You may be wondering…
I feel so alone. Where can I meet other people who’ve lost a loved one to suicide?
The various survivors support groups I attended were a lifeline that helped me understand what I was experiencing and introduced me to the wider suicide loss community, as I write about in Chapter 10 of I’ll Write Your Name on Every Beach. If you’ve never been to one of these support groups, I strongly recommend you look for one in your area here or here.
There are also online 24/7 forums, like Alliance of Hope for Survivors of Suicide Loss, and annual gatherings like International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day or the annual AAS Healing Conference that might be helpful. Another approach is to contact a local suicide prevention organization or crisis hotline for referrals to support near you.
How did you manage to write a book about this painful topic?
Writing has always been a precious emotional and creative outlet for me. My peak period was around age 10, spinning short stories like “The Tidybanks” in cursive at the little white desk in my bedroom. Like a lot of people, I kept journals in my teens and twenties and dreamed of writing a book that would tell some piece of my story. I finally returned to a regular writing practice in my fifties and began to experiment with poetry.
After I lost my son to suicide, my journal entries were reduced to scrawls in huge capital letters on tear-stained pages, then simple lists (like What I Failed to Do), followed gradually by coherent paragraphs. I felt an urgent need to put my voice out in the world, in part to combat the shame and isolation of suicide grief, in part to better understand it. So about three months after the suicide, I began refining those journal entries into blog posts. And after about two years of blogging, I started thinking about how I could reshape material from the blog to form the basis of a book. If I hadn’t already had dozens of blog posts as a starting point and gotten lots of good feedback on the blog, I’m not sure how, where, or even if I would have started a book. I might have waited years more until I could face looking at what happened with hindsight, like many authors of suicide grief memoirs.
In addition to having the blog as a foundation, it helped tremendously that I had already written a nonfiction book for my academic career and understood some of the steps in the process, like writing a book proposal and structuring a Table of Contents. Taking classes on writing memoir and personal essays and talking to other writers also spurred me forward. And there’s nothing like a cancer diagnosis to get a person moving on a long-incubating goal; after I heard from the doctor in fall, 2016; I knew I had to get this book out to the world, now. (And my health is fine now, thanks.) It’s a privilege to be able to have it published.
So this book is the bittersweet fulfillment of a lifelong dream. I never dreamed that the book I would finally write would stem from tragic loss–and that my son, Noah, would never have the chance to live his dreams.
What else are you wondering?
Let’s continue the conversation! I’d appreciate hearing your comments and questions about the book, or your own experiences with suicide loss or with grief generally. If you have resources and tips that may be helpful to others, please share them here! Posts may be edited for length; standard Netiquette rules apply.