Books recommended by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Susan Garrison, MSW, LCSW adapted this list from the original by The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Practical Guides for Coping with a Suicide Loss After Suicide Loss: Coping with Your Grief
Bob Baugher, Ph.D., and Jack Jordan, Ph..D., 2002. Available through AFSP.
This excellent handbook is organized chronologically to follow the days, weeks, and months after a suicide loss. It includes straightforward information about psychiatric disorders, when to seek professional help, and practical strategies for coping and healing.
Black Suicide: The Tragic Reality of America’s Deadliest Secret
Alton R. Kirk, Ph.D., Beckham Publications Group, Inc. 2009.
A brief exploration of suicide in the African-American community, including a chapter dedicated to first-person accounts of black survivors of suicide loss.
The Gift of Second: Healing from the Impact of Suicide
Brandy Lidbeck, Gift Pub, 2016.
The Gift of Second by therapist and suicide loss survivor Lidbeck offers hope and advice to guide survivors through the desperate time after a suicide loss. Wise and compassionate, this valuable book explores the nature of grief and trauma, helps loss survivors let go of their burden of guilt and shame, and sets them on a healthy path to healing.
Lay My Burden Down: Unraveling Suicide and the Mental Health Crisis Among African-Americans
Alvin F. Poussaint, M.D., and Amy Alexander, Beacon Press, 2001.
One of only a few books addressing suicide and mental health problems within the African-American community.
Reaching Out After Suicide: What’s Helpful and What’s Not
Linda H. Kilburn, M.S.W. Available from KP Associates, LLC (KPAMASS@aol.com), 2008.
A clinical hospice social worker and survivor of her daughter’s suicide, Kilburn offers practical advice for well-meaning friends and family who want to reach out and be supportive after a suicide, but aren’t sure what to do or say.
Rocky Roads: The Journeys of Families Through Suicide Grief
Michelle Linn-Gust, Ph.D, Chellehead Works, 2010
Written by a survivor who lost a sibling, this guide explores the effects of suicide and grief on family relationships. Linn-Gust addresses the reasons some families work through their suicide loss and become stronger than before, while others struggle with coming back together as a family unit.
Silent Grief: Living in the Wake of Suicide
Christopher Lukas and Henry Seiden, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2007..
Co-authored by a psychologist and a survivor of multiple suicide losses, this book is written with sensitivity and understanding. The authors offer simple, constructive suggestions for healing, along with straightforward information and a message of hope.
Suicide of a Child
Adina Wrobleski, Centering Corp., 2002.
A basic guide for early bereavement after your child’s suicide, sharing comfortable, compassionate, easy-to-read observations and personal messages.
Suicide Survivors’ Handbook — Expanded Edition
Trudy Carlson, Benline Press, 2000.
Providing specific suggestions and practical advice from other survivors, the author addresses the questions: Why? What about shame and guilt? How long does the pain last? What helps? How do you deal with others?
Touched by Suicide: Hope and Healing After Loss
Michael F. Myers, M.D., and Carla Fine, Gotham Books, 2006.
Co-authored by a psychiatrist and a survivor, this book offers detailed steps, practical suggestions, and compassionate advice on coping with all aspects of suicide.
Unfinished Conversation: Healing From Suicide and Loss — A Guided Journey
Robert E. Lesoine and Marilynne Chopel, Parallax Press, 2013.
A journal kept as the author works to transform his grief following the loss of his best friend. The story is combined with tools and techniques which offer survivors effective new means to face their own experience. After each brief chapter of the author’s story revealing a particular stage or action in the aftermath of suicide, the survivor is invited through a series of related questions, to reflect on their own experiences and memories in order to facilitate a transformative healing process.
Why Suicide? Questions and Answers about Suicide, Suicide Prevention, and Coping with the Suicide of Someone You Know (2nd ed.)
Eric Marcus, HarperOne (a division of HarperCollins), 2010.
Eric Marcus was 12 years old in 1970, when he lost his father to suicide. More recently, his sister-in-law also took her life, prompting him to reconsider his own experience and revise his original and well-received, Why Suicide?Author of several notable books—including the New York Times bestselling autobiography of Olympic diving champion Greg Louganis—Marcus integrates his personal experience and journalistic skills in this comprehensive yet accessible primer on all aspects of suicide, its prevention, and aftermath. For more information visit www.whysuicidebook.com.
The Wilderness of Suicide Grief: Finding Your Way
Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. Companion Press, 2010.
Using the metaphor of grief as a wilderness, this guidebook, written by a grief counselor, offers 10 wisdom teachings, including: open to the presence of loss, misconceptions about suicide and grief, and reaching out for help. The author also offers an expanded version titled, Understanding Your Grief: Ten Touchstones of Finding Hope and Healing Your Heart, and the companion workbook, The Understanding Your Suicide Grief Journal.
Loss Survivor Stories
An Empty Chair: Living In The Wake of a Sibling’s Suicide
Sara Swan Miller, iUniverse, Inc, 2000.
Interviews with more than 30 sibling survivors all over the U.S., as well as the author’s own account of losing a sister to suicide.
A Special Scar: The Experience of People Bereaved by Suicide
Alison Wertheimer, Routledge, 2001.
The author, who lost her sister to suicide, presents interviews with 50 survivors covering a wide range of issues, including the press, stigma, guilt, anger, and rejection.
Before Their Time: Adult Children’s Experiences of Parental Suicide
Mary and Maureen Stimming, Temple University Press, 1999.
Adult child survivor accounts of their loss, grief, and resolution following a parent’s suicide. Separate sections offer perspectives on the deaths of mothers and fathers. Includes the reflections of four siblings on the shared loss of their mother.
Blue Genes: A Memoir of Loss and Survival
Christopher Lukas, Doubleday, 2008.
As a young boy, Christopher (Kit) Lukas, co-author of Silent Grief: Living in the Wake of Suicide, survived the suicide of his mother. Neither he nor his brother were told how she died, and both went on to confront their own struggles with depression, a disease that ran in their family. In 1997, Kit’s brother Tony, a Pulitzer-prize winning author, took his own life. Blue Genes is Kit’s exploration of his family history, his personal journey, and his determination to find strength and hope.
History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life
Jill Bialosky, Atria Books, 2011.
Writer Jill Bialosky was pregnant with her first child in 1990 when her 21-year-old half-sister, Kim, took her life. Jill’s grief was compounded by the loss of her baby within just a few months. This memoir, written nearly 20 years later, shares a detailed personal investigation of her family’s complicated history, and of Kim’s struggle with depression and addiction. (This book is recommended for survivors who are further along in their grief. Newly-bereaved survivors may find it overwhelming.)
In Her Wake: A Child Psychiatrist Explores the Mystery of Her Mother’s Suicide
Nancy Rappaport. Basic Books, 2009.
Now a child psychiatrist, at the age of four Dr. Nancy Rappaport lost her mother to suicide. Encouraged by her own children’s curiosity about their grandmother, and fortified by her professional training in psychiatry, she began to look into her mother’s life and death. Drawing on court papers, newspaper clippings, her mother’s unpublished novel, and interviews with family and friends, Rappaport explores the impact of her mother’s suicide from the perspective of a daughter, psychiatrist, wife, and mother herself, in this deeply personal memoir.
Letters to Mitch: The Healing Power of Grief, Love & Truth
Marshall Dunn, Montego Creative Inc., 2016.
A memoir in the form of a series of raw, heartfelt letters, this account of the author’s grief and spiritual journey in the wake of the suicide death of his elder brother, Mitch, encourages readers to embrace change and honor the life with which they have been gifted. This book is recommended only for longer-term loss survivors; the blunt, unvarnished nature of some of the writing may be upsetting to people who lost someone to suicide more recently.
Never Regret the Pain: Loving and Losing a Bipolar Spouse
Sel Erder Yackley, Helm Publishing, 2008.
In this memoir, a mother of three provides an intimate glimpse into her family’s struggle to understand, cope with, and grieve the bipolar disorder and ultimate suicide of her husband, a well-respected judge.
The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War
Yochi Dreazen, Crown Publishing, 2014.
Major General Mark Graham was a decorated two-star officer whose integrity and patriotism inspired his sons, Jeff and Kevin, to pursue military careers of their own. His wife Carol was a teacher who held the family together while Mark’s career took them to bases around the world. When Kevin and Jeff die within nine months of each other—Kevin commits suicide and Jeff is killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq—Mark and Carol are astonished by the drastically different responses their sons’ deaths receive from the Army. While Jeff is lauded as a hero, Kevin’s death is met with silence, evidence of the terrible stigma that surrounds suicide and mental illness in the military. Convinced that their sons died fighting different battles, Mark and Carol commit themselves to transforming the institution that is the cornerstone of their lives.
Hope After Suicide: One Woman’s Journey from Darkness to Light
Wendy Parmley, Cedarfort Publishing, 2014.
After losing her mother to suicide when she was twelve years old, Wendy Parmley learned firsthand the anguish, despair, and loneliness of survivors of suicide. Wendy shares her story of both sorrow and healing, and how she learned to open her once-shattered heart years after her mother’s suicide, giving hope and comfort to those affected by such tragedy.
Passing Reflections, Volume III: Surviving Suicide Loss through Mindfulness (revised and expanded edition)
Kristen Spexarth, Big Think Media, 2016.
In this powerful volume of poetry, the author reflects on the suicide of her eldest son, Colby. Organized by date, the poems record, in vivid language and imagery, Spexarth’s intense grief, and her eventual journey towards healing and reconnection. The book also includes narrative sections offering guidance on how one might foster healing through mindfulness practice in the midst of trauma.
Remembering Garrett: One Family’s Battle with a Child’s Depression
United States Senator Gordon H. Smith, Caroll & Graf, 2006.
A personal account by the U.S. Senator from Oregon, whose 21-year-old son took his own life, and whose speech on the Senate floor led to overwhelming bipartisan support for the passage of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, which increased federal funding to prevent youth suicide.
Sanity & Grace: A Journey of Suicide, Survival, and Strength
Judy Collins, Tarcher/Penguin, 2003.
A celebrity and grieving mother shares her story about the loss of her son to suicide, and her own struggle with mental illness.
Suicide Survivors’ Club: A Family’s Journey through the Death of Their Loved One
Rebecca Anderson (Author/Suicide Loss Survivor), Laurie Phillips (Artist/Storyteller), 2016.
This beautifully illustrated 5-book set depicts the aftermath of a husband/father’s suicide through the eyes and in the words of his wife and children (ages 19, 7, and 5). The brief books “Becky,” “Pattie,” “Aidan,” and “Will” explore the feelings of suicide loss survivors of any age and the healing power of art. The fifth book, “Parenting the Suicide Survivors’ Club,” is a short memoir by mom Rebecca that reflects the challenges of holding a family together as the sole remaining parent.
The Empty Chair: The Journey of Grief After Suicide
Beryl Glover, In Sight Books, 2000.
The grief process, as experienced by people dealing with varying emotions following the suicide of a family member.
The Suicide Index: Putting My Father’s Death in Order
Joan Wickersham, Harcourt Inc., 2008.
Wickersham creates an index to try to make sense of her father’s suicide, assembling family history, business failures, and encounters with friends and doctors into a philosophical, deeply personal, and beautifully written exploration of the mystery of her father’s life and death.
The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah
Josh Rivedal, Skookum Hill; 1 edition (September 5, 2013)
A memoir. The story of actor and playwright, Josh Rivedal as he copes with his father’s and grandfather’s suicides, his own clinical depression and suicidal thoughts, and his recovery. The Gospel According to Josh is based in part on his acclaimed one-man show.
After a Parent’s Suicide: Helping Children Heal
Margo Requarth, Healing Hearts Press, 2006.
Written by a bereavement counselor who lost her mother to suicide before she was four years old, this book offers constructive, compassionate, and clear suggestions for helping children.
Supporting Children After a Suicide Loss: A Guide For Parents and Caregivers
Sarah Montgomery, LCSW-C and Susan Coale, LCSW-C , Chesapeake Life Center, 2014.
This unique book provides parents and caregivers with helpful information to better understand and communicate with children grieving a loss to suicide with a special focus on child development and how to talk with children of various ages.
After a Suicide: A Workbook for Grieving Kids
Available through The Dougy Center.
This workbook for children includes explanations of mental illness and suicide, creative exercises, practical advice, and quotations from child survivors.
But I Didn’t Say Goodbye: For Parents and Professionals Helping Child Suicide Survivors
Barbara Rubel, Griefwork Center, Inc., 2000.
Narrated by a child, this book is intended for adults to read and then share with children.
Conversations of Courage: A Caregiver-Guided Activity Journal for the Child of Suicide Loss
Erika Barber, MAT, CCLS, AFSP Illinois Chapter, 2016.
To order Conversations of Courage, email Illinois@afsp.org.
This 81-page interactive workbook encourages and facilitates healthy and truthful conversations between an adult caregiver and a child, meaning-making, and emotional expression following the loss of a loved one to suicide.
My Uncle Keith Died
Carol Ann Loehr, Trafford Publishing, 2006.
Written in clear, simple language easily understood by children, this book offers hope and practical methods to explain suicide to children.. It explains the difference between sadness and depression, and describes how chemical imbalances in the brain cause illnesses that can result in suicide.
Someone I Love Died By Suicide: A Story for Child Survivors and Those Who Care for Them
Doreen Cammarata, Grief Guidance, Inc., 2000.
An illustrated book explaining depression and suicide in child-friendly language.
Understanding Suicide, Supporting Children
The Dougy Center.
This is a 24-minute film which provides insight on the emotions and experiences that children, teens and families affected by a suicide death often go through, and offers ways to help. The DVD and guide are a resource for training purposes, or for general viewing by parents, therapists, counselors, and others. Find more information on The Dougy Center website.
For Adolescents and Teenagers
After Francis Chalifour, Tundra, 2005.
Nominated for the Canadian Governor General’s Literary Awards in 2005, this autobiographical novel tells the story of 15-year-old Francis, whose father took his own life. It explores Francis’s struggles with guilt, anger, and profound sadness, and his search for hope, during the first year after his father’s suicide.
After a Suicide: Young People Speak Up
Susan Kuklin, Putnam Publishing Group, 1994.
Nine personal accounts of survivors, many of whom are teens.. Each account focuses on a specific topic, such as losing a parent, losing a sibling, seeking therapy, or using support groups.
Real Men Do Cry: A Quarterback’s Inspiring Story of Tackling Depression and Surviving Suicide Loss
Eric Hipple, with Dr. Gloria Horsley and Dr. Heidi Horsley. Quality of Life Publishing Co., 2008.
A former NFL quarterback for the Detroit Lions, Hipple candidly shares his experience surviving his 15-year-old son’s suicide, including his own lifelong struggle with depression, bankruptcy, imprisonment for drunk driving, and ultimate decision to seek treatment. A practical guide for men and the women who care about them.
When Suicide Comes Home: A Father’s Diary and Comments
Paul Cox, Bolton Press 2002.
A father’s perspective on the first year following his son’s suicide, this book is written in a simple, straightforward style, making it easy reading for early grief. Though written from a father’s perspective, female readers (especially spouses) have said that the book helped them to better understand the male experience of grief.