Suicide: Emotional Heart Failure

When suicide is our only option, we have experienced emotional heart failure.
When suicide is our only option, we have experienced emotional heart failure.

Do you know someone personally who has ended their life by suicide?

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"She's gone."

"What?"

"She's gone...suicide."

"No! What Happened?"

"Drug overdose, mixed with alcohol."

I threw on some clothes and drove into the night, arriving just as the family of the deceased returned from the hospital.

Hugs were given, tears shed, and prayers uttered. The heads of all were hanging low, seared by the burning questions that convicted us.

  • Why did this happen?
  • Where did we go wrong?
  • What more could we have done?

Time stood still as we replayed the events of the last 24 hours. Every word, every step, every action was scrutinized in light of the current circumstances. All were found wanting and our hearts filled with guilt, shame, pain, and loneliness.

Surely, God would have warned us, let us know that we needed to do something different, wouldn't he? Didn't he?

We live in an age when, as the Lord foretold, men’s hearts are failing them, not only physically but in spirit. Many are giving up heart for the battle of life. Suicide ranks as a major cause of the deaths to college students.

— Ezra Taft Benson

Gradually, the fog cleared and we remembered the moments, the peace of the Spirit speaking to our souls, the times we sought direction and like manna in the wilderness, we received the nourishment needed.

Now, we stand at a crossroads. We can either turn away from God and become bitter and angry, blaming ourselves and others for that which we could not control. Or we can turn to him, seeking the solace, comfort, and peace that only he can give. Grief is a deep ocean that we must not cross alone. The gospel ship will carry us safely to the other side, but it will take work to navigate the storms that arise.

There will be many a dark night. We will be seared by the hot afternoon sun of remembrance as our souls are purified. We will be tossed about on the waves of uncertainty only to be pacified moments later by beautiful vistas of hope. When we reach the other shore, we will know that it was only through God that the passage was even possible!

It is only through others that we feel the healing arms of the Savior wrapped around us.
It is only through others that we feel the healing arms of the Savior wrapped around us.

Are we still loved?

As we experienced the immense load of grief and guilt, family, church, and community members stepped forward to assuage our fears. We were still loved. We were not ostracized because of the circumstances in which we found ourselves.

Knowing that the intentional act of taking a life is condemned in the eyes of God, we wrestled with our understanding of the atonement and how it would apply in behalf of our loved one. The words of our priesthood leader at the funeral helped us immensely. Quoting M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (see link), he said:

"Suicide consists in the voluntary and intentional taking of one's own life, particularly where the person involved is accountable and has a sound mind...Persons subject to great stresses may lose control of themselves and become mentally clouded to the point that they are no longer accountable for their acts. Such are not to be condemned for taking their own lives. It should also be remembered that judgement is the Lord's; he knows the thoughts, intents, and abilities of men and he in his infinite wisdom will make all things right in due course."

Knowing that our beloved one was not consigned to an endless eternity of torment brought us a great sense of peace. We knew that she was in the arms of those who had gone before, resting from the emotional and mental turmoil that had been hers throughout her life.

Those who feel immense emotional pain are unable to enjoy the gift of God's love.
Those who feel immense emotional pain are unable to enjoy the gift of God's love.

What now?

How can we go on? How can we step into the darkness when the light is gone from the eyes of one that we love?

When death crosses our paths, we question our own mortality. We come to the realization that life is short, and that our actions reap eternal consequences.

Suicide, however, is different. We not only question our own mortality, but we question our own feelings of self-worth. We ask ourselves, "Who am I to continue on when someone I love has not been able to do so? What hope is there for me?"

We all entertain thoughts of suicide at one time or another, thinking perhaps that our loved ones would be better off without us or that death would be an escape from our current circumstances. Why then, are we still here, when our loved one is gone?

We do not know what thoughts enter the mind of those who have taken their own lives. They are no longer with us to divulge that information. We do know, however, that those who have attempted suicide experience common issues. We base our understanding from what they have shared. We know the following:

  • Suicidal thoughts, ideation, and statements are considered to be at-risk behavior, and are to be taken seriously.
  • A person who has previously attempted suicide is at high risk for completion.
  • Those with mental illness are at greater risk of suicide than others.
  • There is no age limit. Suicide can happen at anyone, young or old.
  • Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, coupled with the opportunity to escape, often lead to suicide.

Once hopelessness and worthlessness set in, an opportunity to escape makes suicide the only viable option. In essence, our agency is taken away from us.
Once hopelessness and worthlessness set in, an opportunity to escape makes suicide the only viable option. In essence, our agency is taken away from us. | Source

Is there anything we can do?

When suicide is experienced, it is time to talk about it openly. Only then do we see the serious consequences for all involved. Those who are left behind have poignant feelings. They are at increased risk of suicide now and in the near future.

Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness are the natural result of certain things that we experience in this life. Our ability to recognize these feelings for what they are and deal with them keeps suicidal thoughts at a minimum.

A strong system of support is the greatest deterrent to suicidal ideation. Those with emotional or mental heath problems tend to isolate themselves. Our efforts to involve them in our lives, compassionately teaching them the vital life skills necessary for them to be successful helps to alleviate the risk associated with these issues.

There are basic principles of emotional health that give us the tools we need to go forward in the future. The Emotional Survival Handbook outlines these tools and gives us ways to use them to benefit ourselves and those we love.

The Emotional Survival Handbook
The Emotional Survival Handbook

A personal resource for changing thoughts, feelings and actions. Addressing the issue of suicide, it gives concrete ways to choose life.

 

Until we know and understand mental illness and what it does to us, we will continue to experience the tragedies this cancer of the soul brings into our lives.

Suicide, in essence, is emotional heart failure. It is up to each one of us to decide today, that when the dragon of depression opens its mouth wide to swallow us whole, we will have the courage to cry, "No!" and get the help that we need, for our emotional health!

©2015 by Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved. For more information on emotional health and emotional survival, see www.denisewa.com.

It is up to us, not just to stay alive, but to choose life!
It is up to us, not just to stay alive, but to choose life!

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Comments 20 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 13 months ago from Olympia, WA

The title is perfect. The subject matter very sad. I've known five people who have committed suicide. I can't think of a sadder situation.


Reynold Jay profile image

Reynold Jay 13 months ago from Saginaw, Michigan

Yes-- one of the most painful events one can go through in life is seeing this happen in your family. My family has experienced this. I do visit the grave ( and maintain) the grave of a loved one. The event is long over, I pray for him and miss him so. Well done article.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 13 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Yes, it is very sad. Our family has been rocked by the news and it has been one of the most difficult situations I have ever experienced.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 13 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

It is, Reynold. Like you, we pray for the individual, the family, and all who may be experiencing the after affects of the event. I appreciate your comments and sharing your family's life with us.


Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok 13 months ago from Long Island, NY

Interesting title. It caught my attention. I never knew anyone who committed suicide or even tried, but I hear about it frequently on the news. Your article provides a clear understanding of what those who contemplate suicide feel emotionally. Emotional heart failure is a perfect term for this. It's sad that one reaches a point where suicide seems to be the only option.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 13 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, Glenn. The title came to me as I have made a study about the heart and how it is the connecting link between our emotional and physical selves. There are many references in the scriptures that speak of this phenomena and how thoughts, emotions, and desires come from the heart. When our heart is "sick" we are emotionally distraught to the point that we have physical symptoms. When the emotional heart fails, the spirit and body are no longer connected, and physical death is the result. This was confirmed to me in my recent study of the book "The Fear Cure" by Lissa Rankin. She speaks of people dying from emotional trauma. Suicide is emotional trauma at its peak.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 13 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Brutal reality. Your preacher man was right on the money. Of what purpose would it serve our Lord to punish further those so punished by themselves and life. More hugs, more quiet walks, more phone and face to face talks. The touch of another human in the heart is what would have been best, although not necessarily a cure --- but if for sure is the cure for those of us remaining. Denise you are very good, but this article might be your best!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 13 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

That is so kind of you, Eric. We all need human interaction to deal with the problems of life. The world is a brutal place, but people can also be very kind and compassionate. We perfectionists - I am the worst! - have to step outside of our comfort zones frequently, and allow the imperfection of the world to embrace us in order to feel that love. Sometimes it is hard, but it is certainly worth it! I appreciate your comments!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 13 months ago from The Caribbean

Denise, your topic is so pertinent to all of us, especially these days when stress is taking its toll on everybody. I wish that all could understand the value of the strong system of support you mention; and thanks for mentioning that judgement by us humans is irrelevant. Very helpful.


clivewilliams profile image

clivewilliams 13 months ago from Nibiru

Suicide...what goes through someones head when they decide to take their own life? I think people who are capable of suicide are quite powerful people. It takes will to take yourself out of existence. Some people handle their problems in different ways, but taking your own life is never a solution.


Dr Pran Rangan profile image

Dr Pran Rangan 13 months ago from Kanpur (UP), India

Very nicely written hub. After reading it, anyone having deep depression will come out of it and will be filled with a renewed hope to live.

Thanks for sharing.


DDE profile image

DDE 13 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

I don't personally know of people who took their own lives. I heard of people and that is a sad process for the family. The many questions and complicated issues is hard to resolve in such cases.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 13 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, Dora. When I was going through mental health treatment, one of the first things they had me do was put down who was part of my support system. At the time, I did not have one. Although I knew a lot of people, I had no close friends, or anyone with whom I could share my deepest feelings. Since then, I have changed that situation, and I advocate strongly that we all need support in our lives. All will benefit from making connections with people outside of their immediate family with which they can feel comfortable sharing their emotions. Life is much to short to spend it in loneliness and isolation.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 13 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

That is the million dollar question, Clive! Since we don't know what goes through the mind of someone who has committed suicide, we can only assume based on what we know of those who have made the attempt. Having been suicidal previously in my own life, I know what I was thinking and feeling. In the mental health unit, I spoke with those who had attempted, and learned from their experiences. When one is filled with darkness to the point that there is no hope, and feels that personally, their life no longer matters, suicide seems like the only way out. Unfortunately, many take that route. It is incumbent upon us, when we hear someone talk of suicide, to help guide them to hope and feelings of worth. We never know. The impact of our words may save their life! I appreciate your comments.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 13 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

I appreciate you stopping by and commenting, Dr. Pran. It is my hope that others will make better choices as a result of me sharing what I have been through in my life.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 13 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

There was a time in my life when I could say the same, DDE. Unfortunately that time has been past and gone for many years. Now, I know personally of many who have ended their own lives, or have made the attempt to do so. It is a very sad state of affairs, and I wish to raise a cry of warning to all, that if you or someone you love is talking of suicide, get them the help that they need. Start with a general practitioner and do not rest until you know that they are safe from the jaws of this terrible monster!


lifegate profile image

lifegate 13 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

Denise,

I admire your bravery for taking on a topic like this. You've made some sense of an otherwise senseless topic. Thank you for your sensitivity and compassion as well as practicality.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 13 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, William. I guess I didn't consider it being brave. It was more of a matter of necessity. When a loved one loses their life due to suicide, not much makes sense. I know how I felt when I was suicidal years ago, and if I can help someone else who may be feeling that way, perhaps another life might be spared. I appreciate your comments.


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 12 months ago from New Delhi, India

Great hub and very suitable words to describe suicide. I keep on reading in newspapers about young boys and girls ending their lives. Most of the times the causes can be listed as --- stress due to relationships, jobs, studies, money etc. that they could not handle. A reliable support system is extremely important for young children especially teenagers.

You have handled this crucial subject with great sensitivity.

Thank you for sharing!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 12 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks Chitrangada. It is tragic when young people with great promise end their lives due to difficulties with these issues. You are spot on with the observation that these young people need a support system. The times we live in often leave us without a place to turn when we don't know what to do. We are all in a position to provide that support to someone we know. I appreciate your comments.

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