There are several topics that could be focused on with this story. We can start with the loss of a child. No parent expects that their child or children will pass away before they do. I can’t imagine what it feels like to lose a child.It has to be a grief most of us can’t imagine unless we were to suffer through it ourselves.
I know too that parents feel responsible for their children even when they may not be.
Our parents were not flawless,but they were devout Catholics who did the very best they could do. They were not responsible for all the terrible choices i made and the grief i must have caused them.I’m sure they questioned themselves wondering where they went wrong. They didn’t.
The parents of this young 18 yr old are probably going through some of that themselves.
I can’t speak for them though. I can only guess at what they MIGHT be thinking.
When i was growing up we were taught that suicide was a mortal sin,the person who committed suicide went to hell and that’s why people who committed suicide were not permitted a Catholic funeral.Outside of the Catholic faith there was also a cultural stigma attached to suicide;when people had a family member who took his own life it was kept hush.You just didn’t talk about it.
I will say this for what we were taught;if the thought even crossed your mind you also thought twice about following through with it.So i’m sure it may have saved lives.On the other hand when someone is suffering from mental illness or is taking medications to deal with it one’s thinking is not always clear. People do go into altered mental states and sometimes an illness such as Alzheimer’s or Dementia can bring it on.However,I’m not going to act as if I know a great deal about mental illness.I don’t.
I have done some reading because my own husband suffers from Biplar Disorder I. There have been times they had him on medication that failed him and he had suicide attempts. In his case the worst was Prozac. It actually brought on a maniac episode that came pretty close to ending in tragedy.There are sleeping medications that can cause hallucinations and night walking as i call it. My own mother had one episode and she actually got in her car during the night,in her nightgown and drove out to see me as dad was sound asleep.He had no idea she had even left their house.She seemed to be wide awake when she arrived but had the thought i had contacted her and was in some kind of trouble. I was confused. She was definitely confused but i had no idea at the time she was occasionally using a medication;i think a tranquilizer used as a sleep medication. Dad experienced hallucinations in his later years from the ambien they prescribed for him.[He had Parkinson’s and heart problems.]He scared mom as he sat up in bed talking to people he insisted were there. Mom and i discussed it and we both decided he should not be taking it.
On the other hand with the right medication mental illness can be helped by medication but medication is not necessarily a cure. It’s only a help where symptoms can be controlled. I don’t think we know all that we need to know about mental illness either.We’ve come a long ways over the years.Incidentally,my husband has been doing very well with the medications he’s currently using.Once they pulled the Prozac and tried some newer medications he hasn’t had any episodes and thankfully not one suicide attempt. I cannot say with certainty it would never happen again.There’s always that possibility but since its been years it looks as promising as it has ever been.
One thing i DO know and that is you can’t talk people out of that kind of depression.You’re trying to get through to someone with thinking that is reasonable and rational and theirs may be anything but. It could be medication,an altered mental state or in this case an 18 yr old who may not have the capacity yet to deal with situations as an adult would-or we may have to simply admit at the moment that we don’t really know.Our understanding has come a long ways since the days of a mental illness or a suicide being a disgrace that had to be hidden somewhere in a dark attic forgotten and ignored.
I dread that in our current culture it is going the other way and being glorified;worse that it is being treated as a reasonable choice in some circumstances. I guarantee you that is a totally unhealthy,unreasonable and evil way to view suicide that is going to affect our country in adverse ways.They call it euthanasia or the euphemism ‘mercy killing.’ It’s what we do to animals.You don’t persuade someone to jump off a bridge,when they’re ready to jump off a bridge. You certainly don’t try to persuade anyone when they are most vulnerable,ESPECIALLY if they are mentally incapacitated such as the elderly,the mentally ill or someone dealing with physical pain and illness.All of those groups are not dealing with situations like most of us would. They are vulnerable and they are in degrees of lacking the mental capacity to think rationally.
I don’t know what this particular priest said to cause such a firestorm.It’s possible that because the priest may have not proclaimed that their son went to heaven they took it to mean he was insinuating he went to hell. It’s also possible that the priest-as in the old days-proclaimed that because it was a suicide their son went to hell. Perhaps they need dialogue and reach an understanding.
I do know that we leave every soul to the mercy of God and unless the deceased is a canonized saint we do not have 100% certainty of the state of anyone’s soul. One cannot say that so and so is in heaven-we can hope and pray- nor can we say that so and so is in hell. We can only say that God is both just and merciful and help the family through probably one of the most difficult times in their life. They are trying to make sense of the senseless and deal with their grief at the same time.They may even feel some guilt that something they did or didn’t do was to blame.
I will posit that there are situations,such as the little 8 yr old girl who recently killed herself, where people who do not have the mental capacity to deal with difficult situations either because of age or mental state can be driven to suicide but most situations are not the direct result of what another person did or didn’t do.Most people are not cruel enough to another human being to torment them.
I know that we wish we could save people that are suicidal-the parents of this 18 yr old could spend the rest of their lives second guessing themselves. You hope there will be signs or clues and that you can convince the person to seek help.I’ll be honest here.When it came to my husband i didn’t see it coming.I now have some idea of what to look for. Am grateful he survived and we can talk about it. I concluded when he is in that state you hope you see the clues because there isn’t much you can do except pray and get help quickly.Unfortunately the way the system is set up now unless the person is VISIBLY threatening suicide or in the act itself your hands are tied. That could be a whole topic in itself. I won’t get into it here.
This prayer to saint Dymphna identifies her as the well-known patron saint of those with mental or nervous disorders or mental illness.
Good Saint Dymphna, great wonder-worker in every affliction of mind and body, I humbly implore your powerful intercession with Jesus through Mary, the Health of the Sick, in my present need. (Mention it.) Saint Dymphna, martyr of purity, patroness of those who suffer with nervous and mental afflictions, beloved child of Jesus and Mary, pray to Them for me and obtain my request.
(Pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be.)
Saint Dymphna, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us.
Post Script: Priests are people too.Sometimes they need our forgiveness.We’re a little too eager to get on their case.I know they are held to a different standard-get that-but they make mistakes as much as we do.I’m not talking about an obstinate refusal to give up sin;i’m talking about poor judgement or being misinformed.It may even be just a human foible. We all have those. I’m sure this priest meant well.I highly doubt he was trying to denigrate the family.We’re talking about a sermon we haven’t seen. Not to my knowledge has anyone seen it outside the people at the funeral.A sermon must be truthful as well as sensitive.