The following prayers are written in memory of my father, Lowell Jay Herman. He took his life on April 20, 2015. They are a reflection of the pain that my family & I have grappled with.
A Prayer for My Father
Adonai, darkness descended upon him;
cloaking and immersing him in a shroud of shame and sadness.
Mental illness took hold and metastasized into his soul
until he could bear the pain no more.
Adonai, we who loved him are left to navigate the murky waters, the tsunami of grief and the inexplicable pain of his suicide.
Help us not to lose ourselves in the unanswerable question of why, though it is a question we must ask; over and over and over again.
Strengthen us in the face of despair, guilt, shock, anger and overwhelming sadness.
Adonai, help us find the courage to speak the truth, his truth, our truth.
Mental illness took him; let us not be ashamed to say it.
Help us to make meaning of his loss.
We who are left behind need to remember that we were loved by him, though we feel abandoned.
We who are left behind need to know it is okay to be angry at him, to yell, to cry, to curse;
and then to return to a place of forgiveness, because surely he weeps at the pain he has caused us.
Adonai, help us to be kind & gentle with ourselves.
As we process all that he must have been grappling with and the suffering he endured, help us not to burden ourselves with guilt. And if we must carry it for a little while, help us to find a safe and secure place to share it, to speak of it and ultimately to let go of it.
Help us to remember him in life, not to let him be defined by his death.
It will not be easy to find the joy amidst such great sorrow, the laughter amidst so many tears, the love amidst such loss. We pray that you will remind us of the good. We pray that we will have the clarity to see it when you do.
Time does not heal all wounds, this we know.
He is gone. And we are here.
He left us with so many questions. And we will never know all of the answers.
He loved us. We loved him. But it was not enough to save him. We must learn to live with that.
Help us to remember, to remind ourselves, that we loved him with all that we had. We did the very best that we could, with what we knew.
We did not fully understand the depth of his pain, though we tried.
We did not fully understand his shame, though we tried.
We did not fully understand his sadness, though we tried.
We simply did not fully understand the illness that caused him unbearable suffering. Oh how his soul must have hurt.
We pray that he is at peace now. We pray that he is no longer suffering.
We pray that we too will find peace in time; that our suffering will lessen, that healing will take hold.
Our world, our lives, our souls, our hearts, our family is left with fragments; like the tablets Moses threw upon the ground…
the broken pieces are now a part of us
the aftermath of suicide we must carry within us
and we will never again be the people we were before.
Help us to honor the fragments; holding them in the tabernacle of our hearts, just as the Hebrew people carried the shattered tablets with them on their journey toward the Promised Land.
They are a part of our story now. A sacred and sad reminder of what was & what will never be.
Adonai our God, like a mosaic comprised of broken glass, help us to rebuild ourselves, our souls
bit by bit, shard by shard, broken piece by broken piece.
Be with us.
Accompany & carry us through the valley of grief.
Stay with us.
Help us to find a new wholeness.
Help us to find peace.
Help us to tell our story.
Because it is in the telling, that we honor his life, his loss and all that he was to us.
A Prayer for the Unanswerable Question of Suicide
It is the unrelenting question.
It is the soundtrack to our days; playing over & over again.
With what shall we answer this painful word?
One simple & tiny word encompasses so much pain.
It seems so easy to simply say;
We did not do enough.
We did not love enough.
We weren’t enough.
The guilt, the regret, the blame that we take on is crushing.
We bow under the weight of it.
Our knees threaten to buckle.
Day by precious day we seek to explain the unexplainable.
If only we had known more.
If only we had done more.
If only we had better understood the danger signs.
The questions must be asked. Our minds seek answers; so it attempts to make sense of such senseless loss.
But it hurts.
Oh God, how it hurts.
The looking back hurts
The missed signs hurt
So what can we pray for?
We pray that you will be with us on this painful journey.
We, the survivors of suicide loss, want to feel your presence.
Help us Oh God;
To find a way to believe;
We are not to blame.
It was not our fault.
We loved with all that we had.
We met his pain with compassion, his suffering with comfort and his despair with kindness.
We were present.
We reminded him that he was not alone.
We did the best we could with what we knew.
And God, in the depths of our own grief, do not let us forget;
He did love us with his full heart.
We were enough.
He did not really want to leave us.
And surely he did not want us to hurt as we do.
He is so very sorry. Help us to know that.
Help us find a way to live with the question that will never be answered.
Help us to understand that it was an illness that took him from us; illness of soul & of spirit.
Mental illness caused him unbearable suffering and darkness descended upon him.
He saw no hope in that moment.
He saw no promise of better days
He saw death as the only way to end the pain…
That was the illness taking hold.
It was not the husband, father, grandfather, brother & friend that we loved and who loved us in return, turning away from life.
It was the illness.
And that is the only tangible answer we will ever have.
Help us oh God, to find peace with that.
And one day, to free ourselves of the crushing weight
Of that one little word, which encompasses so much pain.
Help us to forgive ourselves enough to do that.
Help us to forgive him for the questions that will never be answered and the way that he left us.