Dealing with the suicide of a good friend

 

suicide

I just came home from Yixin’s wake after lingering there for a long time looking at a slideshow that featured photos of her.

They opened the service with 2 of her favourite songs, Beautiful Saviour and Through It All.

That made me cry.

Someone shared a few words, three friends came up to share memories of her, and her younger sister read the letter she left for her friends and loved ones.

They then closed with a prayer and then sang Give Thanks, another favourite of hers.

She was only 34.

I distinctly remember the first time I talked with her, we had an extended conversation at MacDonald’s late into the night as I discovered we both shared a similar childhood – one that involved a schizophrenic parent. That probably led to the mental health problems later in her life.

I never realised her struggle with depression with so severe. She was so lively, so bubbly, always enthusiastically regaling me with tales of her travel adventures every time I saw her.

I guess the happiest people can also be the saddest ones too.

Angeline once told me that her frequent travels were just her way of escaping from her troubles. I suppose then that we never realised how very true that statement was.

I recall the very last time I saw her, she was hosting her British friend, Donald, and we all had a good chat together. How was I to know that mere months later, that she would take her life?

The wake was well-attended, with visitors spilling out of Grace Hall, the largest room available at Mount Vernon. She had an abundance of friends and was, and still is, well loved.

Yet no matter how many relationships she enjoyed, she could never find the love and belonging she was seeking for.

 

Out of the 4 suicides I’ve experienced, between my cousin that I wasn’t close to, my ex-boss, Chester Bennington, this most recent one has affected me the most. We’d shared our lives together, especially in the years 2012-2013 and then some.

I feel so sad for her.

Am tearing as I type this.

I miss her.

Good bye Yixin.


Here’s a video of her baptism song that was sung in remembrance of her:

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Losing a friend to suicide

I was notified of her death first thing this morning when I checked my phone. Not unlike how I received news of Chester Bennington’s death earlier this year.

I couldn’t quite process it at first, shortly after, I felt helpless and lay in bed as I whispered a prayer for her departed soul.

News of how she died continued streaming in my Whatsapp inbox throughout the day in a group chat I shared with some mutual friends.

She was the most bubbly girl I knew who loved to travel around the world, always regaling me with the adventures every time we met up.

I still can’t believe she’s gone.

It seemed like yesterday that I was just talking with her over dinner.

Turns out depression was the culprit. Years of therapy failed her.

My girlfriend played several sad pieces on her piano and I guess this blog is my outlet to help deal with this loss.

She was only 34.

Review of “Turtles all the way down”

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I got this book for Christmas and promptly finished it before the night was over. It was awesome. I’m a bit tight financially right now, so I requested it for my Christmas present. No regrets at all.

This book revolves around the life of a girl, Aza, who has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), although this isn’t mentioned explicitly in the book.

She leads a normal life in high school with her best friend Daisy until one day they discovered that there was a $100,000 reward for information that led to the police finding a billionaire, who was believed to have fled due to illegal business practices.

Along the way, she falls in love with the billionaire’s son that she’d knew when she was 11 when they both attended a camp for kids who’d a parent who’d died.

Complicated?

It does seem that way, but the story unfolds quite naturally as one turns page after page, eager to find out what’ll happen next.

I’d been wanting to read this book for a long time after John Green mentioned he was inspired by “The Man Who Couldn’t Stop” in one of his YouTube posts. He also revealed that he’d struggled with OCD for some time now. This made the book even more meaningful to me in a way.

It’s one of the best YA novels I’ve read and I’d recommend everyone to grab a copy too!

Nightmares in the night-time

So in my most recent visit to the doctor, I told her about my extremely vivid and scary dreams I had in the past month. It felt so real that I had trouble going back to sleep and had to meditate for a while, and also stayed up till morning before I slept again (I’m blessed to be doing a non 9-to-5 job).

She decided to switch the taking of Deanxit, instead of taking it before I sleep at night, I’d now take it first thing in the morning.

I still dream though, but perhaps the frequency has been reduced? I can’t say for sure.

What I do know is that I woke up this morning from a particularly frightful nightmare. Okay, I think I’ll go do some meditation with my Headspace app now.

When a YouTube celebrity declares he has depression

Recently Daniel Howell, a YouTube star, made a video detailing his experience with depression.

While he is not the first to do so, he most certainly went into great detail talking about his experience and how seeing a doctor and taking medication has helped him. This is in direct contrast to his usual funny videos that he is well known for.

I think having someone use his platform to do something like this is really great. It will certainly open the eyes of the countless youths who follow him on YouTube, and I would also like to take this opportunity to share the video with my readers. Here’s the video:

Book Review: Grieving a Suicide by Albert Y. Hsu

Introduction

I’ve been directly impacted by three suicides in my thirty years of living. The first was a cousin I wasn’t close to, she died by suicide several years ago after a breakup with a boyfriend. The second was my ex-manager about 2-3 years ago after an argument with his wife. The last was Chester Bennington a couple months back, and although I’m no friend nor family of his, his death has shaken me and made more aware of my mortality.

This is why I decided to review this book by IVPress. Although it was first published in 2002, it has been revised and expanded and feels very up-to-date and relevant today.

Clarifying some terminology

I learnt several terms which I might clarify here just to make it easier for my readers. A “suicide survivor” usually refers to the person (whether a friend, a spouse, a sibling, a parent, or a child) left behind after a loved one dies by suicide. Also, the author prefers to use the phrase “died by suicide” because it is not a crime one “commits”, nor is it a project one successfully “completes” so the terms “commit suicide”, and “completed suicide” were avoided.

How the book is organised

The author, being a survivor of suicide himself after his father’s death, understands that the immediate period following a suicide can be disorienting and suggests helpfully that one can read the book in any order he/she wishes as some parts may prove more helpful than others. For myself, I read the book sequentially one chapter after the next from the first to the last and found that this was most helpful for me.

The book is divided into three parts:

  • Part 1: When suicide strikes
  • Part 2: The lingering questions
  • Part 3: Life after suicide

The first part of the book touches on the various states of mind one might be in right after experiencing the suicide of a friend, colleague or family member. The chapters appropriately titled: “Shock”, “Turmoil”, “Lament”, “Relinquishment”, and “Remembrance” accurately describes how I felt after learning about what happened to my ex-manager. The author also helpfully describes how he experienced life after his father’s death and also references other similar books on the topic.

The second section deals with suicide survivors asking, “Why did this happen?” and also theological questions that pop up, such as whether suicide is the unforgivable sin. Finally, it wraps up with the perennial question of “Where is God when it hurts?”. For Christians, this can be very helpful in providing a framework of how to process the suicide of a loved one. It’s honest and frank and does not beat about the bush with pertinent questions one might have.

In the third and final portion, the author relates to us lessons of suicide, the spirituality of grief, and the also shares about the healing community. He shares about his experience with a support group of suicide survivors which was an incredible source of relief for him because he was around a group of “people who understood the grief of suicide.” He also suggests an online resource for countries or cities without suicide survivor support groups. The Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors (http://forum.allianceofhope.org) has a forum that allows people to connect with other survivors.

Conclusion

Even though I’ve experienced three suicides, those that died were not super close to me and I was shielded from the direct impact of their deaths. However, the most recent death of Chester Bennington did wake me up to realise that people do indeed care. The global outpouring of grief after his death made me promise to myself not to do something similar even in difficult times. This book has been very useful in helping me process my grief and I’m sure will also be a good tool for this impacted by suicide.

You can purchase this book on Amazon, Book Depository or at InterVarsity Press.

grieving a suicide book cover.jpg

 

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

An extract from “Darkness Is My Only Companion”

“… St. Paul speaks of his thorn in the flesh, but we don’t really know what he was talking about. In any case, there Satan gave the thorn. And there, even there, God did not allow it to be removed but intended to use it for good. Can anything good really ever come out of any illness, even mental illness – a medical disease that can cripple the brain, mind, and even body? “Take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Could Paul have known of my condition, which itself is the captor, which wrings my mind dry of thoughts of Christ and wants to hand my soul over to hell?

Plenty of Christians before me must have had this difficulty, and many Christians surely will after me. Mental illness is not an indication of the weakness of one’s faith. It may be, however, a test and should be met like all other tests: with prayer that God will see us through it faithfully, that we may be seen faithful, and that we should be found at the last without reproach, that God will use it to our benefit and us to his glory.

After all, as I have said, faith is not primarily a feeling. It is an act. Sometimes the most pleasing thing to God is our obedience and rendering of thanks even when we don’t feel at all thankful. Jesus said that even the hypocrites love those who love them. They love when it is easy. But the most valuable thing in God’s sight is loving the unlovely, loving when no return is expected, when one has no love, hoping when hope is not seen. Then we really have to admit that all our loves and all our hopes are ultimately borrowed from God anyway.

Now the great thing is this: we are consecrated and dedicated to God in order that we may thereafter think, speak, meditate and do, nothing except to his glory. … We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are expedient for us according to the flesh. We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours. Conversely, we are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal.

– John Calvin (1509-64)

(cf. Rom. 14:7-9, 1 Cor 6:19-20)

From a theological perspective, the most dangerous thing about mental illness is that it can lock us in ourselves, convincing us that we are indeed our own, and completely on our own, isolated in our distress. Darkness is my only companion. Mental illness can be to us a veil that shrouds our consecration to God, blocking out the glory of the Holy One. Our wounds fester. Our remoteness from the source of our healing increases. Mental illness shuts all windows and doors to the soul so that we cannot speak, meditate, or do anything to the glory of God, or so it seems. All is experienced as pain. We locked in ourselves, unable to forget our pain. How does the Christian endure such remoteness from the source of life?

O Lord, calm the waves of this heart; calm its tempests. Calm yourself, O my soul, so that the divine can act in you. Calm yourself, O my soul, so that God is able to repose in you, so that his peace may cover you. Yes, Father in heaven, often have we found that the world cannot give us peace, O but make us feel that you are able to give peace; let us know the truth of your promise: that the whole world may not be able to take away your peace.

– Søren Kierkegaard (1813 – 55)

…”

– An extract from “Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness” by Kathryn Greene-McCreight which is the best book I’ve read on the intersection of mental illness and faith and would highly recommend.

darkness