A FAMILY HEALING FROM SUICIDE
By David Brian Adams
Nearly every family has one—that person who seems to breathe life and light into the room everywhere they go. That person whose love for life, family, and friendship inhabits every moment and is both intoxicating and infectious. That person who seems to calm every grievance, weather every storm, and light the path that brings the family back to the table, no matter what. My brother, Jim, was that person in our house.
When Jim committed suicide in 1989, I felt as if our family would never be whole again. Jim’s light was gone. The soothing, steady heart that knew our secret hurts and brought us together despite our woundedness was no longer physically present, and we were adrift. Family gatherings once full of fond reminiscence now felt sad, silent, and hollow.
It was from this place of emptiness that we each reached for something more. Guided by our own inner wisdom, we embarked on our individual spiritual journeys toward healing.
For me, that journey began with forgiveness. I forgave myself, my parents, and siblings for the ways I thought we had failed to be there for Jim and each other. I forgave Jim for assumptions I had made about his not reaching out for help. I released the notion that God had somehow abandoned my family in this time of need. Through this process of forgiveness and release, I realized God is incapable of leaving—the Comforter that Jesus promised dwells within (John 14:16). Trusting that Comforter, I fostered a relationship with the God that is truly in our midst. Through an ongoing practice of prayer meditation, and reflection, the inner light of Christ guided my actions.
It revealed my role in restoring wholeness within our family.
It began with a letter. I wrote about the shame I felt growing up gay in a conservative household and my ongoing journey to overcome that shame. I wrote about everything I had withheld for years to avoid worry or rejection. Without judgment or blame, this letter fulfilled a desire to let my true inner light shine at last. As I stood at the mailbox with copies in hand, I blessed each letter and asked that it be received in the spirit it was written. Prepared for whatever response I might get, I waited.
Within weeks, that letter was met with similar, openhearted letters. In time, these missives sparked opportunities for loving, vulnerable conversations. Continued conversations invited understanding, patience, and a renewed sense of connection.
While this process was not always easy, it was worthwhile. Each of us learned to embrace our role as Spirit-led and truly began to recognize the healing light of Christ within at work. Our personal journeys, although varied in practice, began to bring us back together. Love ultimately led us back to the family table.
Today my family meets online every week. Gatherings that once seemed hollow are now plump with love. Time spent reminiscing has become filled with laughter. The love we have for each other brings us together again and again, and the light of that love shines brightly. My family is closer now than we have been in many years. It is a closeness that honors the light my brother Jim was. It is a closeness that reflects the light he continues to be.
Rev. David Brian Adams is senior co-minister at Unity of Independence,