I remember exactly where I was five years ago when I got the phone call that forever changed my life.
I had just come out a haircut appointment, feeling all happy & good as I sat down in my car after buckling my youngest into his carseat. My phone rang before I could even put my car into drive. It was my parents calling.
Their voices sounded funny...
Something was wrong…
My dad's words...
"We have some bad news. Carice [my sister] and Darren called and Keaton is gone."
“Gone?” I asked. “What do you mean gone?”
Long pause of silence...
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN ‘GONE?!’”
My brain was racing wildly. Gone where?
My dad's spoke again. "’Gone’ as in he is no longer with us. He has died."
“What??! That can't be possible! He is a smiling popular hockey player 17 years-old! He just graduated! What are you talking about?! Was it a car accident or what happened?!”
“No. It was suicide.”
Everything in my head froze in that moment, yet raced wildly. Complete and utter shock. I couldn't understand how someone so young and seemingly full of life would feel so overwhelmed that they saw suicide as the only answer.
Not long after Keaton's funeral, my oldest son began to struggle with suicidal thoughts. We immediately got him to a counselor and were taught many strategies and tips. A couple of which were as simple as asking loved ones direct questions and doing thought and feeling checks. (Fortunately my son has been doing great for a long time now.)
I began to cry out to God as I went through the process of grieving and trying to understand why someone would take their own life. I kept saying "There has to be a better way. We have to help people before it gets to this point! How did we not know?"
It ended up our family went through three suicides in three years – my nephew and two extended family members. And we hadn't even known these precious people had been struggling.
In our culture we don't get too involved in people's lives and what they struggle with. You could sit with the same people over and over every Sunday at church and have no idea what is going on in their life. It shouldn't be this way. We need to be creating an atmosphere of safety and care.
I began to talk to a pastor friend about the Bible text that says "Carry each other's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ," asking how do we do that on a practical level?
Since then I have become far more intentional with getting involved with others and helping them. I am currently working with a crisis situation team in my church and I am grateful to have been able to help a number of teens who struggle with suicidal thoughts & depression and they are still with us today.
What was a horrible tragedy is being used for good.
I keep coming back to John 13:35 where Jesus says "They will know you are my disciples by the way you love each other." As Christians, we need to be willing to sacrifice our time to help someone in crisis. This could be as simple as going out for coffee with someone who is struggling. Or maybe it means making the tough decision to bring someone to a crisis unit, Or perhaps it means sitting with someone at the hospital. Whatever it takes to send the message "I am with you. You are not alone! You have value".
About the Author:
Alyson is married to her best friend Curtis and they have 2 boys aged 16 and 6. She is a screener for Irlen international helping people who suffer from light sensitivity and doing seminars in schools to raise awareness. She was also an EA for many years before their last son was born. Alyson has been involved in many ministries and currently leads a crisis situation team at her church. She has a passion for churches and Christians to capture the heart of Jesus and love each other and those around them with the eyes Jesus has for them.. Her little piece of heaven on earth is sitting at East blue lake in the Duck Mountains.
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