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An Open Letter to the Family and Friends of William and Elizabeth Duman
© 01.28.08 By D. Eric Williams

This article originally appeared in the January 31st edition of the Cottonwood Chronicle

It would be impossible to write this week's column without addressing the tragic events which took place last week in Clarkston. And yet, I must admit I do not feel equal to the task. Although I have counseled others who have lost loved ones, I have never had to suffer the loss of a loved one through suicide. I have never had to feel the pain of losing a child. I cannot imagine the gut wrenching sadness that William Duman and the extended family are feeling in the aftermath of that terrible day. Even though I am not the Pastor of those who are close to the situation (I have been praying for Father Les and the other members of the pastoral staff at the combined parishes in Lewiston), I would like to use this opportunity to offer what encouragement I can to the Duman family and friends who live here in Cottonwood.

To begin with I want to say, none of you should feel as if you are somehow responsible for Elizabeth Duman's actions. Each person stands or falls before God on their own. Elizabeth may have been deeply depressed and in need of help, but that does not somehow transfer responsibility for her behavior onto the shoulders of her husband, her family or friends. I say this in order to remind you, do not allow yourself to be swallowed up by undeserved guilt. Weep for Elizabeth and Abraham, but do not assume responsibility for what has happened.

Secondly I would like you to remember God is not responsible for these deaths either. No doubt, God is sovereign and there is nothing that happens outside of His control. At the same time, human beings have free will; we are not puppets but are creatures who are able to make decisions which are uncoerced. I know this sounds contradictory, but the Bible plainly teaches God is sovereign and man has free will. This is a paradox that I don't want to delve into here; my point is, you should not feel God has failed you. Indeed, the Bible tells us all things - not some things but all things - work together to shape the people of God into the image of Jesus Christ. In other words, our Father in heaven will somehow use even this tragedy for His glory and the good of His people who have been affected by it. If God were not sovereign, this could not be true. Because He is omnipotent, you may be assured He has not failed you and so you can confidently turn to Him for consolation.

Additionally, I encourage you to embrace your sorrow rather than allow it to master you. In other words I enjoin you to truly understand why it is you are grieving and consider the purpose of the emotion. God has made us emotional creatures and our feelings are designed to alert us to certain truths. Sorrow awakens us to the fact something we cherish has been lost and God would have us to use the energy of grief to heighten our awareness of His goodness. I am not trying to be clever; I'm encouraging you to recognize that heartache is actually designed to remind us of God's tremendous blessings. All to often we do not recognize the gifts of the Father until they are gone. All too frequently we take this life for granted and complain about the state of affairs rather than give thanks. Sorrow is designed to alert us to the wonder of this life and to sharpen our focus as we recall the blessings we received from those who are gone.

In closing I want to assure you I am praying for this community and especially the Duman family. I hope this attempt to help will be of benefit to someone. If I can be of any service to you, please let me know.

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