How to Survive Suicide

By Patricia Spencer

When my 17 year old son died by suicide in 2010, I got sucked into the bowels of hell. Eighteen months later, my life was unrecognizable. My 23 year marriage had dissolved, I had left the country, and I was suicidal myself. My life was shattered, strewn around me like wreckage from a plane crash. Everything I had worked for and believed in was gone. I didn’t care if I lived or died. I had nothing left from which to draw. In searching for guidance, I found some books about grief in general (which don’t address the many suicide-specific issues of bereavement), a couple of suicide-related ones written from a dispassionate distance, and one voyeuristic book that was little more than a litany of disturbing descriptions of deaths by suicide. I didn’t find a book that warned me about the interpersonal dynamics that often play out to the detriment of the survivors, or about the mindsets that confound recovery. I didn’t find a book that assured me that with hard work on my part, this tragedy was not only survivable, but could eventually yield an unexpected bounty of gifts. This book is rooted in my own experience and my analysis of it once I was able to see past the grief to the world again. It also draws on the patterns I’ve seen in the lives of other survivors who have shared their stories in the suicide survivors recovery group that I have facilitated since 2012. This book is me, sitting with you, having a conversation about how I and others have gotten through this. It describes the dynamics and mindsets that work against you, the overarching pattern of recovery, and some concrete things you can do to help yourself heal. It’s all from the heart. This book is the last thing that a person with depression (me) expected to be able to put together: a hopeful book about surviving a terrible tragedy.

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