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Surviving a Child’s Suicide

Rick and Kay Warren

Rick and Kay Warren

Mental illness (MI) is once again in the news. Sadly, another mass shooting took place at the hands of someone who apparently suffered from MI. The shootings at the Navy Yard in our nation’s capital rocked the nation. Left us all grieving, stunned, and angry. Why does this keep happening?

Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life” and pastor of Saddleback Church, knows what it’s like to have a child with serious MI. They faced a parent’s worst nightmare: the loss of that child to suicide. In April 2013, Matthew killed himself.

Matthew Warren

Matthew Warren

Last night, Pierce Morgan used his show to interview Rick Warren and his wife about MI and gun violence. The entire hour-long interview sounded like a message from the pulpit. Rick and his wife shared about pain, sorrow, grief. Yet their responses were sprinkled with unshaken faith in God, and words of hope. They spoke of seeing their son once again in heaven. And honestly admitted to nagging unanswered questions.

Here’s a portion of that interview:

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-pastor-rick-warren-talks-about-sons-suicide-20130917,0,3592656.story

Here’s another link:

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/09/15/rick-warrens-slow-walk-back-to-the-spotlight/comment-page-8/

When we’re going through a trial that seems like it could defeat us, it helps to turn to someone who’s experienced it and survived. Rick Warren is one of those people. He had to live what he’d been preaching. Now when he speaks, people can’t say, “That’s easy for you to say.” He’s living proof that God is faithful. Our Father upholds the weary. And comforts the sorrowful.

Spend some time listening from Rick yourself. On his church’s website, he has a series entitled “How to Get Through What You’re Going Through.” Pick one of those that would most meet your current needs. Here’s one:

http://www.saddleback.com/mc/archives/

 

 

 

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How to Love

Bentlight

Our 32-year-old son, Chris, doesn’t want to be treated like a child. He no longer wants me to meet his needs when he’s hurting. His desires are perfectly normal. Since he lives with us, I observe hints of difficulties. And sense his internal turmoil.

On his good days, it’s easy to get clues he’s feeling fine. He might join me on errands. Or stop to chat with me while passing through the kitchen.

For so many years, that ability to discern his emotional or mental needs served us well. Now, he doesn’t reach out. I only detect clues he’s in need.

He comes and goes and I watch how he walks.

He seems slumped over. Is that just my imagination?

I catch a glimpse of his face, careful to look without him noticing.

He looks sad. Or is that just fatigue from working out at the gym?

As long as he remains somewhat active, I know he’s not isolating. That’s a good thing. When he conceals himself in his room, I’m left to wonder.

How do I stop being a mom? Is it possible to extinguish the impulses to ease a child’s pain? How do others keep from worrying?

When a young child is hurting and vulnerable, our sole priority is to help. A mother’s instinct is to nurture, protect, and comfort. We’re drawn to minister to needs. It’s as natural as breathing. Impossible to stop for any length of time.

So how does a mom love a mature son who has serious mental illness (MI)?  Differently.

A ruler in the Bible shows us how we can love our adult son or daughter differently. Jairus was one of the synagogue leaders. His twelve-year-old daughter was dying. What did do?

Mark 4:22-24 tells us Jairus humbled himself and went to Jesus. Seeking help from the Great Physician. One who could heal his daughter.

Jesus agreed to go to his daughter. But then Christ stopped to heal another woman with a blood flow (Mark 5:25-34).

Can you imagine what Jairus must have felt? Surely, he was thinking: No, no, no…don’t stop now. There’s no time…my daughter is dying. PLEASE, Lord, come with me NOW! You can heal that woman later.

We can all relate to delays. Waiting in traffic is one thing. Waiting for God’s answer to our prayers is another thing. Especially when we’re praying for God to provide His peace and clarity of thought for our child with MI. That kind of waiting could lead to depression if we don’t hold onto our faith and keep our eyes fixed on Him. With our head buried deep in His Word.

Finally, Jesus healed the woman. But then the grateful woman had to tell Christ her “whole” story (Mark 5:33). Was Jairus feeling panicked? Surely, it didn’t help when others came spreading their fear. Informing him that “your daughter is dead” (Mark 5:35).

But, Christ calmed his fears.

“Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe’” (Mark 5:36).

Then Jesus raised up the girl (Mark 5:41-42).

What’s the message for us? When Christ delays, He’s still working. When fears bombard us, He’ll provide comfort. And remind us to keep believing and not waver in our faith.

When we don’t know what’s going on, we can trust in what we DO know. We do know God is still in control. He hears our prayers. He’s promised to comfort us. He’ll provide all we need.

Do you have an adult child with MI? In what ways do you show your love?

Casting Crowns’ song reminds us “TIS SO SWEET TO TRUST IN JESUS.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DdgkvnsHjM

I blew it.

failure

I’d reached my breaking point. I managed to keep my composure when Chris was in the psychiatric unit. And then held it together when he got treatment in the partial-care facility. He was on the road to recovery. But, my emotional stress built as he transitioned back into school.

Chris started going to some band rehearsals after school. When it came time for a performance, I was concerned.

Will he be able to handle the pressure? Will he act normally in front of everyone? Will his peers ask him why he wasn’t in school?

I sat in the auditorium waiting for the program to begin. Not relaxed, but uneasy. Days leading up to the performance, we had Chris practice what he’d say if curious students asked him why he wasn’t in school. He would simply reply, “I was sick and now I’m feeling better.”

Where is Chris now? What’s he doing back stage? I hope he doesn’t do or say anything to embarrass himself or his brother. I hope he remembers what to say if anyone asks him why he was absent.

My thoughts were interrupted by a parent I didn’t know well. She bluntly asked, “What did you think of Chris’s partial-care facility?”

How does she know where Chris was? Does everyone know? What a rude and insensitive question!

I mustered up the strength to respond. As casually as I could I answered, “How did you know Chris was receiving treatment in a partial-care facility?”

“A friend of mine had a daughter there when Chris was there?”

Great! Just perfect! I guess everyone knows our business. I suppose it’s impossible to keep Chris’s friends from finding out.

I responded without looking at her, “It was okay.”

Maybe she’ll get the message I don’t want to talk about it. Just leave!!!

I couldn’t believe I actually answered her intrusive question. Instead of politely telling her she shouldn’t have asked me.

People just don’t understand how upsetting it can be to have a loved one who is mentally ill.

It wasn’t possible for me to simply enjoy the band performance without someone reminding me Chris was recovering from his illness.

Several days later, Chris and I were in the car. He brought up the partial-care therapy. For the millionth time! Chris needed to process the experiences. I wanted to just forget it. Our needs collided that day.

“When I was in the partial-care unit, they didn’t care about the patients. It was horrible. The counselor was mean to me. We had to sit there all day and talk about drug abuse. Even though that wasn’t my problem.”

In sheer frustration, I lost my temper. I yelled, “I got it, Chris! I know it was a nightmare for you! I’m sorry you had to go there! I’m tired of hearing about it.”

The three months of stress had taken its toll on me. I spoke harshly to Chris. Afterwards, I felt tremendous guilt.

I’m such a failure. How could I speak to Chris so meanly? He’s still so vulnerable. But, I just can’t take it anymore.

I couldn’t allow myself to wallow in self-pity.

I need help. Maybe, I’m not the worst parent in the world. I’ll talk to Chris’s out-patient psychologist. He’ll give me his honest opinion on how I’ve handled our crisis.

The psychologist assured me, “You’ve been handling things amazingly well considering the circumstances. You’ve persevered for a long time. You need to take time out for yourself. Get some rest and relaxation. Find some time for entertainment for yourself.”

Soon after, God provided some needed encouragement.

Chris and I spent some time walking by a creek. As we strolled along, I reminisced.

“When I was younger, I used to sit for hours on a rock in a creek near our house. I marveled at God’s creation. When surrounded by God’s creation instead of the world (man-made thing and earthly troubles), I found peace. It was comforting to see God’s power and love demonstrated in His beautiful creation.”

We walked closer to the water.

“Look at that water before the boulders. See how calm it is. As long as it’s perfectly still, it can reflect the sunlight. Now look at the rippling water falling from the boulders. See how the light sparkles in that water? Listen to the soothing sound of that gurgling water. It’s so soothing.”

I went on to relate it to our lives.

“The creek is a picture of our lives. There are calm times, followed by turbulent times. During calm times, if we can remain perfectly still, we can reflect the Son’s love. Even during turbulent times, we can reflect His love. But, in a more vibrant way. God can be found in our difficulties. And glorified the most through our trials. See farther down the creek? The water is still again. Your life will be calmer again, too. God is helping you pass through this turbulent time.”

I’ll always cherish that day with Chris. The analogy I shared with him, reassured my heart as well.

Did you ever feel like you blew it?

Decades ago, Simon & Garfunkel sang “Bridge over Troubled Water.” Listen to the words to the song and imagine God singing them to you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjNgn4r6SOA

Tsunami

tsunami

Which is worse: dealing with unpredictable behaviors, or facing certain devastation? As bad as things seem, they could always be worse.

My heart goes out to moms who have kids with serious mental illness (MI). It’s not possible for me to reach out and hug each of you, so I share Bible verses of comfort.

This devotional is offered as a different form of comfort. I decided to relate a story about a mother who is facing a much greater trial than mine. Her struggles put mine into perspective. Maybe you’ll have a similar response. Or, you might read her story and realize that you’re living a worse nightmare. In that case, this story might take your mind of your situation momentarily. Regardless of your situation, I’m sure you can stand a dose of inspiration…to read about how another mom is able to find joy in the Lord. Even though she faces impending grief.

After church, I ran into a parent of two former students. Her older son, Andrew, recently graduated from high school. I knew he’d been suffering symptoms of a rare progressive neurological disease. Kim gave me an update.

“Andrew’s been diagnosed with a rare disease which is similar to childhood Alzheimer’s. David has also been diagnosed with it.”

That sentence hit me like a bullet.

Please Lord, no! This can’t be happening. Not to a family who loves You so much. Not to Andrew who has such a sweet personality. Not to David who’s only in ninth grade. How will David cope as he watches his future unfold—seeing the disease takes its toll on Andrew first.”

I stood there in shock, choking back tears. Speechless. Unable to move.

My mind swirled with questions.

How can a parent deal with the knowledge that her two sons will die young? It must feel like being strapped to a chair, watching a tsunami approach in slow motion. With nothing to do but think about the impending destruction. Dreams demolished. Emotions obliterated. Unbearable heartache.

Moses faced an impossible situation. An army of chariots quickly closed in. Millions of Israelites complained in fear. The Red Sea blocked an escape.

By faith Moses said, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”  Exodus 14:13-14

Can Moses’ advice help us?

We fight MI. Others deal with the onslaught of an incurable disease, unfair accusations, or an unexpected betrayal. Many wage a battle within of doubt, uncertainty, loneliness, mental exhaustion, or discouragement.

Regardless of our circumstances, we can all find comfort in knowing the Lord will fight for us. Our challenge: to be still before God. And wait in confidence for His deliverance.

By the way, on that day when Kim provided the update, she asked me, “Would you be willing to tell what Andrew was like in second grade? We’re making a documentary for our website. We want to educate people about the disease.”

I agreed. The Lord helped me speak without crying. You can see that documentary on The Andrew Coppola Foundation website.

Are you able to get still before the Lord? How/where/when do you do that?

Maybe Hillsong’s ‘Still’ will help you draw near to Him in stillness:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28ZZgD3Q9sQ

 

Agony

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Yesterday athletes’ agony became America’s agony. The bombs that blew up in Boston tore through flesh and emotions. Confusion gave way to fear and thoughts of terrorism. A marathon turned into mayhem.
All our hearts go out to the people in Boston. Those who lost loved ones. Those who were injured. Those whose dream of finishing the marathon was severed by an act of terrorism.

What’s your version of a mom’s agony? Having a child with mental illness (MI) missing, losing that child to suicide, suffering the anguish of innocent lives taken at the hands of your child with MI, or experiencing the daily challenges of the child living at home (disrupting the peace in the family, trying to stay calm so as not to trigger violence or break from reality)?

Rick Warren just experienced the horror of losing a child with MI to suicide. An unbearable tragedy. Inflicting unimaginable pain.

The parents of the Aurora Shooter suffered the anguish of innocent lives taken at the hands of their son. Who could withstand such public shame in the midst of that nightmare? A nightmare that doesn’t end.

A mother of a missing child battles relentless torment. Dealing with the daily struggle to fight back fears. Fears of what might be happening to her vulnerable son or daughter.

Anyone struggling with the daily challenges of MI in the home knows how it can wear you down…almost cause you to lose your own sanity.

Each person’s trial can be agonizing at times.

According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, the definition of ‘agony’ is: intense pain of mind or body.

Does that describe your state of mind? Is your pain intense?

Is your mind troubled by thoughts of what’s happening to your child? Or do fears of what might happen plague you?

Regardless of the details of each mother’s trial, there are some similarities. Helplessness. Exhaustion. Strain on a marriage. Heartbreak for siblings who don’t get equal attention. Agony.

Christ experienced agony. He knew exactly what would happen to Him. He’d experience emotional torment from the soldiers’ mocking. The soldiers He’d die to save. He’d endure physical torture from the beating, forty lashes, and crucifixion. He’d suffer unfamiliar spiritual pain from the weight everyone’s sin.

As the day of His crucifixion approached, what did He do?

“Being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Luke 22:44 (NKJV)

God honored His earnest prayers and enabled Christ to carry out God’s plan. To willingly die for our sin.

“So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.
Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’
‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied.
‘I am he,’ Jesus said.” John 18:3-5 (NIV)

We can survive each day by depending on the Lord. For Him to provide hope, guidance, healing of minds and marriages…

When our pain becomes agony, we can follow Christ’s example and pray more earnestly. God will honor our prayers and enable us to carry out His plan for our lives. To willingly face another day in anticipation of His faithfulness. God is bigger than any problem we face or fear. Nothing is impossible to Him.

Let Hillson’s song ‘This is How We Overcome’ minister to your heart:

God, where are You?

walking in snow walking in snow2
‘Ever wonder if God is really there? You pray and there’s silence.
Sometimes, it seems a prayer goes unanswered. Other times, the answer isn’t what was expected.

Am I the only one who asks God for help and proceeds to tell the Creator of the universe exactly how to answer?

Recently, God provided precisely what I requested.

A winter storm hit our area. Meteorologists predicted sizable snow accumulations and blustery winds. Those forecasts didn’t deter Chris from his plans. Before the first snowflake, our son headed out to a bowling alley seven miles away. His intention: to walk home.

Chris proceeded to leave, carrying a huge backpack.
Howie offered, “I’ll drive you home.”
“No, I wanna walk home.”
Howie didn’t repeat the offer. No point disputing Chris’s decision. Arguing with someone who has mental illness (MI) isn’t a good idea…reasoning with him isn’t usually possible.
Although rejecting the assistance made no sense, Chris’s mind was set.

At nightfall, the storm arrived with a vengeance. Gusts of wind created white-out conditions.

I couldn’t get the image of Chris out of my mind. I pictured him trudging alone, in the dark, on the side of a snow-covered road. Thoughts of cars creeping by on slick surfaces tormented me.
Will drivers see him in the dark? What if a car spins out of control right next to him?

I calculated how long it would take to walk seven miles in good weather. Two hours, at least. But, battling defensive linebacker- strength winds could make it much longer. The journey could take close to four hours.

“Howie, please pray for someone to offer Chris a ride home.” With bowed heads, we lifted up our hearts.

The night wore on. I couldn’t sleep. What mother can sleep not knowing what’s happening to her vulnerable child who has MI? Midnight came. Still no Chris. 1:00… 2:00…

Will I hear the front door open or the phone ring?

Finally, at 2:45 AM the door opened, telling me Chris returned home safely.

The next day, Chris told Howie someone at the bowling alley offered him a ride. He turned it down.

Where was God when Chris rejected the second offer?
He was providing His answer to our specific prayer: for someone to offer Chris a ride.

Surely, God knew we meant that we wanted our son to be spared the ice-cold trek home.
But, God demonstrated His ever-present care for our son. He moved in the heart of the person at the bowling alley. He honored Chris’s free will. And protected Chris as he trudged home in a storm.

It’s hard to understand why anyone would reject help and willingly choose to venture out into a storm. Yet, isn’t that what we do? We ignore God’s presence in our troubles. God says, “I’m here for you.” We respond, “No thanks…I’ve got it. Never mind…I know the way. I can handle this myself. “

We head into the storm, rejecting God’s assistance. Our Father knows how my husband felt when Chris declined his offer. He knows what it’s like to watch us as we struggle needlessly on our own.

God promised Moses and Joshua He’d be with them. With that promise, Joshua was able to assure his people.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6).”

When you face a river of uncertainty, can you hear the words God spoke to Joshua? The Lord your God goes with you. Do you hear Him beckoning you to walk with Him?

Will you stagger alone, or stroll with your Lord?

Listen to Him call you as you watch Alan Jackson perform the song ‘In The Garden.’

I Can Relate to Adam Lanza’s Mother

ChrisChandler

My son, Chris

In the wake of yet another mass shooting, many want to know what the Connecticut gunman’s mother knew.

As a mother of a son with mental illness, I have an idea. Assist News Service posted an article I wrote. Check out that article.

http://www.assistnews.net/