How Losing My Childhood Friend to Suicide Affected Me…

Today marks the arrival of World Suicide Prevention Day in the middle of National Suicide Prevention Week. It arrives at a weird and sad time for me. Near the end of August, one of my childhood friends took his own life. I found out through a Facebook post. Then my sister messaged me to share the sad news.

I still wonder how I should feel. I still second guess myself.

6 weeks before his suicide, I saw him. I quickly hopped out of my car and rushed to greet him before he could get away. He didn’t seem eager to chat, but I remained upbeat and tugged as much conversation out of him as he would allow. Pretty quickly our verbal back and forth awkwardly came to a standstill on the sidewalk. He said goodbye and turned to leave.

I observed 3 things in one brief moment. He never offered me a full smile. He had slimmed down into a shell of his past muscular appearance. And he was out in public with some ragged sweatpants. He looked like a hollow version of the friend I had known. Thoughts raced through my mind as he walked away. “Should I have given the conversation more effort? Why did he look so sad? Maybe he just doesn’t like me… No. That’s ridiculous. You barely know him anymore. What if this is the last time I see him? What? That’s crazy.”

I wanted to run up behind him and ask what was wrong, but instead, I just let him walk away.

Why? He was probably fine. I was probably overreacting. “He’ll be fine,” I told myself. Besides, I needed to finish my resume for WAY Nation.

In hindsight, everything happened in slow motion. On July 3 though, everything happened at a normal pace.

When I was growing up, I used to get so frustrated with NFL or NBA refs because they were horrible at seeing everything I saw on TV. Eventually I realized, refs don’t see life in slow motion. Neither do I.

After something huge happens, like the death of my childhood friend, I gain the ability to replay each passing thought and insignificant detail in slow motion. Unfortunately, on the day I experienced it, it was just another normal day.

I’ve felt guilt about that day, but I don’t know how to talk about it without absolutely breaking down, so I’ve avoided the subject with my friends, my family, and my wife. Honestly, I don’t know how I “should” feel.

Should I feel sad about a childhood friend who I only saw once every year or so? Should I dwell on that day as much as I do? Should I feel sad about not running after him? Should I have gone to the memorial service?

All the “Should I’s” don’t matter now. He’s gone.

Last year, before any of this happened, the same friend’s mom died of cancer. I grew up admiring his mom. She exhibited kindness in every conversation she had with me, and she worshipped God recklessly in the best and most endearing way. Everybody loved her.

When his mom died, I felt the Lord ask me to write a song for my childhood friend. I wrote a song, made a music video filled with clips of my friend and his mom, and one morning, his girlfriend helped me surprise him with it at a hometown cafe.

He was absolutely shocked. “Why would you do this for me?” he said with a smile and watery eyes. “We haven’t seen each other years.”

“I just wanted to bless you,” I replied.

A year before, I got it right with him. Then, one year later, I got it wrong. It feels like I missed my chance to really help him.

What can I take away from this? The “Should I’s” condemn me. Numbing myself to it means I slowly shield myself from feeling anything painful. Forcing myself not to think about it only makes me think about it more.

I don’t know if there’s any lesson or truth I can take away. I hold many unresolved questions and regrets, but I’m slowly learning to invite God past the locked doors of my mind. From the time I was a small child playing with my friend in elementary school and in church parking lots, I’ve been imperfect.

I’ve hurt the people around me purposely, accidentally, or out of complete ignorance. I’ve ignored people who weren’t useful to me, and I’ve hurt people who competed with me. From my days on the playground to my days in the office, I’ve always had blood on my hands.

I’m not the Messiah. I’m not perfect. Sometimes I hear and obey God’s voice. Sometimes I miss it. Here’s the good news. God doesn’t love me any less. Wait. Let it sink in.

I might have missed it on July 3. I might have been too busy. I might have neglected to chase down an old friend when he needed me most.

God doesn’t love me any less.

When I feel the weight of blood on my hands, Jesus assures me if I’m human, I do have blood on my hands. My selfish ambition, my lust, my greed, my pride, and all of my sins have made His world worse. How do I rid myself of my guilt, my shame, and my regret? I go to Jesus. He paid the penalty for all my guilt. He takes away the “Should I’s” and says, “You are mine.”

“You’re not the hero in this story. You are Mine. You’re loved based on your successes or your failures. You are Mine. You’re not the sum of your past mistakes. You are Mine. Rest in Me.”

Another way of saying it is, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

It’s hard to rest in Jesus and trust Him for everything, but I’m asking the Lord to help me. When I enter His rest, I can confess my sins. I can admit my failures. And I can be free from condemning myself to emotional or physical isolation.

Confess your sins to each other and pay for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)

I’ve heard Bob Goff say, “Sometimes when we’re looking for an answer, God sends us a friend.” If you feel isolated, worthless, or just confused, and like my friend, your life has seemed to lose its meaning, please reach out to us, a Church, a friend, to anyone.

If my friend would’ve said, “Rob, my life has lost its meaning. I sometimes contemplate killing myself.” If he would’ve said anything about being depressed, I would’ve stopped everything. Everything. My plans for the day would’ve changed. I would’ve spent the day with him, the week with him- whatever it would have taken to get him help and get him a community to surround him.

In other words, if you have a huge regret, feel depressed, or any type of thinking that makes life feel worthless, please reach out to us or a Church, or a Christian you know today. Your life is valuable, so valuable Jesus traded His life for yours. I guarantee there’s someone in your neighborhood, family, or friend group who would be happy to offer you help.

We want to help you. Please click here to contact our Prayer Pastor: Pastor Chad

He’s a real person, and he will reach out to you directly.

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October 14, 2021 11:45 am

As the grandmother of a beautiful 16 year old granddaughter, who has cut herself due to sever anxiety & depression, I have had concerns about suicide. My heart hurts over the self inflicted death of the young man in this story. Praying for God to wrap his arms around each person contemplating suicide or harming themselves by cutting etc…& bring them wellness & peace of mind.

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