Bleeding Hearts: My Nephew

I learned today that September 6-12, 2015 is National Suicide Prevention Week, and today, September 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day, so I am revisiting this post originally published in July, 2014.


Filtered, morning sun from a single window softly lit the small, rectangular room where upholstered and folding chairs lined three walls.  The members of two extended families, ranging from a toddler to those in their eighties, filled the seats.  All sounds were muffled:  sobs and sniffling, the rip of tissues torn from their cardboard box, subdued conversations in an adjoining room, and the chime of a grandfather clock down the carpeted hallway.


DSC_4634 (2)

An open casket was centered against the fourth wall.  We had come to see him one last time, to “pay our respects,” to say good-bye.  As the time for the small, family-only burial service neared, everyone left the viewing room and gathered in the main entry area, discussing directions to the cemetery.  I stepped back in and looked at my nephew’s still face a final time.  Oh, Nathan, Nathan, what have you done?

bleeding heart by heather johnson

Our hearts are broken:  every mother, father, brother, and sister heart, each grandparent, every aunt and uncle, each cousin and friend.  We have all fallen with the weight of this loss, and we are scraped and bruised, bleeding raw emotions.

To lose a young man we loved–who was only twenty years old and had such potential and such a gentle soul–is difficult enough,  but in this way . . .


We are left with nagging questions and regrets:  the should haves and could haves and would anything have?  I can’t imagine the pain and despair and hopelessness that led you to this choice.  I can’t imagine how your mind was painted with the wide, black strokes of depression.

I answer my own question: Nathan, what have you done?  You became ill.


At the cemetery family members carried the casket from the hearse to the graveside, walking across the green grass sprinkled with sweet clover.  Some sat in chairs, and some stood in the shade of a small, blue awning under the vault of a bright, blue sky.

We commended Nathan to God’s care and final healing.  We listened to the reminder that Nathan’s name meant “gift of God.”  He was.  He is.  We read his favorite scripture and sang his favorite hymn.  Those who wished to share spoke of his life, his character, what he was like as a child, and how we remembered him best.   After a season of dark illness, Nathan now rests in the Light of Jesus.

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If I could have choked out the words at the graveside service, I would have shared this verse.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

If faith falters, and hope slips away, love remains.  Nathan may not have had a life “full of years,”  but his life was full of love–his love for his family and friends and their great love for him.

And over all, covering all, forgiving all, healing all is the boundless love of God.

1-2004 06 27 wedding day, Nathan

Nathan, age 10

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If you are depressed and feeling hopeless, please, please, talk to someone.  I am not a counselor or mental health professional, but I know you need to get help.  Talk to your friends, your family, your pastor.  Find a doctor or a counselor.  You may need to call your local mental health center and schedule an emergency appointment.

If you know someone who is despairing, reach out.  You may need to direct them to professional help.  Offer to go with them to an appointment.  If you have serious concerns,  you may call the police who can go to the person’s residence to do a welfare check.

If someone you love has taken their own life,  you may experience a range of emotions: from anger to sorrow.  You may benefit from support groups and counseling .

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.   Galatians 6:2   NIV

. . . weep with those who weep.   Romans 12:15   RSV

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More information:

When suicide strikes in the body of Christ  — Please continue reading to the end of this article for links to suicide hotlines, prevention and awareness sites, and grief support for survivors.

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bleeding heart flower photo by Heather Johnson of

Posted on September 10, 2015, in Devotional and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. Very moving post on a vital topic. Thank you – and I am so very sorry for the loss, and for the deep, deep wound it leaves in you, and all who are left behind.

  2. It happens too many times (my own father attempted). Thank you for reaching out to others who may be feeling like Nathan did…I’m sorry for your family’s loss. NAMI is a national organization with local chapters that offer support to those living with mental illness and their family members.

  3. So sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine, although I have had a mother’s scare just this week. I will pray for you. Will you pray for me too?

    • Thank you. I’ll pray for you now so I don’t forget.
      Lord, you know what has touched Mary’s heart this week and caused her fear. Please comfort her with the knowledge of how much you love her and her child and help her to give her child into your hands. Give her wisdom when she needs to make decisions. Put the right professionals in her path, if they are needed. I pray for healing–body, mind, and soul for her child. Give Mary’s child a clear mind to see the truth, to acknowledge their failings, and to understand how much Mary and the Lord love them.

  4. Thank you for openly sharing this story about your nephew. The more we make people aware of the signs, challenges and emotions of those who consider or go through suicide, the better off we all will be. I am praying for your family as you remember and for all other families who are going through the very same thing and perhaps felt helpless to change the course of life. Blessings to you today.

    • Thank you, Mary, for your tender concern and kind words. I pray the church can offer the hope of Christ to those suffering from mental illness and to their families. We can encourage people to seek help (e.g. professional counseling, medication, hospitalization when needed) and not make them feel ashamed.

  5. Constance,
    I am so sorry for you and your family’s deep grief and loss. Thank you for sharing Nathan’s story and I pray it will encourage others to seek help when they need it.

  6. It is deeply heart wrenching to loose someone so young to suicide. Your blog is so important for so many of us–with a son in high school, we hear too many stories of depressed youth, one recent suicide, isolated kids–thank you for your words, and may God bless you, your extended family and Nathan’s family as the mourning never leaves–yet with God comfort will continue forever to hold you near.

    • Thank you so much for your concern and sympathy. I pray that we, as members of the body of Christ, may be able to speak words of love and healing into lives that need them. I pray, also, that those who are depressed will choose to listen to words of life. There is only so much family of a young adult can do, which often leads to feelings of frustration and guilt, so I pray for God to comfort our family and other families who are mourning.

  7. Constance, I am so sorry for your family’s loss. I cannot imagine the weight of the grieve this has caused. I had a dark time in my life, where I could picture myself driving my car off the road. Thankfully, I got help and today can honestly say those thoughts are no more, although I do battle the blues regularly. I am praying that by sharing your nephew’s story will bring others to recognize their need for help.

    • Thank you, Barbie, for your kind words. I am so glad you recognized that you needed help! Thanks for being brave enough to share your experience.
      Yes, that is our prayer, too, that others will recognize their need for treatment in whatever form is needed.

  8. so very sorry for your loss, bless your dear heart.

  9. The Lord protected me from suicide when I was 18 and 19 in Washington State areas and at 27 in California. He was a strong protecting blessing Heavenly Father. I never forget. NOW I’m 70 and, in a not-distant-future, I’ll be in heaven, but only when He’s taking me there, NOT when I’m sending myself there in a stupid suicide situation. But he’s a HUGE blessing. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Constance, tears are flowing as I read your heart-felt words…our family lost a dear cousin to suicide in 2005…thank you for your wonderful words of encouragement and advice…many blessings to you and your family ❤️

  11. Oh, Constance, (((Hug))), I’m so sorry. Prayers for you all.
    This is so beautifully written…what a gifted writer you are. Thank you for sharing. (((Prayers)))

  12. Lori Schumaker of Seaching for Moments

    This is such a beautiful tribute. I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story with such heart and eloquence. I read it aloud to my 13-year-old. He’s a sensitive soul who I think will always be okay, however I have seen so many teens begin to have problems during these tough years, one can never be too sure or unaware. We had a good conversation about depression in others and if it happened to him and how to deal with it. Thank you for giving me a wonderful tool to build awareness in my child!

    • Lori, thank you for your sympathy and kind words.
      Bless you for being so proactive with your son! I am so honored that these words of mine could reach out to others in this way. It has been my prayer, and that of the extended family, that some good may come from sharing our story.

  13. Constance, this is a beautifully done post on such a difficult topic. I’m sorry your time was cut short with your nephew on this side of Heaven. It hurts so much more when a young person dies, as it did when my niece did after she relapsed during recovery 7 yrs ago. Hugs.
    Blessings of peace ~ Wendy

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