I write as both a member of the clergy and as a survivor of suicide. In 1989, my younger brother Jim took his own life. He was not quite 30 years old.
Once the initial shock receded, I found myself flooded with questions. How come I didn't know? Why didn't he tell me how desperate he was? Why would he do this? Was life really that unbearable? Did I somehow contribute to Jim's misery? Where was God when my brother needed help? Where was my family? Where was I? On and on the questions kept coming, swirling around in my head like leaves in the wind. Questions with no clear answers, as least as far as I could see. Just questions and more questions.
Well-meaning friends tried to provide answers. It was kind of them, I suppose. It just wasn't what I wanted or needed. I needed time and room to wrestle with the questions. I needed time to let them make their way through my head and my heart. While it didn't seem so at the time, in retrospect I believe wrestling with those questions was an essential part of my grieving process. They gave shape to my sorrow; a way to articulate what otherwise left me speechless. And wrestling with them became, I believe, a kind of prayer.
Jim's suicide revealed in harsh terms the basic human fact that we cannot ever really know someone else, not even someone we love. We cannot penetrate to the deepest places of another human spirit, no matter how sophisticated our techniques. There is always something hidden, something known only to that individual and to God. This is not a bad thing. It reflects the fact that we've been made in God's image. God is never fully comprehended by human beings. Neither are we.