Gone Too Soon

by Jennifer Earle Strickland/Columnist

“Heeeey, Grandma.” “Heeeey, Daejah.” I’ll forever cherish the memory of this signature greeting that I shared with my granddaughter, Daejah Lane, a 2016 victim of suicide. Daejah, was a beautiful, humorous, vibrant 16-year old student; a Christian; an official ‘fashionista’; always stylish from head-to-toe. If she was distressed, the warning signs of self-destruction were camouflaged beneath the disguise of a typical teenager.

I last heard her voice the day before, on Mother’s Day, when she and her brother, called to wish me a “Happy Mother’s Day”. I’ve struggled with questions of what did I miss; what DID she say; what DIDN’T she say? This journey has been hard; tears still flow, but God is, daily, strengthening all affected by her sudden transition.

Suicide, by definition, is death caused by self-directed injurious behavior, with intent to die as a result of the behavior. We ask, “Why,” but, as so many secrets are taken to the grave, so often is the answer. I can only offer the response that people, particularly young people, commit suicide because they don’t believe their lives are precious, or hope-filled enough to continue living; to believe that tomorrow, the sun will shine. They view their lives as worthless; having no value.

The victim isn’t the killer; and as much as we’d like to blame this morally and ethically corrupt society, it is not the perpetrator. The weapons of warfare that ignite this fatal blow include, depression, hopelessness, and self-hate. Most, who attempt suicide every year in America, don’t so much choose death; but stumble into it, caught in a rapidly swirling downward spiral that begins on a steep slope of heartache and despair. Victims are often filled with thoughts and feelings of disillusionment, fear, guilt, heartache, and illness; just to name a few. Teens, particularly, are attacked by spirits of depression, bi-polar disorder, alcohol and drug abuse, and bullying, which encourage isolation and the avoidance of socialization.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, notes that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.; the 3rd leading cause of death in children, ages 10-14; and the 2nd leading cause when considering teens and adults between ages 15 – 34 years old. In addition, they found that:

• The number of girls who consider suicide is 2x greater than boys. However, boys actually die, from suicide, at a rate 4x higher than girls.

• 29.7% of Non-Hispanic Black teens seriously consider suicide; 17.4% attempt; and 11% successfully commit the act

• It is believed that every 17 minutes someone in America commits, or attempts to commit, suicide.

• According to a 2015 study of trends by the Journal of the American Medical Association, children’s suicide rates have significantly doubled for Black children in the last two decades.

As our family congregated at my home, grieving our loss, I overheard a conversation about whether or not she would be accepted into Heaven. I’m thankful that the person being questioned had the spiritual sense and sensitivity to give Biblical understanding about who God Is, and His Love for us all, regardless of how we leave this world.

The Bible details the suicide deaths of several men, including Ahithopel, whose suicide stemmed from guilt (2 Samuel 2:17); and Saul, whose stemmed from disappointment and despair (1 Sam. 31), but nowhere in His Word, does God condemn the victim to eternal damnation, nor is it indicated that suicide is an unforgivable sin. God is Love and the exemplar of all that is Love. Paul expressed this best, in Romans 8:38-39 – “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Today, after the fact, we don’t want to dwell on whether or not our loved one is forgiven. Instead, we want to focus on prevention. Though the unexpected loss of a loved one leaves us perplexed and disoriented, we must worry less about whether Christians, who’ve chosen to end their lives, go to Heaven, and be more concerned about how we can help others find hope and joy in living.

Our most urgent problem is not the morality of suicide, but eradicating the spiritual and mental despair that are its driving forces. So, where do we go from here to save our children; our society, from the affliction of suicide? As we focus on our future, we must remember that the tragedy of a young person dying, by any means, is devastating.

When sudden death is sourced in feelings of inadequacy and overwhelming frustration, its impact is even more powerful. Families, friends, and communities are affected and left wondering if they could’ve prevented that young person from being gone too soon. Remember, young people, you are not alone in your struggle.

God has made promises to us that give us hope and confidence that no matter what we’re going through, this life is worth living. It will get better and brighter. Isaiah 41:10 says “so do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand. And, in Jeremiah 29:11, He declares that He knows the plans He has for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

God’s desire is that your life is turned from desperation to delight; and from torment to triumph! If you, or a loved one, is struggling with thoughts of suicide, or any of its symptoms (depression, helplessness, etc.), please, reach out to someone, whom you trust, for help; a family member, school counselor, spiritual mentor, somebody!

You can also call the Suicide Prevention Hotline @ 1-800- 273 – talk (8255) or the Buffalo and Erie County Crisis Hotline @ 716 834-3131, 24/7, where someone is always there to listen, emphasize, and help you get through this rough time. Online @ http://www.suicidepreventiolifeline.org, you’ll also find additional sources of help and information.

Peace and Love

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