About the Author

Caroline Saunders believes in taking Jesus seriously and not much else. She’s a writer, mother, proud new owner of purple hair, and wife to Luke, a pastor and firework aficionado. She loves serving women through writing, discipleship, and creating a retreat experience (Story & Soul Weekend) with her besties.

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  1. Having to explain a tragic death by suicide to young children is a nightmare–and I remember that feeling you described so well: “What kind of world is this? How can I pop my kids’ beautiful bubble of innocent safety with this information?”

    It takes a muscular faith to rest in God’s ability to redeem even the greatest horror, to trust that somehow the ragged edges will all be sewn into something beautiful, because many times we don’t see it happen on this planet.

    Thank you for taking our hearts back to truth, which is the solid ground under our feet.

    • What a beautiful and well written story. My toddler who is now a teenager had a vivid imagination too. She had a baby dinasaur that she loved to sleep with. His name was “baby Dino”. Simple but she would ask for him every night. I still smile at the memories of her playful imagination. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

  2. Caroline,
    I don’t mean to get on my soapbox again, but I will. Suicides are on the increase. Yes, we live in a depraved world that offers little hope to our young and old. Without Christ, I think it is virtually impossible to navigate this world of ours. Since we live in a fallen world, there is cancer, heart disease, neurological and muscular diseases, AND there is also mental illness. I don’t know for certain that Kara had mental illness, but I’m guessing that she did in some form. I am a cancer survivor and I can wear that like a badge of honor, but I also struggle daily with mental illness. Anxiety, Depression, Alzheimers, Eating Disorders….all mental illnesses. Most of the illnesses are still hush hush due to the stigma. When I hear people say, “How selfish of someone to take their own life,” I know immediately that they have not experienced the depths of depression. They have never lived in the dark pit. People with mental illness become experts at wearing masks because it isn’t cool to wear lime green football gear and have mental health awareness month. I pray that day will come…that people who suffer will not have to hide, pretend, suffer in silence alone. My mental illness is not a personal flaw; it’s not because my faith isn’t strong enough. It won’t go away if I just prayed more or read more scripture. Yes, all those things are helpful and good, but if you have a chemical imbalance, there is no pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. You would not tell someone with diabetes, “You don’t need insulin, you just need to pray harder.” That’s absurd. Some mental illnesses can be treated with counseling alone, others, like what I have, need medicine. God gives us doctors. I can’t even begin to read scripture fruitfully if I am in the dark pit of anxiety and depression. I need to replenish the chemical imbalance so that when I read scripture it will actually stick and I can grasp and apply its truth. I need counseling and medicine and there is NO SHAME in that. I feel for Kara and had she had the saving love of Christ and if she was able to be vocal with her struggles, maybe the enemy wouldn’t have won this one. Let’s not let the enemy win. Let’s talk openly about mental illness ESPECIALLY in the Christian sector. The more hush hush we keep it, the more stigma we assign, the more we tell the mentally ill to just have more faith or just deal with it and pull yourself up by your bootstraps and think happy thoughts, we might as well hand them the gun, push them off the bridge, or give them the bottle of pills. I know Kara is in the loving arms of her Father who “got” her pain.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    • ps. If you are struggling with what you think might be a mental illness: anxiety, depression, extreme swings in mood/energy level, hopelessness, inability to cope, despair, sadness, etc., please seek medical help. Open up an talk to someone. You are not alone. It’s not your fault. There is help. There is hope. God loves you. Christ is for you. Others, including me, will pray for you. Psalm 40: 1-3. xo Bev

      • Bev, I will pray for you. I was 17 when I started managing a mental health clinic office. I worked there 5 years. Anyone who gets help for mental health illnesses are to be commended, applauded, and made welcome in our lives. Those who are afraid to ask for help need our encouragement and to know someone is there for them and cares about them. Thank you for your wonderful gift of sharing – it’s the only way to take away the stigma. Sharing, caring and praying.

    • Bev, so very well said. I too struggle daily with mental illness. I have attempted suicide, though it was many years ago. I still struggle with thoughts of suicide. I have chronic physical illness as well. Some days I just want to end it all and be in heaven where there is no need for psych meds and pain meds among others. It frustrates me when people say my depression is because I don’t pray enough or I don’t eat right or any number of other things I’ve heard. Life is hard. The last 3 years have been one hit after another, one loss after another, and honestly, my heart hurts so much there are many days I feel I cannot take another step. I do know God is in this, and I also know this is real and painful. Our science museum has a mental health exhibit this month. I haven’t been there yet, but I hope to soon. The struggle is real. So is God. The two coexist in my world because all the world is broken.

      • Becky,
        I feel your pain so deeply. I deal with chronic pain as well and physical and mental pain feed off one another. It is so hard to accept that this is your “normal” compared to everyone else’s normal. I do believe that even though we may take one hit after another, God still wants abundant life for us. Even with Job, God brought joy after a LONG night of weeping. We can’t lose sight of that hope. I do believe that God walks us THROUGH the valleys and doesn’t leave us stuck there. Sometimes the valleys are long and deep but I do hang onto the hope that God will bring us through to the other side. I am lifting you up in prayer right now, Becky, for calm, peace, hope, and healing and most of all to know you are furiously loved by the God of the Universe. He gets your pain and He is right there holding you in His loving strong arms. Let yourself be the lamb and Jesus be your shepherd. He’s got you. Grab hold of His victorious right hand. Crawl into His lap. He loves you so much.
        Blessings sweet sister,
        Bev xoxo

    • Thank you Bev for getting on your soapbox. I also struggle with mental illness in the form of depression. This time of year when there is so little light makes it my life a struggle at times. I just want to hibernate, like a bear. A good friend was trying to normalize this last night and I know she mean’t well, but, like you say you can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps, or pray harder or read more…there is NO SHAME in seeking help whether you are on medication or not….and that last bit is for my benefit as well. Blessings, Cathy

      • Cathy,
        I know it’s hard to take when others tell their tales of being depressed or down. Unless you’ve lived it you just don’t know. I grew up in the North where it was gray and dreary so much of the time and the weather truly affected the chemical imbalance I already dealt with. Since moving to the South where the weather is sunny more often and the skies blue and the sun warm has made a remarkable difference in how I cope. I don’t know where you live, but my Bed & Breakfast is always open if you’d like a mid winter get away to a sunnier place. Take heart, you are not alone. I get it!! Lifting you up in prayer right now Cathy. May God wrap you in His arms of love. He gets it too!
        Blessings,
        Bev xoxo

    • Amen!! I went to a counselor many years ago when my husband was in seminary and was “horrified” to see a seminary couple coming into the office. How ludicrous since they were also there for counseling but I remember how badly I wanted to hide. The stigma has GOT to change. And yes before I went to counseling someone did suggest I pray more….no, I needed therapy and am so grateful for what I learned to manage my anxiety and depression.

      • Kathy,
        Thanks for sharing!! Well meaning people will say the most hurtful things. That’s why as a Christian community we need to recognize that Christians battle mental illness and need counseling for all sorts of things. We are not immune. Christians live in a fallen world and we suffer illnesses (including mental illness) just like everyone else. Thanks for being brave and sharing your experience!! Together lets help erase the stigma!
        Blessings sweet sister,
        Bev xo

      • Kathy, I experienced a similar shaming when my husband was in seminary. It’s very painful. I am so sorry! I am grateful that therapy offered some healing in a season when you wanted to hide.

    • Bev, I am so sorry for your pain.
      As a community we need to reach out to those who are in pain and we need to be open with each other about our pain, so our brothers and sisters can help. Because God does care and we are his hands and feet! God gave us doctors and medicine and those are needed but he also gave us each other and we need to know so we can help. Anyone suffering with thoughts of hurting yourself or others or who is simply hurting, reach out let someone know, no, let many people know. You are not alone!

      I thought you might be interested to read some more of Kara’s story: http://www.writercaroline.com/blog//the-value-of-a-life

        • Mental health is nothing to laugh at. It is a serious illness that needs treatment. I pray for you all as you struggle with this disease. Both my parents struggled & died with that. Sad to watch them go down hill. No more prayer, faith, etc won’t necessarily help. You, like Bev said, need meds & counseling. My dad’s mental health got so bad he was hospitalized twice. The last time he died-I believe of a stroke. It is so hard to the person dealing with these illnesses to verbalize how they feel. Sometimes they just act out in frustration. It could be a chemical imbalance or brain wiring gone haywire. I pray we in the Christian community can open up & talk more about this dreaded disease. There is no shame in admitting you have a problem. Praying for relief for everyone!

          (((((Hugs)))))

    • I agree with you Bev. Mental illness is a very serious topic and I find myself grapping with this very issue. Death of a loved one, any loss is hard to bear and I must say, I had my share of this and am learning how to deal with my losses and what the next step to do when it comes to mental illness. It is such a taboo topic and many folks are not equipped with how to deal with it and so we are told to suck it up, to stop being so ungrateful because to the outside, it looks like we have it all and so how can we even think of hurting ourselves. It’s called mental illness because it is internally unbalance from within and does not have anything to do with what a person have outwardly. Mental illness definitely does not discriminate. My heart goes out to Kara and her family as well as yours Caroline.

      • Maylee,
        So well said. To the outside world someone with mental illness may appear to have it all and people can’t understand why they’d take their life. What makes me the saddest of all is the thousands of people who could be helped if they felt like they could speak up. Though there is not a cure for mental illness there are ways of making it easier to cope and to actually restore chemical balance that they might feel joy. That is what breaks my heart. There is help, but there’s such a stigma about coming forward and saying I need help. I pray that the more we talk openly that people will realize that mental illness is an illness that needs to be treated in order for people to survive. Thank you for your braveness in speaking up. Let’s keep the dialogue going!!
        Blessings Maylee,
        Bev xo

        • Bev,
          I am sure brave is not the word to describe me at this time. I have been battling something mentally and it seems no one understands you know. My husband tells me that he knows I will be fine because I am a strong person. What he doesn’t see if how many times I cry in the shower, cry myself to sleep. It is hard to share this with anyone cause they don’t see the struggles internally that a person is going through. I sometimes feel like I am drowning and everyone sees me but all they are telling me is to stand up and they don’t realize that I can’t even do that much less save myself. At the end of the day, I have to con myself in order to save myself. I know God will get me through this and I keep asking Him to stop having so much confidence in me. In the mean time, because we are only human, our human heart craves a human touch, word of encouragement and just someone to listen. Thank you for responding back.

          • Maylee,
            I know that feeling when someone says, “Could you fix me a bowl of cereal?” To you it sounds like, “Could you climb Mt. Everest.” I am concerned about you. Have you seen a physician? Are you taking any medication for your depression? Please see your physician. For me, meds and counseling made a WORLD of difference. I never thought I could experience joy again. I didn’t like taking something, but it has literally saved my life. No shame in that. Please be your own best advocate and see a medical doctor and explain your symptoms. Mental illness is not something you can just will yourself out of….no more than you could will yourself out of heart disease or cancer. I am praying for you. I hear you and am sending gentle ((Hugs)). Please let me know you will seek help. YOU matter!! please feel free to email me: bevritter413@gmail.com
            Love,
            Bev xo

    • Bev,
      I’m sorry for all that you have endured. I live in a community with a high rate of suicide and I doubt that one person’s story was the same. The more we awknowlege mental illness, rather than sweep it under the rug than hopefully more lives will be saved. It is not something that people can just snap out of. My son carried a lot of guilt for not being able to save his friend but it wasn’t to be…
      I hope that you have a blessed day,
      Penny

      • Thanks Penny,
        And let your son know that his friend’s death was not his fault. When you are in that dark, dark place, it’s hard to hear the voice of loved ones and friends. If, together, we can erase the stigma of mental illness, those who suffer will feel more comfortable about coming forward and getting the help they need. One thing your son could do is educate himself on mental illness and help educate others. Perhaps in doing so, he will enable someone to come forward and get help vs. ending their life. There is something we all can do…talk openly, educate ourselves, not sweep it under the rug, be an advocate. With help for this illness there is hope. That’s the good news.
        Blessings,
        Bev xo

    • Thank you Bev for your reply. My daughter suffers with mental illness, and she has felt suicidal, and we’ve lived through the heartache of her attempts. We are so grateful they have only been attempts. She does so much better when she has medications that are working. This is a conversation that needs to be more out in the open. I have heard the same thing, if I were a better parent, if I prayed harder, if we had her more in the Word, etc. etc. It places a painful stigma and judgement on the families, those family members suffering with mental illness. This judgement and comments are the catalyst why people start to become silent instead of talking more about it too. It’s isolating. Just listening does so much, and giving advice when a person hasn’t lived with it and truthfully has no idea is hurtful. I appreciate you being the brave voice! Hugs and love, Joanne

      • Joanne,
        You raise such a good point that there is not only stigma for the person suffering, but for the families that care for those that suffer. My son and daughter both suffer and one stays on her meds and my son does not. I am always praying and worrying about him. People are so quick to judge the person, the family. When it’s your child that is ill, you can’t force them to do what’s best for them….you pray A LOT!!! It’s hard when it’s you….it’s even harder when its your family. ALL reasons we need to talk more openly, listen more, be less judgmental and educate ourselves and others. Praying for you and your family sweet friend,
        Blessings and love,
        Bev xo

  3. This is a harsh reality. I gave birth to my first baby and ten days later got a call that someone in my family committed suicide. We can’t ignore it…life really does run on parallel tracks.

    “The children play and people die; the children imagine and people despair. One never makes the other less true.”

    Thank you for this reminder. <333 Taking in that truth <3333

    • Oh, Rachel, what an intense season that must have been! A dear friend of mine had joyful and horrific events align similarly, and it’s overwhelming. Thanks for reading.

    • Rachel,
      Quite profound that a joyful event does not make a tragic event any less true. The day I told my mom I was pregnant was the same day her big brother died. So many times in life, joy and pain must coexist. Rejoicing and grieving with you.
      Blessings,
      Bev xx

  4. Thankyou Caroline this was so touching. My mom passed in July 2016 with alzheimers. On august 1 ,2016 my grandson took his life to go be with my mom they were buddies since he was born.he was to start his grief counseling that morning. He was only 17. At that time his little sister was 4. Its going to be a hard thing to explain to her when the times right. My daughter is having the hardest time. She had her counseling to help. The problem there isnt any counseling for parents losing a child to suicide any where close to where we live. We try to talk about him everyday to keep his memory alive we want to remember. The bad part is the world we live in thinks that ok its been a year forget about it. That isnt going to happen . Its one day ay a time. No mother should ever have to lose a child this way. People will never understand unless it happens to them and i pray every day it stops happening everywhere. Meanwhile i would really appreciate it so much if everyone would please pray for my daughter Kari. Its so hard on her. It will be with her the rest of her life it will easier in time but for now she needs prayers. Thankyou and God bless you all at incourage.

    • Valeris,
      I am deeply sorry for you and your families loss. My son’s friend ended his life months after my Mother’s death. It was hard to comprehend the pain his Mother and siblings must of gone through. I also hit my son very hard.
      I don’t understand why they don’t offer service for anyone going through such a significant loss, but please email me if ever you feel you’d like a listening ear. I no longer work with the Crisis Center but if at all possible I’d like to help.
      My prayers are with your daughter…..
      penny_bw@hotmail.com
      Comfort and blessings to you,
      Penny

    • Valerie,
      I agree that no mother should ever have to lose a child this way. Not every suicide is due to depression or mental illness, but so often the two go hand in hand. I am so very sorry for your loss. The key right now is to concentrate on your daughter who is left behind to grieve (as are all of you). Even if there is not a support group nearby for those who have lost a child to suicide I wonder if online there may be one. I would highly recommend encouraging your daughter to see a counselor that specializes in grief counseling and also see a physician to see if she may need meds – even if temporarily to help her cope and process her feelings. More than anything she needs the love and support of those close to her so that she doesn’t succumb to guilt and other lies. I am praying right now that God would put the right people there for your daughter. I pray that God would draw near and comfort her as she moves forward through each painful day. I pray for God’s nearness and healing balm to be upon her heart and to reassure her that her precious boy is in His care and He would want her to take care of herself so she can take care of her little girl. Keep encouraging her to talk and be a good listener. Sometimes the grieving just need to be heard and have their feelings validated. Thank you for sharing and I will continue to lift your family in my prayers.
      Blessings and ((Hugs)),
      Bev xx

  5. Caroline,
    I am deeply sorry for your loss, it is always tragic to lose someone so young but hopefully the good memories will help to overcome the grief. Initially it can be a shock as to why someone so young or any age would choose death over life, but we cannot fully comprehend the pain someone endures. It took quite awhile to overcome my son’s friends suicide just before Christmas one year. That was after I worked with the Crisis Center and some would say they felt better after talking them through their despair.
    It’s natural as parents to want our kids to feel as though things will be okay, because although we aren’t in control we can trust God who is. Thank-you for sharing with us today…..
    Blessings to you and your family,
    Penny
    Blessings to all, if you are struggling my thoughts and prayers are with you. Please seek help if you feel that you need it
    Penny

  6. I am so sorry and heartbroken for the tragedy in suffering I’ve read about here. Mental illness is a complex and difficult condition and openly talking and supporting each other is one way to help us cope and hopefully recover from it. 95% of our serotonin is made in our gut. Simply taking rounds of antibiotics for a sinus, ear or strep throat infection can destroy the helpful good bacteria in our gut and reduce our seratonin levels leading to anxiety and depression. Taking a good probiotic regularly, especially after prescription antibiotics, can help restore proper gut balance and seratonin levels. Tragic and difficult life circumstances add emotional stress on top of this. Loving support and counseling can also be very beneficial. Prescription SSRI , antidepressant medications which helps the body keep seratonin around longer, can help temporarily but the root cause of low seratonin must be determined to heal and recover long term. I hope and pray we become better educated and sensitive regarding mental health and I pray for recovery and healing for those who are suffering.

    • Sherilyn,
      I have heard about the tie to the gut regarding seratonin levels. Our bodies are so complex and our different systems so interwoven. Also, like you said…stress, lack of sleep, poor diet, exercise….they all contribute to the chemistry that controls our moods and anxiety levels. Question? I find that when I drink a “tonic” of hot water with a T. of Bragg’s apple cider vinegar (with a dash of stevia to take away the bite), I not only feel better intestinally, but it seems to help my mental coping as well. Just an observation. Any clues as to why?
      Bev

      • Hi Bev! I use Braggs apple cider vinegar too! It is full of minerals, trace elements and amino acids which help break down proteins into tryptophan which helps boost seratonin! It also helps detoxify the liver and makes the body more alkaline and strengthens our immune system. Our standard American Diet makes us very acidic. An acidic body is more prone to infections. You can search online the benefits of Braggs apple cider vinegar in helping depression. I do a lot of research on natural health solutions and finding root causes and am happy to answer any questions you may have. God bless, Sherilyn

  7. Caroline, this was absolutely excellent. Yes, holding our loved and lost ones close is a painful privilege that only the soul can manage. Thanks for putting truth to feelings.

  8. Caroline,

    So sorry about your babysitter. So tragic when someone commits suicide. You don’t always know they are hurting inside. People are so very good at hiding & putting on masks. That is so true in the Christian world. A lot of people tell you to pray more, have more faith, etc. That can’t help with the pain some are feeling. Both my parents died with mental illness. Mom had dementia to the point of hearing voices. She was bedridden for two years before God graciously took her home. Dad’s illness progressed to that he was hospitalized twice. That was super hard on me. Watching them slowly deteriorate. I cried & prayed a lot. I was blessed to have some good friends who were there for me. My dad ended up dying in the hospital-more due to a stroke I believe. This world is so dark & uncaring. We just rush around doing our own things. It is time we opened our eyes to the epidemic of mental illness. Start talking more about this. Bring this serious subject out in the open before to many more people take their lives. Earlier this year two famous celebrities committed suicide. People you would think have it all together. Why didn’t they seek help of any kind? The Christian community needs to be more open & sympathetic to people with these problems. Don’t give out platitudes like a pharisee. Be more like Christ & love on them. Talk to them. Find out what problems they are facing. Help them seek a good counselor or doctor who can give them meds.

    Blessings 🙂