I’ve been directly impacted by three suicides in my thirty years of living. The first was a cousin I wasn’t close to, she died by suicide several years ago after a breakup with a boyfriend. The second was my ex-manager about 2-3 years ago after an argument with his wife. The last was Chester Bennington a couple months back, and although I’m no friend nor family of his, his death has shaken me and made more aware of my mortality.
This is why I decided to review this book by IVPress. Although it was first published in 2002, it has been revised and expanded and feels very up-to-date and relevant today.
Clarifying some terminology
I learnt several terms which I might clarify here just to make it easier for my readers. A “suicide survivor” usually refers to the person (whether a friend, a spouse, a sibling, a parent, or a child) left behind after a loved one dies by suicide. Also, the author prefers to use the phrase “died by suicide” because it is not a crime one “commits”, nor is it a project one successfully “completes” so the terms “commit suicide”, and “completed suicide” were avoided.
How the book is organised
The author, being a survivor of suicide himself after his father’s death, understands that the immediate period following a suicide can be disorienting and suggests helpfully that one can read the book in any order he/she wishes as some parts may prove more helpful than others. For myself, I read the book sequentially one chapter after the next from the first to the last and found that this was most helpful for me.
The book is divided into three parts:
- Part 1: When suicide strikes
- Part 2: The lingering questions
- Part 3: Life after suicide
The first part of the book touches on the various states of mind one might be in right after experiencing the suicide of a friend, colleague or family member. The chapters appropriately titled: “Shock”, “Turmoil”, “Lament”, “Relinquishment”, and “Remembrance” accurately describes how I felt after learning about what happened to my ex-manager. The author also helpfully describes how he experienced life after his father’s death and also references other similar books on the topic.
The second section deals with suicide survivors asking, “Why did this happen?” and also theological questions that pop up, such as whether suicide is the unforgivable sin. Finally, it wraps up with the perennial question of “Where is God when it hurts?”. For Christians, this can be very helpful in providing a framework of how to process the suicide of a loved one. It’s honest and frank and does not beat about the bush with pertinent questions one might have.
In the third and final portion, the author relates to us lessons of suicide, the spirituality of grief, and the also shares about the healing community. He shares about his experience with a support group of suicide survivors which was an incredible source of relief for him because he was around a group of “people who understood the grief of suicide.” He also suggests an online resource for countries or cities without suicide survivor support groups. The Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors (http://forum.allianceofhope.org) has a forum that allows people to connect with other survivors.
Even though I’ve experienced three suicides, those that died were not super close to me and I was shielded from the direct impact of their deaths. However, the most recent death of Chester Bennington did wake me up to realise that people do indeed care. The global outpouring of grief after his death made me promise to myself not to do something similar even in difficult times. This book has been very useful in helping me process my grief and I’m sure will also be a good tool for this impacted by suicide.
Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.