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Surviving Suicide - Rita Schulte

Building Relationships / Dr. Gary Chapman
The Truth Network Radio
September 18, 2021 1:45 am

Surviving Suicide - Rita Schulte

Building Relationships / Dr. Gary Chapman

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September 18, 2021 1:45 am

The pain of suicide loss is indescribable. It seems beyond survival. Yet with faith, perseverance, and the tools of brain science, there is a way through. On this edition of Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, suicide loss survivor, Rita Schulte (SHOOL tee) shares her story. Though it takes time, there is real hope for healing. Don’t miss the conversation today on Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman. 

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Building Relationships
Dr. Gary Chapman
Running to Win
Erwin Lutzer
Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul
Family Life Today
Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

Today on Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, the devastating loss of suicide. How does the person see themselves? How do they see God? How do they see the world around them after the shattering event, right?

Is the world a safe place? So there's a lot of meaning making that goes into having to traverse this dark journey back. Welcome to Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the New York Times bestseller, "The 5 Love Languages" . Today, author and counselor Rita Schulte talks about her own personal journey through grief at the loss of her husband. She's written our featured resource today titled, Surviving Suicide Loss, Making Your Way Beyond the Ruins.

You can find out more at And as you might expect, today's program is going to be a difficult one. But Gary, this is a topic that many families and friends are having to deal with in our world today. Well, you're exactly right, Chris. You know, as a pastor, I've walked with a number of families through this experience.

And it's never easy, never easy for me, even as the pastor trying to walk with them through it. So I really am glad that Rita is going to be with us today and share her story. And also, what she's done in this book, I think is going to help a lot of people who are walking through that journey.

I do too. And let's meet Rita Schulte. She's a licensed professional counselor. She specializes in the treatment of mental health disorders. In 2011, she created Heartline Radio, a broadcast that addresses cutting edge mental health issues and provides resources. You can find out more about her and her latest book at The title again is, Surviving Suicide Loss, Making Your Way Beyond the Ruins.

Just go to Well Rita, welcome to Building Relationships. Thank you, Gary.

It's an honor to be here. You know, one of the questions I often ask at the beginning is, why did you decide to tackle this topic? And for you, it's a very personal reason.

Share that with us. Yeah, so as a therapist sitting with people through the years and hearing a lot about their stories of loss, I was motivated a number of years ago when I wrote my first book, Shattered, because I realized that people weren't aware of sometimes the losses they'd incurred, much less put words to those losses. And so I was very interested in helping people connect those dots in terms of how loss had affected their heart, their faith journey, and just dealing with some of those things that go along with losses. And so obviously this was before my husband took his life, but I wanted to really understand why some people make it back from such a difficult adversity with their faith still intact and why others kind of lose the battle for their heart all together. So that was that journey, and I sort of got buried in this whole topic of loss, if you will. And then of course being no stranger to loss through my own life was part of it.

And then after my book came out, my husband took his life by suicide. So that set me on a whole other trajectory, wanting to, as I became whole and healed, kind of like reach back and strengthen my brothers. I love this verse that I used for my first book, Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat, but I prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.

And when you turn back, strengthen your brothers. So that was kind of my verse, right? I mean, I think Satan wanted to bury me with this loss. Mike was my high school sweetheart. We were soulmates. And yet Jesus was at the right hand of the father praying for me.

And so now that I've been restored, I can turn back and strengthen the brethren, people that are going through this or people that may be considering suicide as a viable option. Rita, how long had you been married when this happened? Oh gosh, we were married in 1975. So yeah, close to 40 years.

Yeah. And what were some of your initial responses emotionally and thought wise? I was pretty paralyzed, Gary, I found my husband. And so that adds an additional layer to the trauma.

So right, I just was immobilized for a number of months. And then I was consumed with the why questions, where all survivors kind of land. And for me, the whole idea of, oh, I was the therapist, right? And I couldn't even stop my own husband from taking his life. And so if you can imagine thinking about the person that you love most in this world, and imagine for a moment that you are responsible for that person's death. I just breathe that in for a moment.

I mean, it levels you. So it was a long journey back. Because a traumatic event shatters the tacit assumptions and the core foundational beliefs in our lives that make the world safe and predictable. And so there's a lot of questions that have to be answered, right? How does the person see themself? How do they see God? How do they see the world around them after the shattering event, right?

Is the world a safe place? Can they trust themselves again, right? So there's a lot of meaning making that goes into having to traverse this dark journey back. Yeah, I think for those who have not experienced the suicidal death of a spouse or a family member, it's hard even to imagine the trauma and the pain that goes with that. You know, as I've worked with people through the years, sometimes they've asked themselves the question, you know, what if I had done this? What if I had done that?

What if I had done something differently? It's almost a way of taking it upon themselves. Did you experience that? And do you experience that? Did you experience that?

And do you find that common with people? Absolutely. And, you know, my husband and I were at our home in West Palm Beach through that weekend. And Monday, he was going to fly back by himself. He seemed fine Monday.

The weekend wasn't good. We were down there with some friends. He was to fly to a treatment center on Tuesday to Paul Meyer. And I was going to follow him a day or so later and just stay with him as long as was necessary. Well, you know, that Tuesday morning I got up and I was calling him for several hours before I left Florida and I was anxiety ridden. I couldn't get a hold of him.

And so he had made other attempts and they always seemed to be thwarted. I'd show up or, you know, we'd get through it. But not being able to get hold of him was terrifying. And so I basically called the doctor's office where he was supposed to have an appointment that morning before he left and they told me he'd been there. So that calmed me down. I was able to fly home. But the truth was, he never made it to that appointment.

Whoever gave me that information was incorrect. So when I flew home, I, you know, got in a cab, I came home and, you know, that's when I discovered him. Yeah. How did your children respond to this? They were devastated.

I mean, Mike was their hero. They just was a long struggle. I think my daughter took on the responsibility of, I'm going to take care of mom, right? For the first few months, I was just, you know, a train wreck.

But yeah, it was very, very difficult, especially for my son. Yeah. Your children, your children were adults by this time, right? Yes.

Yes. And actually, my daughter had just had a baby a month before Mike took his life. And my son's wife was expecting their second child. So they had a lot, you know, distractions, you know, in terms of their own lives, you know, in terms of, you know, your previous question about, you know, when I work with people that have lost a loved one to suicide, the guilt is always something that what if I had done this or what if I had done that, and I think for me, I will always carry, I didn't come back with him on the plane.

And that's something I have to live with. But one thing I would want to tell your listeners is that you can only be responsible for what you knew. If I had in any way believed that Mike would have done that, there's no chance I wouldn't have flown back with him. I mean, I was with him every moment I could be, but you can't be with your loved one every single moment. And I'm sure as you mentioned earlier, the fact that you were a counselor and helping other people, this had to be even heavier in a sense for you. Absolutely. And you know, suicide and that wasn't my area of expertise at the time.

Right? I didn't know a lot about all of that. If I knew now what I knew, you know, if I had known that then I would have done some things differently. But for people, you can only be responsive for what you know. And so having that mercy and compassion on yourself is a big part of your healing journey.

Yeah. Thanks for listening to Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the New York Times bestseller, "The 5 Love Languages" . Our guest is counselor and author Rita Schulte. Our featured resource today is her book, Surviving Suicide Loss, Making Your Way Beyond the Ruins. You can find out more at

That's Rita, in our first session, of course, you were sharing your own story with this. But let me let me move now to talk a little bit about some of the practical issues in this whole area of losing someone to suicide. Let me ask about terminology. Through the years, I've heard people talk about people committing suicide. And it seems like that's changed a bit and people are now talking more like a victim of suicide. Is that an important distinction and why?

Yes. I think committed suicide, the term may seem somewhat innocuous, but it's actually laden with blame and stigma. And we're working really hard in the mental health community to destigmatize not only suicide, but mental illness. So the guidelines outlined by, you know, mental health folks and media organizations really advise against using it because it's damaging for a lot of people. It evokes associations with this person committing a crime, committing a sin.

And that makes us think about something morally reprehensible or illegal. It also ignores the fact that suicide is often the consequence of an unaddressed mental health issue. It should be regarded in the same way as a physical health condition. So, you know, for example, I wouldn't say, well, I committed a heart attack.

Instead, you'd say something like, my loved one died from a heart attack. And so the same kind of thing for suicide. It discriminates against those who lost their battle against a disease. And it is a sickness. Yeah, certainly grows out of mental illness.

No question about that. What are some of the common misconceptions that people have about suicide and suicidal ideation? I think that it's sin, that it's weakness, that it's cowardice, an impulsive act, that it comes out of the blue, that it's selfish. I mean, in the tragedy of suicide, our loved ones fought against an enemy who was themself and they lost their battle against themselves.

And so putting that on people or even on the survivor is really hard because I've heard a lot of that, you know, about Mike and that couldn't have been farther from the truth. I mean, these folks, you know, people say, well, it's cowardly or it's weak or it's selfish. But really, if you understand that these folks, many of them loathe themselves, they believe in their heart of hearts that they're doing their loved ones a favor. What would you say to someone who is really having problems moving on after the death of a partner or a family close family member and they're just struggling with it?

They just feel like, you know, they can't get better. I mean, counseling is so important and groups are so important. I think the biggest piece for me and research is very robust on this topic is having committed folks walking alongside of you for the long haul. People need other people who are emotionally attuned and available, who will listen and not judge and who will plant seeds for post-traumatic growth. That's important. You don't want to mollycoddle people.

You want to help move them towards spaces of growth. And so counseling, I mean, you're in it for the long haul with that. But I think people, if you're stuck, you've got to acknowledge what's keeping you stuck.

Maybe it's anger. You've got to deal with that before the Lord. If it's, you know, the why questions, you've got to work those out and process it.

You've got to do the meaning-making piece. And you've really got to look at your concept of God because, as I said, an event like this can create just a shattering of everything that you thought you once believed, what was safe and predictable in your life. I've heard people say, why did God allow this? How do you respond to that question? Well, I think for me, I had to come to a place where I looked at what was what was Mike's responsibility in this?

Right? Mike made some choices that weren't real great in terms of his mental health. And so I had to be able to say, okay, well, yeah, I mean, God intervened many times, Gary, with Mike in these attempts.

I could go on and on about it. And then he didn't. And so why did that happen? I don't understand all that. And I think this side of heaven, we won't understand it. So we have to move at some place and some point in our journey from the why to the what's next. How, God, can I redeem this loss and move forward and, like I said, turn back and help my brothers?

Yeah. You mentioned the value of being in a small group of others who've had similar experiences. In a given community, where would a person like that turn to find such a group?

I went to, well, I had a good friend, dear friend of mine, who did a lot of research, you know, for me. I obviously went to my church, and there was a grief group there. It wasn't a suicide group, but it was a grief group. And those are still some of my close friends today. I also went to a suicide loss support group. And that was extremely helpful, because that was all people that, you know, had lost a loved one by suicide. In your community, you just have to research to see what's available. At the very beginning, I went to, I think, an eight-week, it was called Haven, and it was suicide-specific.

But, you know, people can contact the American Foundation for Suicidology, AFA. You just have to do the research, and you just have to go. And my friend actually went with me, because I didn't waste any time. I mean, I was in there. I knew what to do as a therapist. So she took me. She took me for the first couple months and sat with me.

Yeah. You mentioned earlier that you actually found your husband when you flew back. And so, clearly, you went through post-traumatic stress in that situation.

What does PTSD look like to those who are trying to love and support someone who has PTSD? It's tough. I had a good, dear friend and her husband actually living with me for a while. They were building a house in North Carolina, and they needed a place to stay. And it worked out.

God just worked that out. But I know it was, it was just so difficult for my loved ones and my friends. I had episodes of just extreme hyperactivity, right, where I was so activated and shaking, and I would totally dissociate, kind of like nobody's home. I had episodes of just curling up in a ball, because that's what I did that night after I found Mike, and I ran screaming from our bedroom.

And I came down here and just kind of collapsed and curled up in a ball. And what happens with that is, the traumatized brain is being flooded with intrusive images, nightmares, flashbacks, and those things literally become what we call procedural memory. And they're encoded in the brain. So a lot of this is brain physiology. So when a person is going through a flashback, the brain literally releases eight milligrams of morphine as it relives the trauma.

So that's a very powerful dose. I'd wonder why it felt so physically ill. And so, you know, and so all of the different parts of the brain, right, are doing different things, because trauma impacts key structures in the brain that underlie emotional regulation, right. The emotional brain is constantly hijacking the rational mind. So my prefrontal cortex, my rational brain, is totally going offline. And that little almond-shaped structure in our emotional brain, our limbic brain, our amygdala, is constantly firing out a danger danger signal.

And so at any given moment, you can get triggered and go into this fight or flight mode where you're just literally out of control. And I remember one day, I was in the sunroom here with some friends, and I happened to look up. And I've got this big, huge cathedral ceiling in here. And there's a hole in the wall up there, in the drywall. And I knew what it was.

It was the bullet, because the bedroom's right over top of this room. And the minute I saw it, I just dropped right back into the traumatic event. And so I'm just, you know, going through all of that. And so for the folks that were walking alongside of me, I think the important thing is they need to know what to do to help the person when they get in those spaces. And so a dear friend of mine, who's also a therapist, actually met with my family and close friends and showed them some things to do when I would get in those spaces of hyperarousal or shutdown. And so those became, you know, just kind of the go-tos where people would help me to, you know, calm my autonomic nervous system. And, you know, or if I'm curled up in a ball, like, get me up, get me outside, we're going to take a walk.

I don't care if it's, you know, 32 degrees out and snowing, we're taking a walk. And what that would do is I would shift, right? Or we would pray or, you know, I would read my Bible or whatever. But you got to have some go-tos in order to help people. So I'm hearing you say some of those go-tos are just kind of forcing them, as it were, to get up and let's take a walk. Absolutely. Yeah, reading Scripture to them, I guess, as well as encouraging them to read.

Yeah. And then praying with them. And there is a power in just being there, right?

Yes, the presence of an attuned, compassionate person, because nobody can fix this. And we all want to say things, and we want to oftentimes give verses, and sometimes those are soothing and they're wonderful, but sometimes the timing isn't right with what someone might say. And so, really, what the survivor needs is just what you said, someone's presence, someone to put your arms around.

You know, people would just put their arms around me and hold me, cry with me, right? It was a beautiful, it was being the hands and feet of Christ, Gary, is what it was doing. Let me tell listeners, if you're just joining us, Rita Schulte is with us. She's written a book. It's our featured resource today at The title is Surviving Suicide Loss, Making Your Way Beyond the Ruins, or maybe someone has suggested this to you because of what you've been through recently.

Thank you for tuning in today. Again, You'll see a link there to Surviving Suicide Loss.

Again, Rita, I have a question of the progression of Mike. This was not something that happened just one day and then was gone. You said there were attempts earlier. There was also, you say in the book, there was also this level of paranoia that he went through. That is one of the things that people look for then too, right?

Yes. It's weird because Mike was not a depressed person. He didn't have a mental illness. I mean, he was a dentist. He was a pilot.

He had his own airplane. He was fine. I mean, at the beginning, if I'm honest, at the beginning of that year, he started exhibiting a little, you know, paranoia. But he was always kind of like, you know, paranoid about stuff. And so, you know, we didn't think too much of it.

But around the summer, we took a trip with my son and his family in August. And it was a downhill slide from there. I mean, he just got increasingly paranoid. He couldn't sleep. He was agitated.

He just, it was obvious he wasn't himself. And the paranoia was really getting bad. So Rita, we know that the family member can't keep the person ultimately from suicide. But let's just back up and talk a minute to that person who has heard their spouse or some family member mentioned suicidal thoughts. What would be the first thing to do when you hear those expressions?

Don't dismiss it. People talking about suicide or having a plan. 70% of people who say they're going to do it, do it. Three out of 10 say nothing.

So if someone's talking about it, get them help immediately. I mean, I can tell you, I laid in bed with my husband one night, and he said to me, I could never really do it, Rita, because I could never live without you. And I would never want to leave you with all this mess. And my mistake was believing him.

My kids and I, we really, we did not believe Mike was going to do it. And neither did his psychiatrist. So don't dismiss it.

Get somebody help right away. Thanks for joining us for Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman. Our guest today is counselor and author Rita Schulte, author of Surviving Suicide Loss, Making Your Way Beyond the Ruins.

You can find out more at Rita, we touched on this a bit before we took the break, but let's go back. What does proactive suicide prevention look like? That is, you know, you said don't dismiss it if someone mentions, you know, the idea, even thinking about it. But what are some proactive things that might be done? So you got to look at the risk factors. And I said talking about suicide is a big one.

If somebody has a plan, that's a big one. If your loved one isn't sleeping, if they're marked social withdrawal, if you see your loved one in immense distress or feeling hopeless, you need to get them help. So proactive would look like getting them into a, see a counselor. If the distress is that bad, so we did that.

And then Mike's situation began to deteriorate. And so what we suggested then was a higher level of care, meaning you need to go to an inpatient facility for treatment. So starting out with a counselor, and then if the person isn't responding, you might need a higher level of care, meaning, you know, we got to do something else here.

But the first step I hear you saying is reach out to a counselor, because a counselor has been trained to listen, to pick up on ideas, and then they can make recommendations in terms of is it ready for another step, right? Absolutely. Now you also mentioned in your book something about ideas in the Bible, you know, where people have experienced trauma, and then they survive that. Do some of those just come to your mind now that you might share? I think David is just a beautiful example. He is my favorite person. And he wrote all these amazing psalms of deep lament.

And I think I have a section about lament. Even in his darkest hour, David went through a lot of trauma and Saul's trying to kill him. He's betrayed by everyone. He feels so isolated and so alone, hopeless at times, immense distress, communicated so eloquently through the psalms, and things that we can resonate with. But what he did was even in his darkest hour, Gary, he pressed in toward God with a passion. And that's my heart for folks.

Never, never give up. Press into God. He loves you. He didn't cause this. This isn't his fault.

Your loved one made a choice, a horrible choice. But God is there. Press in and find him, and there you'll find peace. Because we really don't find peace when we turn anywhere else, right? No, and we try all kinds of coping strategies to deal with our pain. But in the end, it's only an illusion. I mean, I'm not saying this is a, you know, in six months you're going to be fine kind of walk, because it just isn't. But God did some miraculous things in my life, visions he gave me to replace the horror of the trauma that I witnessed when I walked into that room.

And he's no respecter of persons. If he can do that in my life, then he can do that in someone else's life. What about the person who has experienced the death of a family member by suicide? And they're thinking, you know, do I need to reach out for a counselor? But they're hesitant because they've never had counseling before, no counseling experience. And so, what would you say to them that might encourage them or help them take that step? Well, one of the biggest things I think we need to do as therapists to help people is to encourage them to risk. And that's what's going to engender healing in people's lives. And so, friends that are surrounding this person would encourage them. My friend, again, went with me, took me to the counselor and sat there for the hour while I saw the counselor.

If that's what it takes, let somebody do that. But, you know, counseling, you know, I have a dear friend, my husband's best friend, his son took his life by suicide two years ago. And she didn't want counseling.

And she did a group for a little while and, you know, she fared okay with that. So, I'm not saying that, you know, you're never going to get better if you don't see a counselor. But for the majority of the people, counseling helps. And yeah, it's hard for us to go and bear our souls. And on some level, some people feel like they're going to be, I can't talk about my loved one.

I can't say anything bad about my loved one if I'm angry at them for taking their life. And that's just not true. So, try a few counselors. I mean, I went to several different people. If it's not a good fit, then at least, you know, you tried. Yeah, you know, you're making a point.

I've often said, you know, you can go to medical doctors and sometimes you click with them and sometimes you don't. And the same is true with counselors, right? So, you're not boxed in. Yeah. Yeah.

If you don't like the person, you don't go back. Yeah. Yeah. Now, you write about three areas of impact vulnerability for suicide survivors. Can you explain those?

Sure. I think the traumatized brain is the first area of impact, and we touched a little bit on that. That's going to be all the post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms that go along with a traumatic event. The second is the guilt and the shame that often accompanies a death by suicide for a lost survivor leading to more complex trauma.

It's not like a normal death where someone is sick and dies. So, these factors themselves increase the degree of shock and trauma experienced by survivors compared to other types of bereavement. The third area is the existential shattering that happens, which leads to a crisis of faith and a crisis of belief. So, those are the things that we've got to make meaning out of.

We have to land somewhere with our story as we tackle these three areas. And it sounds like what you're saying is the connection that you have with other people is vital for the survivor. But in this situation, you talk about the guilt and the shame. It's like, I don't want to talk with anybody. I don't want to think about this anymore. Thinking about it hurts. So, it's almost counterintuitive that you've got to press into the pain rather than retreat from it, right?

Absolutely. And stigma keeps people silent and so does shame. Shame grows in secrecy. And so, if you're carrying guilt or shame, you have to tell the story to someone. You don't have to go announcing it from the rooftops. But suicide, even more than other types of bereavement, makes people uncomfortable and uncertain of how to react. So, the normal person, I mean, I had a lady, I was at a luncheon and a friend of mine put this thing together. They were all widows.

And when she found out Mike took his life, she literally jumped out of her chair and screamed. So, it makes it more isolating for survivors. So, you have to find safe people that you can have a conversation with.

If it's not a friend, let it be a counselor. But you have to tell the story to someone because if you're carrying shame, it's going to grow in secrecy and silence. You know, you mentioned the traumatized brain. Can medication be helpful in that aspect of the survivor? Absolutely. And I am the first to be able to tell you I had to be on medication for a while.

And so, a lot of Christians, that's a whole other, you know, topic for a lot of Christians, just can't deal with that. But there's no harm in doing that. I mean, I was not able to function had I not had the medication. You know, I was more engaged in the counseling process and in the healing process because I was, you know, my system was able to finally calm down.

Yeah. You know, it's interesting that some Christians will take medication for colds or other physical illnesses. But then, when it comes to a traumatized brain, they're reluctant to do that. But in reality, a lot of that is a physical thing that's happening in the brain, which you described earlier. And medication can help.

Absolutely. And you don't have to be on medication for the rest of your life. So maybe you're on medication for a year. And that helps you to be engaged in the counseling and to heal. And then, you know, you wean yourself off of it. This is Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The New York Times bestseller, "The 5 Love Languages" . Our featured resource today is the book by Rita Schulte, Surviving Suicide Loss, Making Your Way Beyond the Ruins.

You can find out more at Rita, you talk in the book about self-compassion for the person who has experienced the death of a friend or family member via suicide. How do you practice self-compassion?

That's a tough one, Gary, for folks, especially for women. You know, we have this idea that self-compassion is self-pity, or it's about our self-worth. You know, we have all these misconceptions about it. But self-compassion is just showing yourself kindness and gentleness. So I talk a lot to my clients about noticing how they're talking to themselves. Notice their internal monologue.

Is it toxic? Is it blaming? Is it condemning? And how might they say something to themselves that's a little gentler, a little kinder? Reframe that to help you move forward and get what it is that you want and need. Self-compassion is this idea that being human means being subject to limitations. And that was hugely freeing for me. Yeah, I'll carry the fact that I didn't come back on the plane that day with Mike till the day I die. But I've learned to have mercy on myself and realize that I'm human. And I'm subject to limitations.

I made the wrong call that day. And that doesn't mean that I'm a horrible person. But I'm able to show myself grace that being human means being subject to limitations. So I hope that's helpful for folks because we're not very good at, we're good at being compassionate to other people. And so I always frame my remarks, you know, in terms of parts with my clients. And so there's a part of you that's compassionate. How can we grow that part up? How can we exercise that part to make it stronger, especially as it relates to you, not to everybody else? Yeah. And so you got to be intentional about that, because we're not usually, you know, bent toward that. No, I think you're exactly right. Someone who's trying to help a family member who has gone through this experience, are there things not to say to someone who's going through suicide loss?

Oh, boy, yeah, this is a real pet peeve of mine. I had Kay Warren on my radio show, I think about a year or so after their son Matthew died by suicide. And she wrote a beautiful Facebook post.

I don't know if you ever read it or are familiar with it. But if you Google Kay Warren Facebook post, she said it about as eloquently as you can, you know, please don't ask someone to get over this, right? Let them grieve what they've lost before you tell them to be grateful for what they have. And so I think all too often people again, because they're uncomfortable with our grief, they want their old familiar loved one back, want to hurry the process. And really, there's, as we know, no timetable on grief, but especially a loss by suicide, because there's really no closure with a death by suicide, you, you try to formulate the meaning making piece and have some closure. But people say all kinds of things like, don't say at least well, at least they found the body, or at least you had him for 30 years, or at least you had a great marriage.

It minimizes the person's pain. Because you're not going to be uh, be careful with scripture. People can say, well, oh, God wanted another angel in heaven. So he took your loved one. Well, how's that going to make you feel about God? Well, thanks, God, you know, I wanted my loved one here.

I wasn't ready to let him go. So there's all kinds of things. I mean, I've had people that have horrible things. Oh, well, you know, I hope your loved one isn't in hell.

It's really bad. And so you really need to think before you say something, how's that going to affect the survivor? Yeah, because they've got enough to on their shoulders to bear.

Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned Kay Warren and the loss of her son by suicide. Talk to the parent whose children are struggling because of the suicide loss of a parent or grandparent. How do you help young children or even adult children process that? Well, how parents talk to their kids about suicide depends on how old the child is. The key is that parents do talk. You know, we often forget that children are people too, and they're curious, and they want to know why just like we do.

So silence only fuels dysfunction, I think. Important to note that your ideas about how to communicate about grief and loss. So all the myths that perhaps you've held from childhood about how to talk about grief. I mean, a lot of us grew up in homes that you don't talk about this stuff. You sweep it under the rug. You pull yourself up by your bootstraps.

You replace a loss. You know, all of those things are going to impact how a person talks to their children about grief and loss and a suicide. So one thing that can happen is children can be fearful that if a parent has died or a grandparent has died, the other person's going to die or leave them. This is true of younger children. They may become clingy. They may get angry. They may act out in ways. They may exhibit behavioral difficulties or regress in some areas of their lives. I think it's important that parents help their children understand if they've lost a spouse to suicide, that they're doing all they can to get the help they need to take care of themselves so that they can be there for the child. If we're talking adolescents, children, you know, have a more concrete awareness.

Pre-frontal cortex is, you know, more developed. They know and accept that death is final. They may seek more support from peers and friends as a distraction from their grief. They may not be able to put words to their pain. They need encouragement, help, counseling for sure would be great, support group. You don't want to just leave them alone. Oftentimes, an adolescent will feel responsible for the other parent, and so there can be like a shift there where that person takes on this idea that I've got to, you know, make dad or mom okay, and I'm responsible for that. Not their job. So, you know, you know, the parent who's alive needs to make sure they're taking steps for their own self-care so that the adolescent doesn't have to feel like they need to step in and do that. Yeah, and encouraging that young person to talk about it even though they may be reluctant to do so, right?

Yes, absolutely. Check in with them. I mean, you can't force them to talk about it, but, you know, there's lots of different things and activities you can do to help memorialize the loved one and get a conversation started. You know, leave a seat at the dinner table on a holiday. Speak about the things you loved about your loved one.

Plant a tree. Let's do something to memorialize dad, right? Where, you know, we have this particular space.

We're not going to talk about it all day long, but in this particular space, we want to have a little bit of a conversation about it and check in with everybody to see how they're doing. Yeah. Rita, you mentioned this earlier, and that is the flashbacks that sometimes come and the visual images that you see in your mind again. Are there some practical things in terms of processing those memories and the emotions that come back with them?

Sure. The best thing I did in therapy was a therapeutic modality called EMDR. It's Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

It's specifically designed for trauma, and the research on it is very robust. So God just showed up in such major ways for me through that. At the very beginning of this, God gave me a couple of visions that were just super powerful. But I think this, when I was doing the EMDR, this when I was doing the EMDR session with my therapist, we were dealing with my guilt, and God gave me the most real image. I was sitting on the side of our bed, and Mike was standing there, and he had his hands cupped around my face, and he looked right into my eyes with this laser beam gaze, and he said, Rita, it's not your fault. And boom, it was like, wow. Wow, God. And I mean, he gave me some other beautiful images.

So when the flashbacks come, and even now, I just immediately will see what he gave me as the vision. And that was just God. I didn't make that up.

I can't make this stuff up. Right. Well, Rita, this has been a very emotional session, to be sure, for us as well as for our listeners. But I do know that those who are listening who have gone through the experience of losing someone to suicide, this has been very helpful to them. And I want to thank you for being with us today. I want to thank you for writing this book, and for your basic attitude that you want to turn, having walked through this, to help others as they walk through it. And I know that's what motivated you to write the book. So thanks for being with us. Thanks for what you're doing. And let me just encourage our listeners to get this book. I mean, it's going to be helpful to you. And if you're listening, and maybe you haven't gone through this, but you know a friend who is going through it right now, give it as a gift to them.

And it will help them. So let's do everything we can to walk with those who are suffering the results of having lost a family member in this matter. Rita, thank you for being with us today. God bless you.

Oh, guys, thank you so much, Gary. Thank you. I use your love languages when I teach my clients about needs all the time.

Thank you so much for having me and it was a blessing. Well, as you can hear, there's an awful lot of hope if you are walking this deep valley. And our featured resource is the book by Rita Schulte, S-C-H-U-L-T-E. It's titled Surviving Suicide Loss, Making Your Way Beyond the Ruins.

You'll find out more at And I hope you'll join us next week as we open the lines for your questions and comments. Our first Dear Gary broadcast of the fall season comes your way in one week. A big thank you to Steve Wick and Janice Todd. And thank you for joining us. Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman is a production of Moody Radio in association with Moody Publishers, a ministry of Moody Bible Institute.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-21 15:32:00 / 2023-08-21 15:48:52 / 17

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