Archive for the ‘prayer in suicide bereavement’ Category

A few months after her husband died on a treadmill in 2009 at the age of fifty, Amy Welborn took her three children on a trip to Sicily which she descibes in her memoir Wish You Were Here: Travels Through Loss and Hope. One day, they all visited a fourteenth-century castle dungeon: “Dungeons are, of course, dark,” writes Welborn. “There’s no apparent exit, no way out, and who can help falling into despair down there” (New York: Image Books, 2012, p. 158)?

Welborn then relates how, in early grief, she visited online discussion boards for widows and widowers and was struck by the people who wrote about their “utter despair, of barely being able to get out of bed even a year after their husband or wife had died. How they couldn’t see a way out.

“I read those heartbreaking posts and I wondered why I’ve not been to that place. Part of it was [my husband’s faith], his preaching God Alone at me for so long. But I am also pretty convinced there’s another reason. I’m thinking it is prayer, and maybe not just my own” (p. 158).

On the hidden power of prayer, I agree with Welborn. Prayer was intimately connected with my daughter Mary’s suicide in 1995. Her father and I were, in fact, praying at a monastery 40 miles from home on the day of her death. Not knowing what else to do as we sat in the emergency waiting room, we prayed. We prayed with Father Don that afternoon and my parents’ Methodist minister, as well.

We held a Catholic wake beginning and ending with prayer and prayed throughout Mary’s funeral Mass. Over a period of weeks, her friends sent scores of cards saying they would pray for her as did neighbors, friends, and acquaintances. It was an ocean of prayer that equalled, in certain ways, my ocean of grief.

But I also like Welborn’s dungeon metaphor for its stark resonance. In writing of both human physical activity and prayer in the shaping of the world, Welborn asks, “Who knows how it all works together or why. I certainly don’t. All I know is that in those months after [my husband] died, I was kept out of the dungeon. Darkness waited beyond the door, but strangers stood in front of that door, praying. I’d turn and twist on the road . . . but then I would see it: a candle lit by a friend or stranger, left burning at the bend of yet another hairpin turn” (p. 160).

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