Book Reviews by Group Members
Two New Book Reviews by Ben Franz
Darkness Visible – A Memoir of Madness by William Styron
One Friday in April – A story of Suicide and Survival by Donald Antrim
Some of the most common questions we hear from survivors that have lost a friend or loved one to suicide are “Why did this happen?” or “Didn’t they know how much we loved them?” or “How could they have been in so much pain without our knowing it?”. Suicide is incomprehensible and our bewilderment makes our grief even more unbearable. The language available to describe mental illness and to grasp for understanding is limited. The medical and psychiatric professions use terminology that is, at best, opaque and unhelpful to the survivors tortured by grief, doubt, confusion, guilt, and anger over their loss. Having some slight understanding of what happened to explode their world may be helpful in the healing process.
Some books that helped Michael Gray, an SOS member, blogger, and father, navigate the wilderness of grief after his son, Jon, died by suicide. Some of these are in the SOS library. Please click on the icons to read more.
1. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Viktor Frankl, who survived years in a concentration camp, said that those who survived the holocaust had a reason to live. That tells a sad story about those who didn't survive but is a wake-up call for those of us who are still here...
2. What Makes you Not a Buddhist by Jamyang Khyentse
In this book, a Tibetan lama shares how the Buddha discovered that the cure for universal suffering is to recognize that everything we care about is impermanent,,,,
3. The Meaning of Grief by David Kessler
Anyone who has suffered the loss of something of great value to them is faced with a choice between retreating into the darkness or searching for meaning in their loss...
4. I Still Believe by Desiree Woodland
This book shares Desiree's struggle to regain her faith ( to believe again that an all-knowing God is still caringly in charge and present in her universe) after her son was taken by the scourge of mental illness and suicide...
After Suicide Loss: Coping With Your Grief
by Bob Baugher, Ph.D. & Jack Jordan, Ph.D.
Review by Laurie Nelson
I wish this little book, a 67-page guideline for dealing with suicide, could be handed out to everyone who is dealing with a suicide in the family. The first part of the book is invaluable for those who have just lost a loved one, but how many of us are likely to find such a book at that difficult time?
Although it’s a good one to suggest to someone who has just lost a family member, this book can also be very helpful to those who are farther along in their grief process. And it is also helpful for those who want to help a friend or family member cope with suicide loss. One section lists what to say or not to say to someone who has lost a loved one by suicide.
Here are some of the topics covered:
Dealing w/the media
Deciding what to tell people about the death
Checklist to prepare for the funeral or memorial service
Description of normal reactions to suicide--non-judgmental
Dealing with advice to “get over it”
What to do if grief becomes overwhelming
Healthy coping behaviors
Helping children deal with grief and guilt
VERY IMPORTANT - Deciding what to keep and dealing with other people’s reactions to your decisions.
Read this book for its excellent content, no matter where you or someone you know is in the grief process.
There is also a 2nd edition that has been updated and expanded to more than twice the length of this one.
Goodnight Mr. Vincent van Gogh
by Lindsay Doolittle, illustrated by those who have lost a loved one to suicide.
Published by FH Books, Kansas City
Review by: Desiree Woodland Albuquerque, New Mexico. author of I Still Believe
Author Lindsay Doolittle, an elementary school art teacher lost her husband to suicide. She wanted to find a way to explain suicide to her young students. Goodnight Mr. Vincent van Gogh is the result. It is a unique way to begin the conversation with children. As a teacher also, I have not found many books that can create a safe place for children to learn about this sensitive topic.
The story is engaging and does not feel contrived. Opal Louise is struggling with anger and this affects her friendships, her school, and her home life. Underneath the anger is a great sadness she feels after the death of her uncle. Her mother gently leads her to understand that underneath suicide there is an illness called depression. Using a picture book of art, the mother finds Van Gogh’s Starry Night to talk about his sadness. Van Gogh’s story allows Opal Louise to make the connection to her uncle. The mother continues the conversation and tells Opal that people who have depression don’t think the same way and the sadness caused them to take their own life.
Several important points are made in the book that will help children deal with a suicide death. When they feel sad, they may feel that they might take their life too. The mother in the book reassures Opal that that is not the case. The second point is that suicide is no one’s fault. This is so important for young children to understand because they sometimes feel that it is their fault. This book will open the conversation to any feelings of responsibility. I recommend this book for survivors of suicide support group libraries as well as school social workers and counselors.