Suicide: Why I Agree with Matt Walsh...

Many people are taking issue with Matt Walsh's blog post about the suicide of Robin Williams and how a disease did not take his life, he made a choice to end it (There is also this article about another aspect of spiritual problems that lead to depression, but that's a whole 'nother ball of wax...but I highly recommend reading it).  As the daughter of a woman who committed suicide, so much of what he wrote about resonates with me because I just don't understand why suicide happens (ie selfishness vs mental illness) but I've thought about these things thoroughly, ad nauseum and I have come to some similar conclusions.

There is such anger and a feeling of helplessness that comes when a loved one has mental problems but they refuse to let you do anything to help them.  They know they are depressed but they choose to descend into the pit of despair and wallow there and reject any hand that tries to help lift them out because, it seems, that it's become a comfortable place to be and they prefer it there.  There, they can be the victim and blame the whole world for being a terrible place but absolve themselves of any wrong that they do.  And let me tell you, my mother was not innocent.  She was neglectful, harsh, indifferent and sometimes even violent.  Yet one little word about how her actions hurt others and she would throw a magnificent pity party.  And all those years, she would talk of suicide, almost cheerfully.  How she would or would not do it.  Under what circumstances she would or would not do it.  So her family and children, in particular, had to wait it out and see if she would really follow through.  Intervention and involuntary hospitalization didn't help.  She refused follow up counseling and medications.  She even knew the pain of losing a loved one to suicide because her own brother took his life when I was 9 years old.  She swore she'd never do that to her mother.  She lied.  And my grandmother had to live through a second child who chose suicide.

You want to know what it's like to be on the "receiving" end of suicide?  It's like getting punched in the face and having them walk away with the parting words, "I never loved you and you're not important enough for me to stay here."  I even told my mother that once.  "I don't think I'm enough for you to stay here."  Her reply was weak and unconvincing and, in the end, not true.  And so I was left with anger.  Anger that suicide had visited my family once again.  Anger that she KNEW what it would do to us and she did it anyway.  Anger at the rookie officer whose eyes were red from crying after seeing what the train had done to her body and now he had to tell her family what she had done with the scene still fresh in his eyes. A scene that probably kept him awake at night for weeks or more.  Anger at the idiot chaplain who grilled us like we were criminals, complicit in crimes against her and didn't save her or recognize her cries for "help".  Anger that she had the wherewithal to write a note that her organs should be donated to science but not a single word to me or anyone else, not even a simple goodbye or "I'm sorry".  Anger that she was never there for me as a child and she had taken away all hope that I could have any meaningful relationship with her in the future.  Anger that she lived minutes away from us and saw the 5 children we had at the time for only a handful of visits.  I could go on ad infinitum, but you get the point.  All those years of struggling to help her and in a moment, one selfish moment, she's gone. With no recourse.  No closure.  And mountains of pain that I must now deal with on my own.

And deal with it I did, but there are never solid answers.  I heard a statistic during that time 8 years ago that made total sense to me, though:  75% of all people in mental institutions are there because they refuse to forgive those that have hurt them.  This would have been true for my mother, for sure.  She held everything against everyone, all the time.  She had an abusive alcoholic father and we have learned since her death that there was sexual abuse in her history as well.  She never forgave.  She also never forgave me for not allowing her to rock me to sleep as an infant but let my father do it instead.  She was still pained years later that at 18 years old, I didn't take her advice on a job she thought I should take.  No forgiveness for that either.  Nor for a million other bratty things I did as a kid that she always took personally.  She never forgave.

Believe me, I know it's extremely difficult to forgive unspeakable abuses from our past.  But we must.  Jesus commanded it.  I'm not saying it's easy.  I had my own laundry list to hand over to the Lord when I was a young woman.  I felt myself going down the same path as my mother.  I felt really, really sorry for myself and I had "reasons" to feel that way.  I would lay in my bed for days, recounting all the ills of my life and my past.  And it felt good.  Really good.  To be the victim and to blame all the mean people of the world and to hold myself unaccountable and innocent of any wrongs myself.  Looking back, there was great pride in this but I was so blind to it at the time.  Then, the alarms went off in my head: "This is what you mother does!"  This rocked me to the core and I sat up and shook it off and made the choice to not go there again.  The temptation would arise to go back there, and I had to fight a fierce fight to not go down the pity road again.  After I became a Christian, I realized my deep need to forgive all the wrongs of my past and so I did.  Not easy for sure, but I did.

Please don't think that I stand in judgement of those that are truly mentally ill, have chemical imbalances or brain damage.  I get it, I really do.  I am speaking more to those who need to forgive even the most heinous of crimes against them but instead continue to live the life of a victim and nurture the hurts until they become a part of who they are and governs their entire lives.  This then seems to lead to mental illness because bitterness sets in and kills the soul.  My mother was a super-intelligent and thoughtful person who descended into mental illness and alcoholism over the years.  It seems to me that her sins and self-abuse led to chemical imbalances and true, uncontrollable mental illness in the end.  The photo on her driver's license was that of a wild-eyed, disheveled old woman.  A woman who rejected others and life and the forgiveness of God and it literally drove her crazy.  As a bystander of this madness, I can't tell you how this tormented my soul because I was helpless to do anything about it.  The choice had to be hers and she refused to make it.

One last thought on this subject:  I definitely think there is another aspect of depression that is also spiritual.  Isolation is a part of depression and this gives Satan a wide-open door to plant lies into the mind of the depressed person.  I remember vividly as a child, thoughts of worthlessness and being unlikeable and that I should just kill myself.  I understand now as a Christian that we have an enemy and he has his minions and they work to destroy us.  Suicide is just one of their tools.  An insidious one where we join them in their work and act as an accomplice.  The most wretched of betrayals.  Unbelievers have no clue and even some believers fail to recognize this as a spiritual battle and succomb to the lies.  Which is why we need each other.  We should never be alone nor ashamed of what is happening and we should allow others to walk with us and speak truth into our lives.  This is a battle that should not be fought alone.  The enemy is far too crafty and the fact that we live in our own skin and we know our own failures makes us vulnerable to the lies and can block our ability to hear God's voice and feel His love and read His truth.  So we MUST must must have fellow soldiers in this fight.

Is there complete healing after the suicide of a loved one?  Yes.  It takes a lot of time, but yes.  As I went to identify the mangled body of my mother, anger was all I could feel because I was forced to participate in such a gruesome errand.  But as I walked down the corridor at the funeral home to see her, I felt God's Spirit well up inside me in an experience that is the most profound experience of my entire life.  For a brief time, the scales fell from my eyes and Jesus allowed me to see her as He does...with a divine outpouring of sympathy and love and empathy for her pain.  For the first time in my life, I was unaware of my own pain and I was able to see all the pain of her life and have an overwhelming desire to rock her in my arms and comfort her and make it all OK. In my mind, over and over again, I had the thought, "You poor thing, you poor thing...".  This was Jesus's heart beating in my own chest for a few holy moments that I will never forget as long as I live.  OH, how He loves us!  If only we all knew just how much.  The demons and the guilt of our lives and the hurts of our past couldn't touch us in the least if we could get ahold of this truth and feel His presence and His love like I did that day.  So I have forgiven her for the pain of leaving me feeling abandoned and rejected, for choosing to hold onto her own grief and allowing it to drive her crazy.  I have also been released by the Lord for the profound guilt that someone left behind always feels: that you didn't do enough, that you didn't love enough, that you could have tried harder.  I sensed the Lord saying to me as I struggled through these thoughts, "Yes, you should have done more.  You should have loved more.  You should have tried harder. But these are sins I can forgive too."  There is an underlying feeling that comes with guilt where your soul believes that you just can't be forgiven for being helpless in the life of a loved one who kills themselves.  But as the Lord showed me and as a policeman with tears in his eyes said to me during this time, "You can't save someone who doesn't want to be saved...".

So we are left to carry on and indeed the burden does get lighter over the years and you begin to remember the good things, even if they were few.  And you learn to love without fear again.  And to see life with perspective.  And to forgive on deeper and deeper levels.  And the anger doesn't come back because you forgive.  How much the world needs to learn forgiveness!  First, the forgiveness of our sins before Jesus Christ.  Then, we can begin to forgive others and heal from the hurts of our lives and save ourselves the agony of depression and all sorts of stress-related physical ailments.  Do I think all mental illness stems from unforgiveness and selfishness?  No, of course not.  You cannot paint mental illness with such a broad brush and think you always know the answers.  But I believe what Matt Walsh was trying to address was those like my mom who do have a choice and make wrong ones again and again to their own destruction.  I hear him BEGGING people to choose life and to see things from the other side of the glass, from the perspective of those who love them and who will have a hole in their souls if they do what should be the unthinkable.  This is also what I am doing today.  I am pleading with those who are depressed to not isolate themselves, to tell those they trust who can hold them up and pray for them and help them, and to perhaps research nutritional methods for combatting depression.  There is much to be said on that subject and I'm happy to share what I've learned on nutrition privately, for that is another article.  But please, please get help before it's too late and the damage cannot be undone.  Your loved ones deserve better and the grief you will leave behind is beyond measure.  The Lord is mighty to save, run to Him and find shelter in His people.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing such a difficult memory. I am joyful at your growth and healing from that tragic. Love to you and your family. -John McClancy

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  3. I watched Robin Williams on Mork & Mindy and even remember his appearance on Happy Days. Dead Poets' Society was one of my favorites. He was so funny, but he also seemed to have a seriousness or sadness about him. I don't know what he was thinking or feeling, but I have heard major surgery can have deep depression as one of its side effects. Williams had heart surgery in 2009. They ...people online!...say he never seemed to bounce back after that. His poor family and friends. My heart goes out to them.

    Your description of your own experience and the forgiveness you were able to offer your Mom was just very ...moving, devastating, and reassuring. I think people who do this, if they are able to recollect on the other side, would only want their loved ones to heal. Your story ends with healing and hope, do you know what a miracle that is? Of course, you do. But I just mean to emphasize it. Your sharing it here may bring hope to others. These dark days don't last forever.



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