When the Cause of Death is Suicide

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.” – 1 Corinthians 13:12 

When the cause of death is suicide, the living are left with the questions: Why? What did I miss? Could I have prevented it? Was it my fault? Was there a note left behind?

Most people who die by suicide do not leave notes. When they do leave them, they tend not to answer the big questions but hauntingly address such small ones: I keep the safe deposit box in the bottom drawer. The dog has been walked. The password on this computer is my birthday. 

The note raises more questions than it answers.

So we turn to the living, and ask them to explain it, to tell us how we can help when depression hurts so bad, you cannot live with it. One friend described it as a torment so awful you are convinced it can never end.  And yet the person who told me that is alive. And someone else I love is not.

What made the difference? It was probably not me. Mental illness is a disease. There are many treatments. One day there may be a cure. Sometimes it is the cause of death.

But it is not your fault, any more than someone else’s cancer is, or someone else’s heart disease. Don’t blame yourself. Don’t blame anyone else. Don’t keep asking the unanswerable questions. You knew a precious person whose heart clenched in excruciating pain but also swelled in joy, whose beautiful brain contained so much more brilliance than one day’s dark and deadly thought. 

God embraces us all at the other side, whatever way we get there, whichever part of our human bodies gave out, whatever our struggle in this life was. That is where we will get our answers. Until then, we see through a glass dimly, but one day, we will see face to face.


“Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” Amen.

16177.jpg About the Author
Lillian Daniel’s new book Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To: Spirituality without Stereotypes, Religion without Ranting is now available for purchase, but you can hear it all for free at 1st Congregational Church of Dubuque, Iowa