Suicide is not uncommon. Every year in the United States, about 734,000 people try to take their own lives. Approximately 30,000 succeed, creating about 350,000 suicide survivors. That's enough tragedy to touch nearly everyone at some point in their life. Yet, the aftermath of suicide is not frequently discussed, and those who suddenly find themselves mourning a loved one have few resources to help them navigate the experience.
Fierce Goodbye, a documentary produced by Mennonite Media, is one of those rare resources. The program is hosted by Judy Collins, the folk singer whose 1970 album Whales and Nightingales made Amazing Grace famous outside the church.
What qualifies Collins for this task is not her vocal career, but her personal experience. In 1992, Collins' only son, 33-year-old Clark, committed suicide. Collins also once attempted suicide, making her doubly a survivor. Her book Sanity and Grace addresses her spiritual journey following Clark's death.
Fierce Goodbye is not only for family members. It is also for pastors and seminarians, friends and fellow church members—anyone who has to relate to those left behind.
The 42-minute documentary introduces five families and their stories. We listen to parents and siblings and in-laws and clergy talk about how they dealt with the uniquely painful grief associated with the suicide of a loved one. But that short program only begins to suggest the themes and questions that permeate the grief that follows a suicide.
How can I talk about my loss? Do I dare? Would anyone understand? Would my loved one still be alive if only I had done something different? Where is he or she now? Are they eternally lost, or does God's love somehow reach them even in this darkest of moments?1