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Emotions & Challenges, Grief Journey, Holidays

From the Desk of Father Rubey: They Were Loved

During February, we celebrate Valentine’s Day. That can be a very painful day for people grieving the suicide of a loved one.

Survivors often express that there was tremendous love between them and their loved one who died by suicide. They sometimes question why their love was not enough to keep their loved one alive. I don’t think that their loved one completed suicide because they did not feel loved or that they did not love those who are left behind.

There is absolutely no connection between the love that existed and the fact that someone completes suicide. The act of suicide is completely separated from love. Suicide is all about the pain someone is experiencing at a particular time in their life. People do feel loved by the many acts of kindness that are showered on them by family and friends. Unfortunately, the love that exists between people has limitations. It is incapable of penetrating into an individual’s soul and healing them from their inner pain.

One way to understand this is to think of mental illness as akin to other illness. Someone who is in the final stages of cancer for example, cannot be healed by the loved ones who are surrounding them or trying to comfort them as they are making the transition from the here to the hereafter. Granted, there is sometimes a lot of time from the moment the cancer is discovered to the time when the cancer is in its final stages. There may be time to make amends and say all those things that need to be said before the person departs from this life. The point is that all the love in the world is not capable of healing this loved one from cancer.

Mental illness progresses like any other type of illness. Sometimes those suffering from mental illness die from this disease. It catches survivors by surprise because their loved one may never have expressed the depth of the pain that they were experiencing. This may have been because they were confused about what was going on within their souls or their minds. They sought relief from their pain. They may have tried different tactics to relieve the pain that was engulfing them.

Sometimes people suffering from mental illness seek the help of a professional such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or a clinical social worker. Medications might be prescribed and there may be relief from the pain. Sometimes there is success with such an intervention and the person can live a relatively normal life.

Yet there may also be times when the pain returns and ravages the mind and soul of the person. The person struggles with this illness. They attempt to live as normal a life as possible but continue to be distracted by the pain of their illness. It keeps getting worse and more severe and there seems to be no end to the pain, until finally this suffering soul feels that the only way out of this pain is to end their life.

Could the outcome have been different? Yes, it is very possible. However, there is no guarantee that the outcome would be different.

I recently read an inscription that was on a headstone in an Irish cemetery, “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal. Love leaves a memory that no one can steal.” I think that quote says it all. That is one of the reasons that I think rituals are so important during the grieving process. Rituals are ways to remember this loved one who found life too painful to be able to continue living. They are still loved deeply and are sorely missed.

Those who complete suicide had great love for their families and friends. They knew that they were loved by family and friends, but this love was incapable of being a conduit whereby their pain would be assuaged. Their deaths had nothing to do with not being loved. Their deaths were a result of overwhelming pain. Again, their suicide is not an indicator that they did not love those close to them. The love that they had for their loved ones was incapable of stamping out the pain that had ravaged their minds, souls, and brains.

Keep On Keepin’ On,

Charles T. Rubey

About the Author

Rev. Fr. Charles Rubey

Rev. Charles T. Rubey is the Founder and Director of Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide (LOSS) a non-denominational program offered by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago.Read More »