I mentioned in a recent podcast that one of my friends recently committed suicide. He was same-sex attracted (SSA), single, and in his fifties. This is a tragedy, and I hope to understand better how it happened.

I hope some of us can work to keep others from suffering a similar fate!

Eryk and I first met 15 years ago when he joined our church. He was one of my housemates for a few months back then, so I saw him daily.

As an introvert, Eryk read a lot and kept to himself. It was difficult getting to know him, even living in the same house. The only time I ever saw him express strong emotion was when one of his relatives died.

Over the years, I stopped to talk to him at church but never on a deep level. He had lived alone for several years and apparently felt distant from the few friends he did have. After his last close relative died, he found himself in a very emotionally painful situation.

Eryk had no spouse, no children, no parents, and only a distant half-sister. Many people were suspicious of him as an older single guy. His other SSA friends didn’t pay as much attention to him now that he was in his fifties.

Eryk became dangerously depressed, and no one was close enough to effectively do anything about it.

Looking back, I can certainly put myself in Eryk’s place and understand how he could become depressed. But I didn’t take the time and effort to notice and take action.

The day before he died, I talked to Eryk after church. He appeared intensely disturbed, but he would not let me in. He said he was busy and moved on.

By then, it was too late. When Eryk did not show up for work, his employer called the police to report him missing. The police broke into his apartment and found a gruesome scene that one officer described as the second-worst he had ever seen in his 20-year career.

At Eryk’s funeral, I saw several other single guys in their fifties who I suspect are also SSA. I’m sure they all thought about the pain in their own lives.

Brothers, how can we prevent depression and suicide from happening with other older single SSA guys? How can we relieve their pain and give them something to live and hope for?

  • Every time I think I am over it, the subject of suicide triggers me. I have spent the last hour crying so I couldn’t even compose this response till I calmed down (no fault of the author!). It has been 34 years, and I am still affected by the suicide of my best friend David. He was my first love (my only love really). He also was gay and his father was a minster of a local Baptist church (homosexuality does not occur to good Baptists). I think my only saving grace that I was raised without any religious instruction, save for the six weeks in the summers when I visited my father.
    I found out about his death while I was in school, doing an assignment that involved the newspapers; I just happened to open to the obituaries. I was visibly upset. My mother was stoned at the time so she did not get me the counseling I so desperately needed. The school guidance counselor talked to me briefly, calling him by his first name. My stepmother said he was in hell for killing himself (he was 14 for five months). I spent many years despairing. I did not go to the funeral, nor did I even know where he was buried (God would show me later).
    While all this was going on I started realizing my homosexual feelings, but I lived in denial of them. To confront them would mean I would have to admit I loved David (and that is extremely frowned upon in west Texas). I began exhibiting bad behaviors, one of which was promiscuity. I was having sex with men because I was missing David. I never had sex with him, but I loved him; yet I had sex with many men and did not love any of them. Sex and love are not the same thing.
    His family has nothing to do with me and will not discuss him. In effect, he has become persona non grata; except that he lives in my memory. All I have is his picture and the memories of him. I also have his grave marker that God showed me, so I could begin to get better. His death is like a bleeding wound for me, one that never heals. Every time it scabs over, something rips the scab off: a stray thought, the recent subject of suicide in the media; K-LOVE announcing it was Best Friends Day…
    I have to accept that I will never see David again until the Resurrection. I also have to accept that I will always have a David shaped hole in my heart till then. But it will be okay, because God is the god of the living. (Matthew 22:32)

  • Ugh, just so so horrible Marshall. What Eryk went through is without a doubt my and other SSA guys’ worst nightmare. Like I mentioned in my Optimism post its a horrible fear of mine to be living alone as single older man with the rest of my family dead, no close friends or any semblance of love in my life, and being so desperately alone. Honestly I think living like that is a fate worse than death. I’ve had a taste of living like that and I never want to go back to it.
    It reminds me of why I do what I do. I want to help men like Eryk and help them find love, botherhood, community, and family in their lives while still honoring their Christian sexual ethics.

    • Thanks so much for expressing the heart of Christ! Your care and concern for others blesses me so much. As I have taken care of my mom for many years now since my father died a long time ago at a pretty young age, I’ve not had much opportunity for social development, quite frankly. I believe, unless God intervenes, my reality is just what you described. But, I do try to remember, that what is done for others in Christ’s name will not go unrewarded and that gives me encouragement in those dark days. Thank you!

    • Eugene, as others here have said, your compassion for older SSA men in this situation is amazing in a guy like you still in your 20s. I know many older single SSA guys right now so the need is right in front of me. I don’t want to see guys suffer like that either!
      Yes, let’s work for a future where most SSA guys don’t have to fear loneliness and isolation!

  • Absolutely heartbreaking. My prayers go out to all those affected by this, including the officers who were first on the scene.

    • I talked to one of Eryk’s friends who had talked to the police and knew the gruesome details. I asked him exactly how Eryk killed himself and he said He would rather not talk about it. My main concern for asking was to determine it was definitely a suicide, not a murder or accident. He said there was almost no doubt it was suicide.

      • This has been on my mind since this article was posted. It’s so chilling. So so sad, man. Since it was described as gruesome, I wonder if Eryk did it intentionally to shock people…? Only the Lord knows.

  • Wow Marshall…this is beyond said, and those things deeply affect us. I am so sorry.
    Just today, got notice of someone from back home that had died. He was a single guy, and I kind of “adopted’ him…sending him cards etc. He loved to tease me…some thought his remarks were a bit cruel, but I always laughed. I knew it was his way of expressing that he liked my friendship. I have many memories of those times in church…and laughing with him. Now…another one is gone.
    The only thing I would have to offer is to let God show you how He might use you to show His care and love to others. When we do that, I believe God will make a way for us to be His hands and feet.

  • Marshall, I am so very sorry, brother. This is tough. I just read something about this a day or two ago, and here is the link: https://medium.com/@mgoulston/why-people-kill-themselves-its-not-depression-44113406ac79
    To be truthful, I don’t know that there is an easy answer. Brother, you reached out. You tried. I’m sure it is normal to kick yourself and wonder what more could have been done. Should you have gently grasped his arm and pleaded with him to please talk? Should you have followed him out? Called him?
    I ask questions like this concerning my brother who died of AIDs. What more could I have done? As far as I know, he died without faith in Christ. I sobbed and sobbed at his funeral. The thought of him being lost was unbearable.
    There are all of these what-ifs in matters like this, and I don’t know that we ever get the answers.
    I intend to be more intentional in my relationships. Reaching out. Expressing heartfelt and genuine love and affection. Asking probing questions if I must. I will do what and everything I possibly can. Maybe, just maybe it will make a difference.
    In the end, God gives us free agency. It is the hardest thing to deal with in life, but even we must respect that.

    • Kirk, as I said in another comment, I don’t blame myself. What Eryk needed was a community of genuine friends who loved him. I just want to be part of the effort to have more of that in our churches.

  • Marshall, those are some crucial questions at the bottom of your post. And I don’t want to point fingers at anyone, but I don’t think it should be our job alone to answer them–I think our churches need to engage with these questions also.
    One thing we need to be careful about, as you’ve alluded to here and elsewhere, is only investing in relationships with people we find aesthetically pleasing or emotionally compelling. This is a temptation I’ve recognized in myself and I’m trying to get better at just delighting in people for their presence regardless of whether I think they’re attractive or what kind of energy they may or may not give me.
    The isolation encouraged by American society is poisonous–especially for single people living alone. I think having more options for living interdependently with our communities (I mean church communities, but maybe also secular?) would go a long way toward helping us feel like we have purpose as we age; helping us feel seen, heard, known, wanted, useful.

    • Thanks for your honesty, Ryan. That is the great fault of some people with SSA, and not much is said about it. Glad you are working against the tendency. I think what St. John says is relevant when he says, How can a man love God whom he has not seen, if he doesn’t love his brother that he does see? Good question, and worthy of one’s contemplation.
      Have you read about Kevin Hines? He is one of only 25 people out of 1700 or so that survived the suicide attempt jumping off the Golden Gate bridge. His story is miraculous, and I would encourage all of the brothers to google him and read about it. It gives you a glimpse inside the mind of someone so in despair. But what is really chilling to me is that he spent awhile walking back and forth on the bridge getting up his courage to jump. He thought if only one person would ask him if everything was alright, then he’d know that he had purpose and wouldn’t jump. No one did. NO ONE. Despite the fact that people were there walking across the bridge, passing right by him, taking selfies. Here he was, tears streaming down his cheeks and NO ONE noticed, or cared. No one stopped to ask him what was wrong. And so he jumped…like so many others.
      We live in a ME society. It is poisonous, like you said. Let us have, like Jonevan so aptly puts it, a furious intentionality to be different and to love souls, no matter their shape, color, size or age. Look for the tears, for they are there.

    • Ryan,
      I agree that churches also need to be part of the solution to this problem of isolation. What has helped me tremendously has been the mentality of community in my group of friends within the church I attend.
      I live with a group of guys who are committed to work together to help each other. This not only helps me because of others encouraging me, it also gives me responsibility to serve others in our house. There is a feeling of usefulness and accomplishment that goes along with fulfilling that responsibility. As a result, I feel anything but isolated and alone!
      Our house is full and there are around 5 guys who want to move in. Clearly others see the value in what we are doing. Somehow we need to get churches involved in having more of this kind of thing.
      It is true that many of us who deal with SSA do tend to favor guys who are attractive or emotionally appealing. Living in a multi-generational house like mine helps me see beyond this and care for those in need, even the not-so-attractive.

  • Question: Brothers, how can we prevent depression and suicide from
    happening with other older single SSA guys?
    My response: I think we help our brothers and sisters in Jesus with the same kind of compassion we would show anyone else. The frozen rage that is part of depression is difficult to thaw out and create a space to express. It can
    truly be messy. I have watched it happen a number of times, and were it not for the cocoon of trust built, it could have turned into a rather distressing affair. Ryan is quite on point when he says that our churches need to engage with these questions as well. We are a community of people who desperately needed a Saviour, found Him, and are working out our new at-one-ness relationship with God day-by-day.
    How can we relieve their
    pain and give them something to live and hope for?
    While I would be greatly honoured to know I have relieved anyone’s pain, I believe that such a ministry is the work of the Holy Spirit through us, but ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit. Marshall, from previous posts, I have sensed what a caring, giving, expansive heart you have. I would be glad to be one of your friends. Sadly, Eryk did not have the emotional mechanisms at work within him to understand that. The entire dynamic of depression leading to suicide is a huge issue, and probably even more knotted and complex with all sorts of people. I did, however, want to respond to these questions because I have become part of this community, coming from tremendous hurt and sorrow myself, and have found this to be a place where I am encompassed by a great cloud of heart-helping witnesses. May the Lord give us all wisdom as we grapple with these and other critical questions. Marshall, I am so glad you are a part of this group! Thank you!

    • Paul, thanks for the compliments!
      I love the way you brought it all back to God. I cannot love anyone else the way I should apart from a work of the Holy Spirit in my heart. The best way to show love is to point others to a relationship with our loving God!

  • Hi. I’m new here. I’m sorry to hear what happened. Its very sad. I relate a lot to his story though. Its basically exactly what I fear I’ll end up like. So I feel like I can kinda understand him.
    As far as how can it be prevented….. Its tough honestly. Optimism is not my strong point lol but I’m also not on here to just be negative and hopeless. There is hope in God but how to do what we should I dunno….. Its tough.
    In my own life I always end up kinda feeling isolated. Ive always pretty much felt that way. I have loving friends and family thank God, but still. I just essentially always feel like I’m on the outside. And in some ways thats a good thing but it always bothers me. A lot. Depression is kinda like a black hole though. So thats why it can be tough to help someone like your friend. Reaching out is one thing, but as you can see it hard cuz that doesn’t stop these things from happening. Again in my experience in church there are lots of people that have reached out to me, but for my part I realise that they can never fulfill the need for intimacy that I have. It wouldn’t even be appropriate. So that inappropriate neediness creates a problem in helping people out of the path towards suicide. Also people’s actual behaviour is rarely as good as their intentions are and that creates a lot of hurt on the part of the lonely party. Its just hurtful when you are lonely and people reach out to help but then end up getting fed up of dealing with you cuz you’re draining and difficult. Like…. Yeah….. I’m draining and difficult. Thats WHY I NEED HELP lol. Like of course people that are on the path to ending their own life are not gonna be so “easy” to love and bond with meaningfully. But its easy to feel compassion from a distance and want to help but much harder to love people and sacrifice enough to make a real difference. Cuz we are human. Lastly these things are a tough call cuz friendship is kinda…. its own thing. We maybe can love people as Christians agape wise by God working through us but thats not the same thing as clicking with someone and being tight. Cuz again from my own experience its great when people show me agape. I need it and I’m thankful. But the funny thing is I need to LIKED as well as loved and that is just a far more elusive thing. At least liked enough to want to hang out and spend meaningful time and change directions from hopeless suicide. Not just ” oh yeah he’s nice.” Cuz it sounds weird to say but dudes like him probably dont just need agape they need phileo too (I don’t really know the full implications of the greek words I’m using so I hope I’m making sense here lol). But we cant and shouldn’t even try to be deep friends with everyone. I really don’t believe. Its impossible. And even as the party being helped it leads to further hurt when people try to be friends with you but its essentially not based on actually liking each other enough as people and clicking.
    So I dunno. We gotta just give it all to God and let Him make us what He wants to make us. But I’m not saying anything there that we don’t know. So its not a very specific answer to your question. But personally I’m glad to see you’re asking it anyways cuz it shows you have the right attitude. And with the right attitude God can make us what He wants us to be. And even though we may never be able to stop these tragedies God can help us make a positive difference in peoples lives.

    • Daniel, I believe if you or I have multiple friends around us, we are less likely to be depressed like Eryk. We should promote a culture of friendship in our churches.
      You said that sometimes you are draining and difficult. I can deal with that if I am sharing the responsibility with other friends who are also helping.

  • Guys, I just talked to one SSA friend who was closer to Eryk than me. He said he was NOT avoiding Eryk because Eryk was old and less attractive! My friend said that Eryk was pushing everyone away and keeping them at a distance. He tried to befriend Eryk, but Eryk did not let him.
    It seems like Eryk needed a loving community taking initiative to love him unmistakably and repeatedly. It may have taken years to build trust, but we need that intense of a community in our churches!

  • Marshall: I am at the point in my life, also, at 63, where the health concerns and not being very “attached” to anyone in particular, and family many miles away (1900+) where I could very easily slip into that kind of depression. I do have to take anti-depressants, and work a 5-day work schedule, Mon-Fri. Sometimes, the health concerns get me down, and honestly, as my siblings age and have fought/are fighting cancer of different types, it’s damn difficult to get out of bed some days. To say the least, I can relate to the story you have shared.
    Last year, one of my best friends from elementary school passed away. He was only 60. After having lost his wife of 30+ years himself, earlier that same year, I wasn’t really altogether shocked that the man passed, I figured more of a broken heart than anything, as I don’t believe the couple had any children themselves, and I did not know the wife, having only met her once. Honestly, I did not contact D after his wife passed away, other than a sympathy card in the mail and a note through his social network, as his wife was in the final stages of her life. I had lost my 2nd partner to heart disease and diabetes in May, 1996, and although I had been a widower, I doubted my words could have really comforted him, as he was straight, and married to a woman, and I am same-gender oriented, and had not been legally “married,” only “partnered,” to another man, so I didn’t honestly know what to say, and kept silent. I truly regret that, now, yet – then – I could not find words to console the man. We had grown apart over the years, and I really didn’t “know” the man, anymore, only trading Christmas letters once a year. D was a bit different than most men, yes, yet I don’t believe he had SSA issues, as far as I could tell, at least he never voiced them to me, anyway, although he knew I had been in two long-term [4+ years, each] at one time, and have been single for more than 20 years, now. I feel – now – nearly 40 years later, than having “come out” as gay in 1979 may have been a big mistake for me, as I no longer feel “gay” fits for me, and haven’t, for years. My situation is more like “homo-social” or “same-gender orientation,” meaning I would much rather spend time/seek companionship with other men, and just have no interest in women. Never have, really. I say that with some reluctancy, yet it is the truth, as I simply just really find nothing of interest there, socially, nor sexually. Have I ever found women sexually attractive? Yeah, a few. Some women are really quite beautiful. Yet, that said, it does nothing for me.
    Getting back to where I started, though, is more important, here: Finding my health is no longer the best, and facing retirement in a few years, which I long for now, as there are days when my body just doesn’t want to do what I want it to do, anymore, and the libido [due to medications and other factors] isn’t what it used to be, well…..annoys me. Some things can be done, yes, yet with the anti-depressants and two different medications for genetic hypertension, some things have fallen to new levels of not easily prompted arousal. The meds for that, the little blue pill, can be dangerous for those of us who have hypertension, and can cause fatal reactions, so I don’t bother. Honestly, after many years of being sexually addicted and having sex up to seven times in one day a few times, well, I am kind of glad it finally calmed down a bit so I am no longer “ruled” by “the little head”!!! HeeHee…..
    All that said, I take care of myself, as much as possible, and try to keep connected to people, keeping in mind stories like the man in your story, Eryk, and not allow myself to get TOO “down.” The Christmas season is coming, which is the most difficult for many men in my situation, especially so those of us who are far from family. I have participated in a Thanksgiving dinner at a home of a friend of a friend, and spend Christmas alone by choice, as Christmas was always “over-done” in my home of origin, and I can no longer handle the “chaos” of noise and commotion, having had that for too many years in my youth, as I believe – now – that my mother was probably bi-polar, and addicted to chaos. It’s just easier and less nerve-wracking spending the day alone, my and my roomie’s dog, listening to music and reading.
    So, from this man, sometimes, we who have mental-health issues want company, and sometimes we do not. Be polite when asking, is what I say, however, don’t take it personally if the person says “Thanks, but no thanks,” as – simply put – we [the person who suffers from depression, be it mild, moderate or severe] just may not be able to handle situations with a lot of people, and a lot of noise. In the case of the man you mentioned, he may have been at a point where it was not a situation he wanted to be in, and the depression just got the better of him, which is not his fault, he may not have been able to ask for help, as he simply was not cognizant of how far down that particular path he had gone.
    Hope this perspective from another person who has depression issues helps others to see things from a different viewpoint, and can relate to the experience without being judgmental. I find many in conservative circles are apparently just incapable – or is that unwilling – to listen to someone else’s story when they themselves have not experienced it, and refuse to accept it, as someone else’s reality – an “OB-jective” rather than a “SUB-jective” viewpoint, which caused me to back away from churches and Christians, as the ones who do this just don’t seem to care. Thankfully, though, some do, and in reading your stories here in the past few days, I can see that some have found a true connection, which gives me hope, still, that I can find a church “home,” and “family,” even if it is a bit of a challenge. For me, I still have trouble trusting other Christians, yet, I am starting to open up and trust again, and have found a church which I am SLOWLY – and I do mean SLOWLY – getting involved in, right now by being counseled/mentored by an older gentleman who comes from the same background I did, and has had many of the same experiences I have, within the church world. It’s taking time, yeah, but I have to learn to trust again, and that will definitely take time to heal the wounds.

    • B, I am so glad that you are slowly able to trust again, and I pray it continues. What you say about conservative circles is so true regarding another’s viewpoint, and it so badly misrepresents our Father, who has created so many unique and beautiful viewpoints. I pray the wounds do heal. I was very reluctant to truly trust the church with my depression and SSA issues for the same reasons you mention; but God has lead me to a small community that genuinely cares and facilitates my opening up to healing.

    • B,
      Thanks so much for your perspective! It helps to hear from someone like you who has suffered from serious depression and knows what Eryk experienced.
      The day before Eryk died, he ended the conversation quickly when I asked how he was doing, so I knew he was not able to talk through this with me. I believe I could have built trust with him over time and he probably would have been more willing to talk eventually. That is what I want to do for others in the future so that maybe some of them won’t suffer Eryk’s fate.

  • That’s a heart-breaking story Marshall. You seem like the type of guy who would’ve done more if you could have. I’ve known three people of various closeness who have taken their lives, one of which I was the first to see. It’s just this tremendous sadness & loss that envelops you, of the person they were and could’ve been, and of the pain that drove them to it.

    It’s been awhile since I left a comment, last time I was here sign-in was by Disqus and you could see recent comments. Not sure if anyone will read this but that’s ok anyway, I’m leaving this for anyone else who ends up at this post searching for the word ‘suicide’ on the site like I did last night, hoping that they know they’re not alone. I’m kind of an outlier here at YOB, most of you guys talk about knowing you were ssa when you were really young. I don’t remember thinking much about sex before I was molested by an older guy. I never told anyone, I was ashamed, I thought it was my fault since I didn’t fight back, and I buried it. But in college I tried to find my way forward by reliving it, putting myself repeatedly in the same situation. Maybe I was trying to have things turn out better, being the first time, and since I never got aroused; tbh I don’t know, I only remembered being molested recently. I stopped after college but over the years the porn I return is two guys in that situation; it’s like I can’t root it out from my soul.

    Yesterday, I looked at the same porn again and afterwards was swamped by the same feelings of darkness and hopelessness I deal with every time that make my ssa seem like such a prison sentence. It doesn’t matter how long it is between viewing, afterwards I can’t ever seem to get free of something I can’t solve or satisfy, and each new time is every time before piled on with added weight. I’m a Christian who loves Jesus but got overwhelmed by feeling utterly worthless, that nothing I’d ever done in my life mattered cause of who I am. Death starts to look like an answer to the hopelessness, and late last night I was searching YOB for some other answer and came across this post. Reading about Eryk reminded me of the great sense of loss & sadness & finality that came with suicide, and what it is for your life to be more than what you’re going through.

    Today, that struggle has passed. Only once have I got to that dark point where I started to act on it, and that was when I first remembered being molested and trying to deal with it. God was light in that darkness and I made it thru that struggle too. Apologies for all the personal history, that’s just my deal, whatever you’re going through dealing with ssa as a Christian realize you’re not alone. Others have been, and are, where you are. All those feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness that come from the darkness you’re facing aren’t just from you. All those things in the bible about darkness and death and having an enemy aren’t just words or topics, they’re a reality actively trying to crush you. But so are things like God and love and life and power and resurrection, they’re a reality too, found in Christ. My prayer in leaving this comment is that Christ would be that Light in whatever you’re facing.

  • Marshall

    Jesus told us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. I seek to do that with great joy, because He is better than everything we give up! Also I want to love others in an unselfish way as Jesus taught. I currently do my best to live out that kind of love with 15 other friends on a farm near the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. I love talking about what really matters, and seeing a friend's heart turn from pain to joy, from fear to peace, and from despair to hope! My writing tends to focus on the topic of friendships with other guys. I have never married and am currently the oldest author on YOB.

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