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Book Review - After Suicide

by E. Betsy Ross
Perseus Publishing, 1997
Review by Diana Pederson
Mar 7th 2003

People who commit suicide may feel that their death is better for themselves and their loved ones or friends.  They have reached the end of their tolerance for a problem or problems in their own life.  Unfortunately, a person committing suicide isn't in the state of mind to consider the horrific effects this act has on those left behind.

The first section of the book (chapters 1 and 2) include Ross's personal story followed by some short comments from other suicide survivors.  Ross lost her husband to suicide.  She shares in detail the story of her life from the moment her husband shoots himself until she recovers from the horrible grief and stress his suicide caused her.  Unfortunately, suicide is often considered a possible homicide in this country and survivors are treated as possible suspects.  This just intensifies the grief the family is already feeling.  This grief is compounded if family turns its back because of their inability to cope with the fact that your husband, wife, child, aunt, uncle, grandparent, or close friend chose to end his/her life.  This chapter should be read by anyone contemplating this final act - perhaps it will open their eyes to the fact that they aren't ending problems; they are just opening another group of problems for their family or friend to cope with.

The second section includes some very useful information.  Chapter 3 deals with the grief cycle following a suicide that also includes a discussion of posttraumatic stress. A discussion of helping yourself following a suicide
is found in Chapter 4.  Here you will find a good discussion of coping with the steps of grief:  control, anger, guilt, action, and coping rituals. Forty-nine tips for helping yourself survive are provided.  Study this list of tips and choose some to try if you are trying to regain your focus after a suicide.  Surely one of them will be just what you needed to do. 

Chapter 5, A Time to Talk, a Time to Listen is, in my opinion, the most useful chapter in this book if you are the relative or friend of someone surviving suicide.  It gives examples of what to say along with what NOT to say.  Some excellent listening techniques are also provided.  This chapter may also apply to anyone going through grief due to death from natural causes (aging, disease).  If you read no other chapter, be sure to read this one before trying to help someone get over suicide.

The remaining chapters (chapters 7-11) discuss:  being widowed by a suicide, helping children cope, God and suicide, and provide some practical things that must be done after a suicide occurs.  This author stresses the value of joining a suicide support group while going through the process of grieving.  The members will understand the differences between grief from a natural death and grief from a suicide.

The third informational section includes these topics:  reflections about suicide, deadly messages, breaking free, a unifying force, and not so unusual experiences.  These are practical chapters that will help you get back on your feet.  Knowing the information will also enable to you to be helpful to a family member or friend recovering from the lost of a loved one through suicide.

Section four lists resources about suicide.  This information will help locate everything from written material to support groups.

© 2003 Diana Pederson

Diana Pederson lives in Lansing, Michigan.