In his most recent eCrozier reflection published by The Living Church, “Robin Williams, My Friend, and the Selfishness of Suicide”, Bishop Scott Benhase of the Diocese of Georgia offers the following pastoral reflection:
I had a dear friend who committed suicide four years ago. Like Mr. Williams, he was brilliant. His brilliance, however, was in a different vocation. He was a palliative care physician. The irony of his life was that he could relieve everyone’s pain but his own (like Mr. Williams who brought so many people joy without finding joy himself). My friend knew he had many people who loved him dearly. I don’t know what was going through his mind and soul when he chose suicide. Clearly, he was in emotional and spiritual pain. Maybe he thought his suicide was an act of love and kindness to us who loved him? It was not. His act was neither loving nor was it kind. It was selfish. I know that sounds harsh, but I believe it to be true.
What my friend needed and still needs from me isn’t the cheap grace and absolution of the well-intended “well, I guess he’s at peace now.” No, what he still needs from me is my forgiveness for what he did to himself and to those who loved him.
What are your thoughts on this reflection by Bishop Benhase? Is this a compassionate response for those who may suffer from suicidal thoughts, mental illness, and their friends and families who love them? How might you and your community of faith respond in love and competence to anyone-especially those living with mental illness-after a suicide in the community?