EDITORIAL: The church’s role in suicide prevention
In South Carolina, a distraught campus ministry student texted classmates…
Suicide devastates lives — the lives of families, friends and ministry providers. And many ministers, myself included, are confronted with the event of a suicide with little or no training.
That’s why I find “Grieving a Suicide: A Loved One’s Search for Comfort, Answers and Hope” by Albert Y. Hsu to be a much-needed and welcome resource.
The book is a beautifully written, fundamentally sound examination of the subject. Hsu, himself the survivor of a suicide (his father’s), writes with compassion and directness. His words aren’t shallow. He refuses to wallow in trite, worn-out phrases that help no one. As a survivor, Hsu weaves his story in and out of virtually every chapter, but not in a voyeuristic way. What the reader senses is the companionship of a kind and stable friend.
The book is divided into three sections: Part one deals with the aftermath of a suicide and the emotional and physical changes that survivors experience. Part two addresses three key questions: “Why did this happen?” “Is suicide the unforgivable sin?” and “Where is God when it hurts?” Part three examines life after a suicide.
I was impressed with Hsu’s straightforward and even-handed use of biblical principles.
Regarding his treatment of the “unforgivable sin” question, I do not agree with every conclusion he makes, but his final conclusion merits consideration: We simply are not in the position to make the judgment of whether a person receives God’s forgiveness in situations where we cannot understand a person’s physical, emotional and spiritual state.
The book is written to other survivors of suicides, and not specifically to ministers, but the pastoral lessons throughout the book are invaluable. “Grieving a Suicide” is useful for anyone who has been touched by a self-inflicted death — and for those who might be called upon to offer support to those who must struggle with such an event.
PAUL SMITH ministers for the Golf Road Church of Christ in Belen, N.M. He and his wife of 33 years, Susan, have a daughter, Kylee. He earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary.
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