When Someone You Love Takes Their Own Life

When Someone You Love Takes Their Own Life

Fifteen years ago this week I got a call that my father, who had battled alcohol for my entire childhood and beyond, took a gun and ended his life. I had never known a sober father, or a household that had any sense of normalcy. It was all about the alcoholic, and either you were the drinker or the one covering up for the drinker.

As a kid, it messed with me. It messed with me for years, into adulthood, and even now. And yet, there is deep sadness about his death. Despite that the minute he left this earth I wouldn’t have to deal with his cruelty anymore, I would still deal with the patterns his disease created, both in me and in others.

My first thoughts about his death were wondering where his heart was in his walk with the Lord. Would he still be saved? Will I see him in heaven? Is he working with God in different ways now?

The Bible says if you end your life, you don’t go to heaven. And yet, with my father’s sick, twisted, alcohol-ridden mind, I couldn’t help thinking of how badly he needed help. The compassion I felt for him had nothing to do with me, it was all God. God had given me a strong spirit, an ability to forgive and overcome. So if God was able to do that with my life, what of my father’s life?

I asked a priest at the time what he thought, and he said he believed that God took care of the sick, even when they ended their own lives. That brought me comfort.

It’s difficult to understand what’s in someone’s heart. You never really know what their relationship with God is because they can say all kinds of things that aren’t really true deep down. In the end, whether they go to heaven is up to God.

Fifteen years ago God had already worked to pull me out of that childhood, away from those patterns, away from the lies that become so comfortable in people’s mouths that they have a hard time seeing truth.

Fifteen years ago this girl who wrote for a living and had a happy life wasn’t formed yet, but the bones were there. I could see her on the horizon. She was sketched out in hope, with lines that only God could draw and a life filled with the truth of His word. And with each positive, happy, moment, I am still sometimes drawn to this realization that my father chose not to stick around for it. He’s missed all this. He’s missed my life.

It’s been difficult to reconcile his choice. It’s a completely different grief process from the other people I have lost in my life. I have felt anger and deep sadness. Anger over the abuse and sadness over the choice he made. Despite it all, I wished my father had stuck around, allowed God to banish the demon of addiction from his soul. I wish he had allowed God to change his life.

Cherie Burbach About Cherie Burbach

Cherie Burbach is the founder of Putting on the New. She is a poet, mixed media artist, and freelance writer. She's written for About.com, NBC/Universal, Match.com, Christianity Today, and more. Her latest book is: Art and Faith: Mixed Media Art With a Faith-Filled Message. For more, check out her website.

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