Hope After Suicide Claimed Loved One
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Bill was the pastor of a growing church in Deleware for seventeen years. One night in 2018 while he and his eighteen year old son, Will, were watching football, a sense of concern swept over Bill as he wondered where his wife, Fontaine, had gone. He asked Will to text his mom, but his son got no reply.
Together they began to look for her throughout the house. It was 10:36 at night, but since Fontaine would sometimes go over to the church to pray they decided to go next door and see if she was there. As they walked into the visitor center of the church they saw a shadow on the floor surrounded by an “eerie glow of red spread across the floor,” recalls Bill. On the floor, Fontaine was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Will grabbed his dad who was in disbelief and led him outside the church. Bill and Will’s life were forever changed in that moment.
Fontaine was a devoted Christian who believed in prayer. She was very loved and respected. Privately, she struggled with mental illness for ten years. She often complained about her unrelenting physical and emotional pain to those closest to her. They spent thousands of dollars pursuing home remedies, attended faith healing services, even tried psychiatric solutions with trained professionals, but nothing seemed to ease her symptoms. In fact, they got worse.
AN ELEMENT OF HOPE
After his wife’s suicide, her body was transported from Wilmington, Deleware to Summerville, SC in preparation for her funeral. The woman who owned the funeral home came into the office to discuss details for the funeral and pointed at a picture on the wall. She said, “That was my amazing daughter.” This lady was also struggling with terminal cancer, but wanted to meet them and share her story. Her daughter was a popular, honor roll student and respected as a compassionate Christian. Despite all these wonderful traits her daughter committed suicide. A decision that no one seemed to understand. She gave Bill a copy of a book written by Pastor John Hewett entitled After Suicide and encouraged him to read it. Her gift played a significant role in his healing journey.
STIMGMA OF MENTAL ILLNESS
There is a stigma associated with mental illness. People will often view you through the stain it leaves. Bill says, “A few weeks after my wife’s suicide, the ministry board of the church terminated my ministry after seventeen fruitful years.” He was forced to leave. The locks were changed on the doors and he was forbidden to discuss this decision with the congregation. He was given thirty days to get out of the parsonage. He says, “I felt betrayed, and utterly abandoned by their decision.” Several people from the church helped them during this difficult transition.
At 62, Bill headed to Virginia, homeless and jobless. He was uncertain of what his future would look like. He wrestled with fear, but chose to trust God with his future. Longtime friends purchased a home for him and Will to live in rent free for two years. Bill says, “For the next two years, I was able to heal, rest, and recover in a beautiful home, without any financial pressure.” He later purchased the home.
While in Virginia, he was given the opportunity to serve in the Vanguard network of churches which brought deep healing in his life. He began to share his story with others, preach sermons about recovery and write his book. He also had to walk through a journey of forgiveness and choose to forgive each one who hurt him in his previous church.
FINDING LOVE AGAIN
Bill’s father in law (Tom) encouraged him to find a new soulmate. He recognized that Bill should not be alone. “It had been thirty years since I had dated and I wasn’t very good at it back then,” reveals Bill. He and Brenda found each other online. She was also a widow who had lost her husband of thirty nine years to Alzheimer’s. They quickly became good friends and a year later they married in 2020.
Bill has served in full-time ministry for 27 years. While living in Chesapeake, Virginia, in the mid 90’s Bill walked away from a lucrative career with General Motors Acceptance Corporation to accept a pastoral position with New Life Christian Fellowship. This was an exciting season of learning and growth. Pastor Bill planted a Church in Great Neck and began leading mission trips to the Amazon region of Peru. After several years of ministry Bill accepted a senior pastor position in Delaware. The church grew from eighty people to over four hundred. While pastoring a growing church he also continued to lead mission trips around the world with Global Harvest, a foundation with the goal of developing strategic partnerships that impact the world with the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. He has been on over 50 mission trips, planted over 300 churches, and trained over 3,000 pastors worldwide. In 2023, Bill became the Senior Pastor of Ruslin Hills Church in Dover, Ohio.
LIFE AFTER SUICIDE
Bill encourages those who have experienced the loss of a friend or loved one through suicide to take steps to recover from the trauma by:
• Praying often
• Reading Scripture
• Singing and listening to worship songs.
• Finding a church that is compassionate.
• Talking to others - get professional help or try small group therapy.
• Sharing your story – help others and bring purpose to your loss.
• Finding online resources such as: Mayo Clinic, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and The Alliance of Hope.
Bill offers hope, encouragement, and compassion in his book, Life After Suicide, for anyone who has lost a friend or loved one to suicide. Click www.RecoveryAfterSuicide.com for more information.
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