Donna DiClementi

Donna DiClementi, LCSW, CEAP, is the director of Methodist Healthcare’s Dennis H. Jones Living Well Network and Employee Assistance Program.

For John Kilzer's mourners: Remember 'shared sorrow is half sorrow'

By Published: March 20, 2019 5:43 PM CT

It’s been a hard week for the Memphis recovery, ministry and music community with the death by suicide of the Rev. Dr. John Kilzer, associate pastor of Recovery Ministries of St. John’s United Methodist Church. Beloved pastor, healer, musician and friend to so many, John died at a time when his musical gifts were strong but so, too, was a relapse with addiction.

People are struggling with the tough questions following John’s death. Why did he make that choice? How could he do this when so many loved him?  With all he knew and shared about his relationship with Christ, why wasn’t that enough?  With all his talent and intellect, how did he fall into the depths of pain? Why didn’t we see that he was struggling and prevent this from happening? Why, why, why? The questions are endless, and concrete answers are elusive.

There is no simple answer to the “why” question when someone we love dies by suicide.  It is a complex issue. What we do know is that suicide impacts every race, age, gender, culture, faith tradition and socioeconomic status. It is an equal opportunity offender. And, we also know that there is help and hope for people who struggle with suicidal thoughts and behaviors. As John often said at The Way, a service of recovery every Friday evening at St. John’s, we are all part of a vibrant and abundant family rooted in grace, hope and unconditional love. And, this community needs to lean on grace, hope and unconditional love during this time of mourning.

Addiction is an illness. Mental health conditions are illnesses. And like other serious illnesses, some are chronic and can rear their ugly head at the most unexpected moments. No judgment, shame or feelings of guilt are needed from us; only love, support and treatment – as with any other chronic illness. Research suggests that each death by suicide impacts an average of 147 people who knew or were close to the deceased. Safe to say that as a community who knew and loved John, we are well above those average numbers affected here in Memphis.

The grief one experiences after a loss by suicide can be intense and overwhelming. Feelings of shock, guilt, blame, anger and isolation are common reactions. While everyone grieves in their own way and at their own pace, know that you are not alone in the reactions you are experiencing. In the weeks and months ahead, remember that healing from suicide loss is never a straight path nor is it an easy journey. Recovery means seeking help for one’s own physical, mental and spiritual health – one day at a time.

A Swedish proverb says that shared joy is double joy; shared sorrow is half sorrow. One of the healthiest ways to share your sorrow and move toward healing is to reach out to your supportive community. Lean on others and be aware of those who need to lean on you. The Way, every Friday at 6 p.m. at St. John’s United Methodist Church provides sanctuary in a community of love, food, music and recovery.

There are 12-step meetings every day throughout our community; and local resources for counseling can be found at Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network. You can visit the Living Well Network or call Methodist Healthcare’s Living Well Network at 901-762-8558 to talk with a counselor who will help you find the right resources to meet your needs.

For immediate help, call the Memphis Crisis Center at 901-274-7477, or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the statewide crisis line at 1-855-274-7471. Help is also available by texting the Crisis Chat/Text Line (text ‘TN’ to 741741).

In our shared sorrow, let’s remind each other what John taught us so well, “We’re gonna love ya’ and there ain’t nothing’ you can do about it.”  

Related stories:

GEOFF CALKINS: Calkins: John Kilzer — former Tiger, musician, minister — lived a life of recovery and grace

BILL DRIES: Memphis singer, songwriter John Kilzer dies

G. SCOTT MORRISRemembering John Kilzer: ‘The theme of his songs was always love’

YOLANDA JONES: John Kilzer’s death ruled suicide     

ELLE PERRYMourners recall John Kilzer’s message of ‘hope love and recovery’

MARK WINBORN: Reflections on the death of John Kilzer


John Kilzer The Way St. John’s United Methodist Church

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