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How to Cope with Your Child’s Suicide

God is greater than suicide. Trust him to provide strength, courage, and endurance for the journey of life after suicide.

On December 20, Deneen and Roy received news no parents ever wanted to hear. Their 23‐year‐old son, Mills, had taken his own life. After they heard the devastating news, they were forced to face the reality of not knowing how to cope with a suicide.

Earlier that day, Deneen and Roy attended church.

“I remember looking at the praise team and wondering how Lisa could stand on the stage and sing after just losing her son to cancer,” says Deneen. Deneen could not have anticipated that only hours later she and her husband would be dealing with the loss of their son. As with any suicide, details came in snatches. Some details may never be known. Mills Snap-chatted with his mother the day before. He talked to his sister that night. Mills and his girlfriend had a disagreement.

The next morning, Mills’ girlfriend went to check on him, concerned because she couldn’t reach him by phone or text message. His door was unlocked, and she was the one to discover him. Because they had just started dating, she didn’t know how to contact his parents, but reached his sister via social media.

Three weeks before his suicide, Mills called his mother and asked if he could come home. He called and made the same request to his father. It was unusual for him to call instead of texting and odd for him to ask permission to come home.

“Mills came and brought his dog. We sat on the porch, talked, and later had supper together,” says Deneen. “Mills would start to say something and then say, ‘I don’t know.’ Several times I asked him what he meant, what he didn’t know, but he couldn’t articulate his thoughts. When he left, we hugged and said I love you. We had no idea Mills was depressed or having suicidal thoughts. Mills was always smiling. He loved his job. He wanted us to meet his new girlfriend. Our perception: life was good.”

What You Can Expect

The death of any child is tragic, but suicide puts a different spin on the grief process and how people react. As you learn how to cope with a suicide, you may experience some, or all, of the following:

Multiple Conflicting Emotions

Along with intense sadness, suicide survivors, those left behind after a suicide death, can expect multi‐faceted emotions. Anger, guilt, shock, and confusion are common. You may feel guilty for not recognizing clues in time to intervene. However, children, teens, and young adults are skilled at hiding their emotional pain and mental anguish from their parents. Avoid taking on responsibility for thought processes of which you were unaware and actions you could not control.

Anger is also present. You may be angry with your child for his or her decision, and then feel guilt for anger toward a deceased child. Additionally, your anger may be directed at God for allowing suicide to happen. Realizing anger is part of the grief process, it’s important to deal with it so healing can begin. Talk about your emotions with your spouse and those you trust. Talk to God. Honestly express your anger to him. Seek counsel from professionals. Above all, don’t allow anger to consume you.

Complicated Grief

A suicide death is complicated, and your grief may be prolonged. Grief may be a two‐steps‐forward‐one‐ step‐back sequence, lasting longer than you want it to. The grief journey is different for each person. Learning how to cope with a suicide is different for each person. Don’t allow anyone to rush you or try to convince you it’s taking too long. Allow grief, but also, as much as possible, maintain a forward‐looking perspective.

Unusual and Unhelpful Responses from Others

Many people don’t know what they believe about suicide. Some have been taught a suicide death equals eternity in hell, but no scripture substantiates this belief. When people don’t know what they believe or what to say to suicide families, they often respond in ways that are thoughtless and cause you additional pain. Or because they don’t know what to say, they don’t reach out at all.

“The afternoon of Mills’ celebration of life service, a woman I hadn’t seen in years came to our house. She put her hand on my arm and told me the statistics were not good for marriages surviving the tragic death of a child,” says Deneen. “I can’t imagine how she thought that was helpful. Only by God’s grace could I look at her, smile, and say, ‘You don’t know the strength of my marriage and the power of my God.’”

Unanswered Questions

One of the most difficult facets of the aftermath of suicide is unanswered questions. Suicide provides no opportunity for resolution. The what‐ifs come with frequency and questions loom large. You may feel as if you are attempting to put together a jigsaw puzzle. No matter how hard you try, you’ll always be missing a few pieces. You can speculate but may never know for sure what caused your child to choose suicide.

“Suicide makes you play mind games,” says Deneen. “I don’t know how people who aren’t rooted in Christ handle this.”

Feeling Others are Watching You

“It was hard for us to go back to church,” says Deneen. “Not because we were mad at God, but because it felt like people were watching us. Maybe we went back too soon.”

Perhaps it is human nature to watch others and see how they respond to tragedy and loss. Suicide amplifies the sensation of being under a microscope. If you feel the need to be out of the public eye, and can, take a break from your normal patterns and give yourself the opportunity to grieve privately.

How to Cope with a Suicide

Talk about Your Child

Sometimes, because suicide is so painful, families opt for silence. Instead, remember positive aspects of your child’s life. Talk about the successes and tell funny stories. In doing so, you are not trivializing your child’s death. You are celebrating life.

Find Your Personal Coping Mechanism

The morning after Mills’ death, Deneen turned on the radio and heard a song she had never heard before. She fell to her knees and worshiped God, kneeling in a puddle of tears.

“Christian music is my therapy. The music of Mercy Me has had a huge impact on me. I have a folder of music on my phone titled ‘Mills.’ ‘Bring the Rain’ and ‘Look Up Child’ are among the songs saved in that folder,” says Deneen. Her other coping mechanism is reading. “I feel I need to read to feed myself. I have been in the Bible even more since Mills died. Each day, I ask God to show me my purpose for that day.”

Roy learned to fly. When he is in the air, and focused on flying the plane, he experiences freedom. He also leans on the men in his Bible study group and their studies.

Commemorate Your Child

After Mills’ death, many people reached out by planting trees and contributing to ministries. His fraternity started a scholarship in his memory. A friend gave Deneen and Roy a special remembrance, a glass and brass box filled with forty filigree stars, signifying each of the forty people who accepted Christ as Savior at Mills’ celebration of life service. Deneen had three star bracelets made, one for her and her two daughters.

“God has used stars repeatedly. The message is clear. God wants us to shine for him. God is in this entire story. Maybe we are here for others,” says Deneen.

Be Available to Others

You may wonder why God allowed this tragedy, intense grief, and stinging loss in your life. Only God knows his purposes, but you can be assured he grieves with you. God gave his only son to redeem us. He understands the loss of a child.

As time goes on, you will see opportunities to minister to others who are suffering. Their loss may not be suicide, but you will understand and identify with their pain, no matter what the source.

Forgive Your Child

Forgiving your child for choosing suicide is an important part of healing. Those who choose suicide are not thinking of how their decision will affect loved ones left behind. So forgive, and in doing so, free yourself to move forward with the assurance God has a plan for your life beyond suicide.

Final Thoughts on How to Cope with a Suicide 

Suicide, and its aftermath, are akin to an earthquake that rocks your world and continues to buffet you with aftershocks. While you may never “get over” the loss of your child to suicide, God will make a way forward and heal your broken heart. Then, as opportunities come, be instrumental in reaching out to others, ministering to them, and holding up each other’s arms when grief overwhelms.

God is greater than suicide. Trust him to provide strength, courage, and endurance for the journey of life after suicide.

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Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Understanding the Root of Your Child's Misbehavior - Part 2

Often, children act out because they are used to getting attention through bad behavior. Dr. Kevin Leman offers advice to help parents transform their child’s behavior. He discusses the benefits of allowing your kids to learn from real-life consequences and describes the importance of understanding your child’s temperament based on his birth order.

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known family psychologist and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author. He is also a popular public speaker and media personality who has made countless guest appearances on numerous radio and TV programs. Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books including The Birth Order BookHave a New Kid by Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.

Bundle of Why Your Kids Misbehave

Why Your Kids Misbehave and What to Do about It

Tantrums. Talking back. Throwing toys or food. Meltdowns. Slamming doors. Kids know just how to push your buttons. You’ve tried all sorts of methods, but nothing seems to work. In this book, Dr. Kevin Leman reveals exactly why kids misbehave and how you can turn that behavior around with practical, no-nonsense strategies that really work . . . and are a long-term win for both of you.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Seasons of Marriage - Part 2

Debra Fileta has identified the four seasons of marriage that correspond with our natural seasons – spring (new life and new love), summer (things get hot!), fall (showing our true colors), and winter (long days ahead). In this interview, she will help couples better understand the four seasons of healthy relationships, what to expect during each one, and how to carefully navigate them for a stronger marriage.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage.

Love in Every Season: Understanding the Four Stages of a Healthy Relationship

Every relationship goes through four life-changing seasons: Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each season plays an important role in taking your relationship to the next level. And depending on how you navigate each season, your relationship will either flourish and grow, or it will slowly die. Whether you’re single, dating, engaged or married, join licensed professional counselor and relationship expert, Debra Fileta as she takes you on an eye-opening psychological and spiritual journey through the four seasons that she has observed in every healthy relationship.

Reconciling Faith and Science in a Medical Crisis

Dr. Lee Warren is a neurosurgeon who has faced many heavy challenges in his life – from serving in the Iraq War to removing deadly brain tumors to experiencing the loss of a teenage son. He’ll share about his difficult quest to find answers to some of life’s toughest questions, while holding onto his faith in God and the sure hope of heaven

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Dr. W. Lee Warren

Dr. Lee Warren

W. Lee Warren, M.D., is a brain surgeon , inventor, Iraq War veteran, and author of I’ve Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon’s Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know, winner of the Christian Book Award®. His previous book, No Place to Hide, was included on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff’s Recommended Reading List. Dr. Warren has appeared on The 700 Club and the CBS Evening News, and his writings have been featured in Guideposts magazine. His Dr. Lee Warren Podcast, which is heard in more than 60 countries, helps listeners use the power of neuroscience, faith, and common sense to change their lives.

Cover image of Dr. Lee Warren's book "I've Seen the End of You"

I've Seen the End of You: A Neurosurgeon's Look at Faith, Doubt, and the Things We Think We Know

This gripping inspirational memoir grapples with the tension between faith and science—and between death and hope—as a seasoned neurosurgeon faces insurmountable odds and grief both in the office and at home.

Praying Scripture Over Your Child’s Life - Part 1

Jodie Berndt loves to pray for her children. She’s been doing that for the past thirty years. Now she helps other parents to talk to God, asking for the salvation of their kids, and for wisdom, self-discipline, purpose, a future and much more. She offers fun and practical encouragement that moms and dads can put to work immediately in their daily lives as they prepare their children for a life in Christ.

Headshot of Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt

Jodie Berndt is a public speaker, a Bible teacher, and the the author of 10 books. Find out more about Jodie and get some free resources (including printable prayer cards and calendars) at her website, jodieberndt.com.

Cover image of Jodie Berndt's book "Praying the Scriptures for Your Children"

Praying the Scriptures Over Your Children

You will discover how using the Bible to shape your desires and requests opens the door to God’s provision—and frees us from things like worry and fear in our parenting! This expanded edition of the bestseller features updated content on issues like technology and identity, and comes with new material designed to invite children into the family prayer circle. Purchase now and receive 10% off your product.

Mothers and Sons: Being a Godly Influence - Part 1

Rhonda Stoppe describes her early motherhood challenges of raising a son, which was intimidating to her. She found help through group of older women mentors. She urges moms to see their role as ministry in shaping sons to be good and godly men. Rhonda outlines several practical suggestions to moms about spiritual training, how to communicate with boys, and supporting the father-son relationship as a wife.

Headshot of Rhonda Stoppe

Rhonda Stoppe

Drawing upon 35 years of experience as a mentor, pastor’s wife, and homeschool mom, Rhonda Stoppe offers encouragement and guidance to women as an author and public speaker. She is popularly known as the “No Regrets Woman,” as she is especially passionate about helping women live life without regrets. Rhonda’s books include Moms Raising Sons to Be MenReal Life Romance, and The Marriage Mentor, which she co-authored with her husband, Steve.

Cover image of Rhonda Stoppe's book "Moms Raising Sons to be Men"

Moms Raising Sons to Be Men

Mothers of boys have the special calling to shape future men of God. Popular speaker Rhonda Stoppe, mom to two sons, knows this opportunity is a challenge, a joy, and probably the most important work of a woman’s life. Drawing from years of experience, this inspirational resource will revive the faithfulness and fortitude a woman needs to partner with God as they shape the character and heart of a future godly man.

Identifying Triggers in Your Marriage Part 1

They were both convinced they had married the wrong person. From almost the very beginning of their marriage, Amber and Guy Lia experienced various tensions and personality clashes related to house cleaning, backseat driving, workaholism, and intimacy. In this two-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Amber and Guy discuss how they bravely faced the triggers head-on, and committed to working on their own relationships with Jesus. As you listen to the Lia’s story, you’ll feel hope that you, too, can see real marriage transformation!

Headshot of Guy and Amber Lia

Mr. and Mrs. Guy and Amber Lia and Mrs. Jean Daly

Amber Lia is a work-at-home mom, blogger, public speaker, and co-author of two best-selling books. Her husband, Guy, is a former TV, feature film, and VFX development and production executive who has worked on popular TV shows and films. Guy and Amber own Storehouse Media Group, a faith- and family-friendly TV and film production company based in Los Angeles,

Cover image of the book "Marriage Triggers" by Guy and Amber Lia

Marriage Triggers: How You and Your Spouse Can Exchange Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses

A husband-wife team offers practical advice for married couples to end the cycle of reactionary arguments by examining the most common issues that trigger disagreements and apply God’s Word to radically transform relationships.

What to Do When You're Not Okay - Part 1

Life can be pretty stressful. Between work, relationships, and other obligations, the pressure builds, and we lose sight of who we are. Counselor Debra Fileta helps you better understand your emotions, assess your mental, physical, and spiritual health, and intentionally pursue a path to wellbeing. In dealing with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, Debra understands the importance of self-examination as well as the benefits of seeking professional help. She offers biblically-based advice, tools, and encouragement to help you get on a path toward healing and wholeness.

Author Debra Fileta in the Focus on the Family broadcast studio

Mrs. Debra Fileta

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor specializing in relationship and marital issues. She is also a public speaker and the author of multiple books, including Married SexChoosing Marriage: Why It Has to Start With We > Me, Love in Every Season, and Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are, How You’re Doing, and Why It Matters. Debra’s popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, and her Love + Relationships podcast reach millions of people each year offering guidance on topics including love, sex, and marriage. Debra resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, John, and their four children.

Are You Really Okay?

Are You Really OK: Getting Real About Who You Are

In Are You Really OK? author and licensed counselor Debra Fileta challenges you to get real with who you are and how you’re doing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically so you can recognize where you need growth and healing.

Navigating a Toxic Culture with Your Daughter - Part 1

As a pediatrician, Dr. Meg Meeker has seen thousands of girls come through her office through the years. They struggle with eating issues, sexual identity, social media…and many other challenges in this toxic culture. Dr. Meeker will encourage parents to invest love and time in their daughters and develop their character to give them the best opportunity for a bright future, all rooted in a spiritual foundation. The discussion also includes healthy feminism vs. toxic feminism

Mrs. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading authorities on parenting, teens and children’s health. With appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and TV programs, her popularity as a an expert on key issues confronting families has created a strong following across America. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her best-selling books which include Strong Fathers, Strong DaughtersStrong Mothers, Strong Sons and The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers

Cover image of Dr. Meg Meeker's book "Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture"

Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keep Her Happy, Healthy, and Safe

Meg Meeker has been a pediatrician for more than thirty years, is a mother and a grandmother, and has seen it all. She knows what makes for strong, happy, healthy young women–and what puts our daughters at risk. Combining that experience with her famous common sense, she explains the eleven steps that will help your daughter–whether she’s a toddler or a troubled teen–to achieve her full human potential.

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Newest Release - Episode 1: The Truth About Life!

In this episode, we will tackle tough questions like, “When does life begin?” and “What does the Bible
say about Life?” You’ll discover and understand the stages of pre-born life and that babies are more than
just a clump of cells!

Yes, I Promise to Pray for the Pre-born and Their Moms!

Will you pray for the pre-born and moms that are facing unexpected pregnancies? We will send you a 7-day prayer guide that will help guide you along this journey with us!! You can even choose to receive this great resource by text!

Thank you for committing to pray for the pre-born!

Sign up below for your free seven-day prayer guide. This daily guide will help give direction to your prayers for the pro-life movement. We will be praying with you! 

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