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Suicide: recommended titles

Written by · Published Aug 20, 2018

Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) have put together a reading list for children and adults affected by suicide.

A Grief Observed, by C. S. Lewis

A Grief Observed comprises the reflections of the great scholar and Christian on the death of his wife after only a few short years of marriage. Painfully honest in its dissection of his thoughts and feelings, this is a book that details his paralysing grief, bewilderment and sense of loss in simple and moving prose.

“Invaluable as an insight into the grieving process just as much as it is as an exploration of religious doubt, A Grief Observed will continue to offer its consoling insights to a huge range of readers, as it has for over fifty years.”

A Special Scar: the experiences of people bereaved by suicide 2nd ed., by Alison Wertheimer

“Every 85 minutes someone in the UK takes their own life, but what happens to those left behind? In a society where suicide is often viewed with fear or disapproval, it can be difficult for those personally affected by a suicide death to come to terms with their loss and seek help and support.

A Special Scar looks in detail at the stigma surrounding suicide and offers practical help for survivors, relatives and friends of people who have taken their own life. Fifty bereaved people tell their own stories, showing us that, by not hiding the truth from themselves and others, they have been able to learn to live with the suicide, offering hope to others facing this traumatic loss.”

See also: A Special Scar: the experiences of people bereaved by suicide classic ed.

Bereavement: studies of grief in adult life 4th ed., by Colin Murray Parkes & Holly G. Prigerson

“The loss of a loved one is one of the most painful experiences that most of us will ever have to face in our lives. This book recognises that there is no single solution to the problems of bereavement but that an understanding of grief can help the bereaved to realise that they are not alone in their experience.

“This new edition has been revised and extended to take into account recent research findings on both sides of the Atlantic. Parkes and Prigerson include additional information about the different circumstances of bereavement including traumatic loss, disasters, and complicated grief, as well as providing details on how social, religious, and cultural influences determine how we grieve.

Bereavement provides guidance on preparing for the loss of a loved one, and coping after they’ve gone. It also discusses how to identify the minority in whom bereavement may lead to impairment of physical and/or mental health and how to ensure they get the help they need.”

See also: Bereavement: studies of grief in adult life 1st ed. (1972)

Beyond the Rough Rock: supporting a child who has been bereaved through suicide, by Di Stubbs & Julie Stokes

“Explaining to a child that someone has died by suicide is possibly one of the most difficult situations that a parent or carer might ever face. This booklet offers practical advice for families in the immediate days and weeks when suicide has been the cause of death. It is hoped that children may then begin to understand some of the complexities that often surround suicide.

“The booklet includes child-friendly activities for you to do as a family as you begin to make sense of what has happened and start to look at ways in which your family can learn to cope.”

Chasing Death: losing a child to suicide, by Jan Andersen

“This is NOT a grief recovery book, but one that attempts to put candid and heartrending words to the often incommunicable pain, guilt and despair that the surviving families endure, not only through the telling of the author’s story, but through the experiences of other families mourning the loss of a child, stepchild, grandchild, sibling, friend or relative to suicide. Although this book will break your heart, it will also provide solace to other child suicide grievers in the knowledge that their thoughts and feelings are entirely normal and that they are not alone.

“Too many bereaved people are thrown into a wilderness of relentless, silent torture, afraid to share their feelings for fear of being judged. This book clearly demonstrates how debilitating the grief can be and how it can still cripple a survivor, ten, twenty, thirty and even forty years or more after the event.

“Written by a mother determined to be a victor of circumstance, not a victim, the upsetting aspects of the book are balanced by the author’s compassionate, spiritual and philosophical thoughts, quotes and coping strategies to help the survivor move from total despair to living alongside the grief in a positive way.”

Children Also Grieve, by Linda Goldman

Children Also Grieve is an imaginative resource, fully illustrated with colour photographs, that offers support and reassurance to children coming to terms with the loss of a close friend or relative and to adults who are supporting them through their bereavement.”

Coping with Suicide, by Maggie Helen

“This book is aimed at those whose loved ones have committed suicide, and will also be useful for people working with the relatives and friends of those who have committed suicide. The book covers the reasons for suicide, emotional and practical issues, such as police involvement and arranging the funeral, and where to go for help.”

Cry of Pain: understanding suicide and the suicidal mind, by Mark Williams

Cry of Pain examines the evidence from a social, psychological and biological perspective to see if there are common features that might shed light on suicide. Informative and sympathetically written, it is essential reading for therapists and mental health professionals as well as those struggling with suicidal feelings, their families and friends.”

Dying to be Free: a healing guide for families after a suicide, by Beverley Cobain & Jean Larch

“A healing guide for family members who have lost a loved one to suicide, this book contains recollections from suicide survivors to provide an insight into the confusion, fear, and guilt family members experience.”

Helping Children Cope with Grief: facing a death in the family, by Rosemary Wells

“Every day many children lose someone close to them - a parent or grandparent, brother or sister. Nothing can take away the pain of loss, but there is a great deal that a caring adult can do to avoid the long-term distress which can be caused by hidden fears and anxieties. This book is for anyone who wants to help a child who is coping with grief - parents, teachers, nurses, doctors and friends. The topics covered include: terminal illness; sudden death; the death of a sibling; when death is a relief; and other people’s attitudes and misunderstandings.”

Malignant Sadness: the anatomy of depression, by Lewis Wolpert

“Is depression a question of genetics, bad parental care, or distressing life events? This book presents in accessible terms what scientists and psychiatrists know about the subject.”

My Son… My Son…: a guide to healing after a suicide in the family, by Iris Bolton & Curtis Mitchell

“Iris Bolton’s personal story of her son’s suicide is a deeply moving, poignant one. It is a story of both a devastating tragedy and an exquisite triumph - and the agonising, relentless, conflicted process connecting these two oppositional pulls.”

One Step at a Time: mourning a child, by Betty Madill

“Writing from personal experience, Betty Madill offers practical suggestions to help people embark on their own path of healing and acceptance. It combines personal recommendations with recognized bereavement counselling advice.”

One Wild Song: a voyage in a lost son’s wake (paperback edn.), by Paul Heiney

“Poignant, moving, funny, thought provoking and beautifully written, Paul Heiney’s account of setting his own course through seemingly insurmountable grief makes for a powerful story. Injected with humour, perceptiveness and philosophy, recounting his highs, lows, frustrations and triumphs, the honesty and openness of Paul’s story makes this very personal account a universal tale.”

See also:

Reasons to Stay Alive (paperback edn.), by Matt Haig

“Aged 24, Matt Haig’s world caved in. He could see no way to go on living. This is the true story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again. A moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive, this is more than a memoir: it is a book about making the most of your time on Earth.”

See also:

Silent Grief: living in the wake of suicide, by Christopher Lukas & Henry M. Seiden

“This text provides insights into living in the wake of suicide and provides useful strategies and support for those affected by a suicide, as well as professionals in the field of psychology, social work and medicine.”

The Forgotten Mourners: sibling survivors of suicide, by Magdaline Halous DeSousa, John’s Sister

“This book is meant for anyone who has lost a brother or sister to suicide – and those who want to support them. Any loss is difficult, but a loss to suicide is heightened because of the helplessness and confusion surrounding it. A sibling loss to suicide is even more unique because the sibling(s) left behind are often forgotten – mourning the loss of their brother or sister alone in the shadows of their parents’ grief.

“Magdaline answers questions directly from her experience following the loss of her 18 year-old brother, John, to suicide in November 2001. Hopefully, her story will give readers a small piece of strength, faith, and peace in navigating the long road to healing ahead.”

The Scent of Dried Roses, by Tim Lott

The Scent of Dried Roses is Tim Lott’s moving and disturbing personal inquest into the death of his mother. Why did she kill herself? What had he, her son, to do with it?”

The Seven T’s: finding hope and healing in the wake of tragedy, by Judy Collins

“Beloved singer-songwriter Judy Collins draws on her personal experience with her son’s suicide to guide readers through grieving the loss of a loved one who has died under tragic circumstances.

“The death of a loved one is always painful and the grieving process complex and profound. Yet when the loss occurs under tragic circumstances, there is a whole other set of emotional variables that the people left behind must face. Questions abound, such as “Could I have stopped this?” Feelings of guilt, shame, and even anger combine with the overwhelming sadness of losing someone who was dearly loved.”

The Suicidal Mind, by Edwin Schneidman

“Presenting cases - recounted in the patients’ own words - that reveal the inner workings of the suicidal mind, Shneidman looks at suicide from a psychological perspective. He offers a wealth of insights to help understand and to prevent suicide.”

Touched by Suicide, by Michael F. Myers & Carla Fine

“In this definitive guide book, Michael F. Myers, MD, a leading psychiatrist, and Carla Fine combine their perspectives as a physician and a survivor to offer compassionate and practical advice to anyone affected by suicide.”

Why Suicide?: questions and answers about suicide, suicide prevention, and coping with the suicide of someone you know, by Eris Marcus

“Drawing from his own experience, as well as interviews with people who have been touched by suicide, Eric Marcus cuts through the veil of silence and misunderstanding to bring clarity, reassurance, and comfort to those who so desperately need it.”

You Can’t Catch Death: a daughter’s memoir, by Ianthe Brautigan

“This story is the author’s attempt to make sense of her famous father’s suicide. What emerges is a moving account of a complex, witty, caring man who was torn apart by internal demons, and of a writer who became a hero of the 50s and 60s counter-culture.”

Sarah Lungley

Sarah Lungley

I'm the mental health and wellbeing coordinator at Suffolk Libraries.