How to Talk About Tough Things, Like Suicide

Last month a church in southern California lost their senior pastor to suicide. A friend of mine asked if I had heard about Inland Hills in passing and then said, “oh nevermind, it’s too sad. I don’t wan’t want to think about it.” My first thought was a scandal of some kind, and I didn’t investigate. Then, another friend shared something on Instagram that grabbed my attention.

This stunned me. It is such a sad story. But it doesn’t hide, mask, or mis-color what happened. The church did something it should always do; it told the truth.  I have thought about this post (and this poor family) so much over the past two weeks. The clarity of their message continues to impress me with the trust they have in people to handle the truth, however hard.

Stories like this are powerful and timely reminders for Suicide Prevention Month.

When we begin to have conversations about tough things with openness and transparency stigmas begin to fall away. The church’s plain message left no one to guess, gossip, or wonder what happened. It didn’t cover his death with a whispered shame and hide the family away. His wife has written on her blog,

“Your story is paving the way for an even bigger conversation about how the church can better come alongside people with mental illness, including pastors. God is using your story and this tragedy to do miracles in the lives of other people. As much as I don’t want to, I can’t help but see God’s hand in all of this….Only God can turn the greatest tragedy in my life into triumph.”

This is a message of hope, purpose and sympathy. The kind of message we need. The kind of message that points forward with a need and looks back with love.

A quick story …

My uncle is a senior pastor at New Heights church in Washington. When a member of his congregation died by suicide, he was intentional to say at the funeral that this man’s life would not be remembered only for the tragedy of his death. He spoke of the wonderful aspects of the mans life, his accomplishments, his friends and family. At the end, he asked the family, sitting up front, to stand and turn around and look out over the community touched by their loved one’s life. He then asked that community to applaud the legacy of their friend.

I promise you that that funeral experience will never be forgotten by anyone who was in attendance that day.

In that moment, the true legacy was remembered and honored. People didn’t leave forgetting he’d died by suicide, but they did leave remembering and knowing that his LIFE was what had been so important.

These are transformative ways of talking about suicide, and these are the ways we need to talk about not just suicide, but all of life. Imagine an honest world, honest people, truth all around. When we can tell the truth in our most painful experiences, we open the doors wide for others to no longer live silently in pain. When we recognize where meaning lies in spite of the distraction of tragedy, we let the light shine where it should.

So, join me. Let’s be a part of this needed conversation and lead others in healthy and honest dialogues about tough things, like suicide.
By | 2018-09-19T15:32:03+00:00 September 19th, 2018|General|2 Comments


  1. Sandra Lee September 22, 2018 at 5:28 pm - Reply

    A true example of amazing grace.

  2. Elaine Minami February 7, 2019 at 10:55 pm - Reply

    This is a great blog.
    I learned something…
    Great to honor someone’s legacy and yet acknowledge and grieve their passing and how they died.

    Thank you.

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