As we run into 2023, thank you for running shoulder to shoulder with us.
As all our groups start up again it’s important to remember why we run. I’ve been holding off sending this because it’s a difficult read, but we must keep telling these stories and allow them to stir us to action.
With permission from the family…
In November this year, a dear young man took his own life. He was just 19 years old.
I’ve been leading RunningSpace for seven years now and I’m ashamed to say that this news was not unusual. Because of the field we’re in, I get to hear of too many tragic deaths by suicide, suicide attempts, and others who struggle with thoughts of suicide. I feel the weight of grief, every one of them makes us sad, I carry each one of them in my heart.
But this young man’s death affected me in a different way. He broke my heart.
Before I knew any information, his picture appeared on social media and I felt sick. Others were commenting on how well he looked and how handsome he was, how proud his family must be. But I knew. It was three days before I heard the devastating confirmation that he had indeed taken his own life.
His death broke my heart. I became angry, angry at myself for not doing enough, screaming inside and to God, what else can I do!, tell me God, what else! I hadn’t cried over others lost, but their names came tumbling out, one after another as this time I cried over every one.
I wrestled through my anger and frustration with a friend and colleague at The Pelham, the community hub which is RunningSpace HQ. I had also spoken to a church pastor who said they were longing to support people who were struggling with suicide, he but he commented that ‘we just don’t know how’.
So how can RunningSpace help more churches and communities, how can we get to speak to them to say that there are things we can do, that we must do?. Our NHS and mental health services are overwhelmed, but even then, please let’s get ourselves educated – suicide is less a clinical issue and much more a social and spiritual issue. Of all the institutions and networks in the world, the Church could be the best equipped to champion life and beat suicide.
I went to his funeral. The way the family and the wider church community conducted themselves was, well, the bravest thing I’ve seen. They showed no shame that he took his own life, they didn’t run from the fact that he wasn’t a ‘card-carrying christian’ (their words). There were loud and deep tears. I want to say that the young man’s voice was heard. There was no stigma, no shame, just a vast and mighty outpouring of love.
His siblings talked about his ‘impact’, and that though his death was tragic, his life was not.
To the family, I want to say this. His impact will continue. Because of his life, because of your bravery, and because his death broke my heart RunningSpace will continue to champion life and beat suicide with increased determination. Note: I’m sure you never wanted to have to be brave, but brave you are.
As a direct result of this young man’s life and death, I have been invited to speak to some 40 church leaders here in East Sussex. Please pray that some of those leaders catch the hope that we can do something to save lives, to champion life, and to beat suicide, and that knowing this they will see it’s time to rise to the challenge.
Today I remembered a song, and the line, ‘Lord, received the sacrifice of a broken heart.’
I will not be crippled by the guilt that we have not done enough, I will not be paralysed into inaction by the size of the task ahead. Rather, I will say to the Lord, ‘received the sacrifice of a broken heart’.
And so with renewed energy, fueled by faith, we will run into 2023 as we keep on championing life and beating suicide, one step at a time.