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Friend Committed Suicide

Friend Committed Suicide

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Dear Rachel,

I just found out that someone I was quite close with committed suicide. I am so shocked and overwhelmed by the news, but I am also feeling incredibly guilty. I can't help but wonder what I could have done differently or if there was anything that could have prevented this. He had so many friends who were there for him and loved him as well as a supportive family. I just don't understand how it happened and at this point am just wondering what I should be doing for his memory?

Devastated

Dear Devastated,

There is a desperate need in the Jewish world to openly discuss mental illness and take away any stigma associated with itI am so sorry to hear of your loss. Losing someone close to you is always difficult, but when you discover the person took his or her life it is that much harder. As I am sure you already do know and have been told by others that you cannot blame yourself. Your friend was clearly ill, and his perception of reality was so warped that even with a supportive family and friends it was not enough to stop his actions. I have no doubt that everyone who was close to him is wondering what they could have done differently; but someone who wants to take their own life is very hard to stop.

You ask what you can do practically at this point. There are a few suggestions I have that deal with different aspects of this tragedy. For starters, there is a desperate need in the world at large and specifically in the Jewish world to openly discuss mental illness and take away any stigma associated with it. We would never shun someone in a wheelchair or diagnosed with cancer. Nor should there be anything other than support and sympathy for someone who suffers from a mental illness. That person is sick and needs treatment. Without it, he or she will continue to suffer and as in the case of your friend, it can lead to death.

So speak to your friends and in your community. Speak about this tragedy and the need for medical and psychological support for those who suffer. Help diminish the stigma and let people know that it is okay to ask for help and that it's a sign of strength, not weakness, to acknowledge when there is a problem. Do what you can to let people know that whatever they are facing there are options to enable them to find some relief to their pain , yet continue to live their lives,

In terms of other ways of offering support to the family, there is both what you can do materially and also what is needed spiritually. It is quite possible that the family is in need of financial support to help pay for the funeral expenses and perhaps other bills that were left behind. Helping to pay for a proper Jewish burial is a huge mitzvah. It is also vital that it be arranged for someone to say the Mourner's Kaddish for him. If he does not have a family member who is able to do this, it should be arranged on his behalf.

As much learning and good deeds be dedicated to his memoryAnd lastly, I would suggest that as much learning and good deeds be dedicated to his memory. Clearly this was a very troubled and pained soul and the more that can be done to help his soul find peace at this point should be done. If you do not yet light Shabbat candles, that would be a very special mitzvah to undertake in his merit; the holy candles of Shabbat will be a weekly memorial to this soul, for "the soul of man is the candle of G‑d."

Again, I am sorry to hear of such horrible news. I wish you comfort and support as you deal with the loss of your friend, and may we always remember how precious and valuable every life is.

"Dear Rachel" is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sara Esther Crispe.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the Co-Director of Interinclusion, a non-profit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org and wrote the popular weekly blog, Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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Discussion (20)
March 28, 2016
When someone takes their own life, it is shocking, sad and makes us feel helpless. We should not judge the life of someone by how they spent their last few moments of life. The complexity of the mind and soul of another will never be in the grasp of our understanding so, focus on the good of their life. Think of how you benefited from your interactions not the desperation of their final moments. Honor them everday by taking their best characteristic and make it yours. They will not die and be forgotten but live on in humor, kindness and positive actions that are carried in in their true friends. We can never know what truly goes on in the mind of another, even someone living what appears to be a golden life. Another reason to watch our words and cherish what have. God is all merciful and forgiving, if that is to be believed then it stands to reason he would not punish or banish someone who took their own life. He maybe angry at the sin, but not the sinner, for He forgives us.
Donna
Atlanta
February 4, 2016
I checked on a friend today to find out that she ended her life. Rachel, I appreciate your empathy but do want to note that while I'm sure you are trying to help others feel better, no amount of good deeds helps a soul earn or gain any merit! That's more like witchcraft. God knows the heart and has mercy; we can't attempt to play God and create a more favorable outcome. I supposed if we could, we would be Gods!! No, no. Pray for the peace among family members who are still suffering. God knew her heart, her pain, her life. He loves her more than anyone can imagine.
Elise
January 23, 2016
I am so broken...some days the pain is so great it's hard to breathe...crying seems so late to do...anger seems all I have felt most of my life...I am having a difficult understanding that a person could suffer more in the next world for taking their life...I just feel like screaming till i am completely empty of this pain...
Anonymous
October 31, 2015
this is just sad to me. And to just say "your friend was clearly ill".....well it really minimizes that this person died of "sadness". It really infuriates me that when someone commits suicide the comment most often made is that they were mentally ill. ...it is so much more than that
janice
canada
July 9, 2014
I lost a close friend 2 days ago
I lost a really good Best friend, The best of friends, 2 days ago... She killed herself... I don't know why... She sounded like she had a good life....

She is the same age of me...
She was 14.
And she had so much in life, But ended up killing herself...

I am devestated... i just found out it happend.... And i cannot stop crying...
Logan
December 10, 2013
Helping a sensitive soul
There have been recommendations to always take seriously even jokes about self-injury. One person's encouragement could make a good difference. Also, groups that encourage self-help and support can provide a group of supportive and understanding peers. Consider that your friend did not actually choose that path. How many times have there been palm fronds, swerving cars, landscaping bags, 18-wheeler trucks at a perpendicular angle to the road on a Friday night when I have chosen to go to services by car or to have dinner with friends? G-d forbid there had been an accident, it might have been spun a certain way. Be well and it is a blessing that you care. Maybe your increased sensitivity will make a difference in people's lives well into the future.
Alan
December 9, 2013
Friend Committed Suicide
My reply as a spiritual and a right wing Jew who believes in the fact that every Jew should help out every Jew where possible is that way too many Jews have no sense of responsibility and accountability and care about their fellow Jews. I network with Jews every day and many Jews tell me not to play the Jew card which is the reason for Jews to feel as alone as non-Jews. Jews have the same poverty rate as non-Jews even though Jews have way more Millionaires and Billionaires as a percentage of Jews. In my Grandparents day, Jew were forced and chose to live in a Jewish ghetto in Canadian and American cities and they helped each other. I once heard one successful Jew tell me about Darwin and the best Jew wins, which shows me we are alone as Jews. This is why you can see the intermarriage, poverty, criminal, voting for Osama/Obama, and other negative destructive issues facing Jews of all ages
Jeffrey Muchnik
Austin
February 18, 2013
Lost two friends in one week to suicide
I lost a very close friend to suicide last week . And I got word of another one that did same thing . How cope and deal with all this I am so toren up inside .
Darlene
February 27, 2012
How to stop a bully
Get friends and kick his behind. Most bullies are brave in a pack but turn in creepy cowards when isolated. To see these once-brave-now-suddenly-scared-to-death guys running through the bushes where a rabbit couldn't go is very rewarding, and even very depressed buddy of your would be rolling with laughter.
Anonymous
February 26, 2012
suicide
i have a friend who was in yr9 he commtied suicide we all blamed ourself everyone kind of lost it became depressed and turned to drugs but after a while we learnt it wasnt going to bring him bak and the pain wouldnt go but it would get easier. none of us recongnized the signs and we all blamed ourselves because not one of us read the signs we didnt even no he was unhappy. But we stuck together and life is moving on we will forever always have him in our memory. I was wondering is there anyway i can help stop bullying and people commting suicide because of it ?
Anonymous
auckland, nz