfort me. I really struggled in the first weeks torturing myself with what my brother’s last moment may have been like. These thoughts woke me up at times or prevented me from going to sleep. I hung onto my husband’s words like a life raft at times.
God also sent an online friend, who checked in with me regularly and a lady at my church who I hadn’t known very well but who had gone through the same kind of loss. She would come to ask me how I was almost every week at church – offering a hug and an ear.
But the Person who comforted me the most was God Himself. I have a wicker loveseat on my back porch, and the weather that August and September was beautiful. I’d go out and sit with my Bible and my coffee, and slowly, God stitched back together the great gaping wound that was my heart during those first weeks and months. I have been a believer since I was a little girl, and I have often felt God’s presence in my life. He has faithfully answered my prayers and stayed by my side and even made me laugh, but never had I felt His presence and His tenderness so intensely as I did after my brother died.As the months went on, God continued to be there.
It was my oldest son’s senior year, and I was reminded painfully of my brother’s absence over and over again – of all the things that he missed. Sometimes, I wanted to be angry with him, but my brother struggled with mental illness much of his adult life, and like any other serious medical disease, eventually it killed him.
Grief is not a linear journey with stages that come and go like bus stops. I still have times when the pain hits unexpectedly and doubles me over. I sometimes still find myself crying in strange places, like the pet aisle at Meijer.
Losing my brother to suicide has changed something fundamental in me. My belief in a God who never leaves you and never forsakes you has been tested and found true and secure. He has used this horrible thing and allowed me to comfort and minister to others. While I still do not believe suicide is ever God’s will, I have seen Him make something beautiful out of what should have been something horrible. When I look back at those first weeks and months after learning of my brother’s death, the first thing I see isn’t the pain and horror. It is God’s presence and love and tenderness.
He truly made beauty from ashes.
Rosanne Bowman has been married to the Coach for almost 24 years, and has two teenage sons. She writes about the difference God makes in our daily lives at Divineordinary.com, and she has a devotional journal, 30 Days of God’s Goodness, coming out next month on Amazon. She also writes children’s book under the pen name R.V. Bowman. She’s excited to be working with her youngest son, Brody. He is illustrating her next release, June’s Big Adventure.