Tell me what words you would use? Shell-shocked? Blindsided? Stunned? Numb? Dizzy? All I know is I had never experienced anything like this before in my life… it’s impossible to prepare for a loss of this magnitude.
These are the words of prominent Christian leader, Frank Page, reflecting on the death of his adult daughter, Melissa, to suicide.
Melissa: A Father’s Lessons from a Daughter’s Suicide is an honest and courageous portrayal, revealing the waves of lostness, regret, embarrassment, grief, and anguish that Frank Page and his family experienced. The struggle to survive taught them much about suicide.
Suicide is characterised by complexity
Recent public discourse about suicide fails to comprehend the process by which a person is diminished by the stressors of life. It overlooks the fact that the final act of suicide is but a weary end to months and years of agonising struggle. To understand the decisions and events that set the stage for this tragic conclusion would take a lifetime of enquiry but even then there are questions that defy a satisfactory answer.
Suicide? It makes no sense to the thinking mind. It goes against nature and impulse. Only in one’s utter desperation is this anomaly able somehow to contort itself into a shape that fits on the same grid with normal life processes. Otherwise, it’s something we would always run away from, never toward. Suicide is hard to understand. Frank Page
I wrote the poem, The Wall of Understanding, six months after Adam’s death. It speaks of our need to understand but some things will always remain out of reach.
The Wall of Understanding
The need to write
To connect, to feel
To unravel the past
I stand alone
With eternity near
I form the word
My thoughts are of Adam
His struggle, his fall
The tears unending
Suicide changes our perception of reality
Suicide is cataclysmic. Without warning your world is redefined. Without notice, you are forced to rediscover who you are. I’m talking about beliefs, hopes, priorities, fears, and a future denied the presence of your precious son. The suicide of a loved one changes your life forever.
Suicide has a way of distilling what is important. It brings clarity and purpose in the midst of great sorrow. It throws down a challenge, ‘dare to live’. Be a bearer of hope. Believe in the value of each individual. Expose the lies that undermine a person’s resolve to live.
The tragedy of suicide also disperses many of the complicating distractions that can cloud our view of reality. It strips clean some of the preoccupations, pretensions, and pitiful wastes of time that once seemed so all-important – and still do to the majority of people. Frank Page
Suicide exposes our brokenness
Everyone is broken in some way, shape, form or fashion. We know our failures, the occasions we gave in to desires and passions, jealousy and hatred, criticism and uncharitableness.
We live in a society that places value on winning. The reality is we don’t always feel like we are on top. A person who is suicidal believes they are an abject failure. Their life has wound down. They have nothing to give. They won’t be missed.
Our commitment to each other asks that we be transparent. To pretend we are coping when we are not is unhelpful to all concerned. People who are suicidal need to know that they are not the only people who are broken and that together, we can confidently lay hold of the future through our shared brokenness.
Suicide invites God’s mercy
There was evidence of mercy in Adam’s death. That’s not to say God approved of his actions nor does it diminish the horror of losing a son to suicide. What I am saying is that those left to mourn were not abandoned by God but experienced, in differing ways, His care and compassion.
Shortly after Adam’s release from the Acute Mental Health Unit at the Frankston Hospital, I had a dream. It was a simple, uncomplicated dream. Adam was walking towards me. I was aware that he had died and that what I was seeing was his resurrected body. I sensed that he was carrying a burden. His concern was that Julie and I understand his love for us.
The purpose of dreams is to maintain our mental and emotional health. Specific dreams reveal, warn, and provide answers. They bring to our notice matters that need our attention. They alert us, encouraging action. They provide perspective, shape priorities, and sometimes dispense comfort. They are evidence of God’s mercy.
My dream was a sober reminder that all was not well with Adam. I understood some of the issues that weighed heavily upon him and I believed that with the right support he could find a way through. I was committed to doing all I could to support him and welcomed his declaration of love.
Frank Page had several dreams about his daughter, Melissa. He says,
I had three distinct dreams over a relatively short period of time – dreams in which I had seen Melissa’s little body lying dead in a casket. At each occurrence, I would awaken startled – shaken, frightened. Yet I dared not tell anyone else. After all, it was just a dream. How far can you take that?
Suicide is a tragedy. There is heartbreak and there is loss. Despite the overwhelming sadness, there remain the discernible threads of God’s mercy.