Books and Resources Coping with Loss Coping with suicide Family loss Grief Parents Who Have Lost a Child to Suicide Suicide loss Support Groups survivors of suicide loss

How to Survive the Death of a Child By Suicide-Support, Resources, and Hope

The following resources, book lists, narratives from parents who have lost a child to suicide, support groups, and more are meant to be a resource bank. Many have helped me keep on keeping on these past nine years of grieving.

Where to Find Support, Resources, and Hope-Losing a Child to Suicide

It takes as long as it takes. Be gentle with yourself. And in the wake of catastrophic loss, remember to breathe.

Beth Brown, My Forever Son
Rhapsody in Blue, Delphinium, My Forever Son

It takes as long as it takes. Be gentle with yourself. And in the wake of catastrophic loss, remember to breathe.

Beth Brown, My Forever Son

Surviving Your Child’s Suicide

The following resources, book lists, narratives from parents who have lost a child to suicide, support groups, and more are meant to be a resource bank. Many have helped me keep on keeping on these past nine years of grieving.

That’s when my world changed. That’s when hope for me became something I used to have. That’s when I lost my 20-year-old son, Dylan, to suicide.

Know you can survive; you may not think so, but you can.

Iris M. Bolton, “Beyond Surviving: Suggestions for Survivors”

“Beyond Surviving: Suggestions for Survivors”

by Iris M. Bolton

1. Know you can survive; you may not think so, but you can.

2. Struggle with “why” it happened until you no longer need to know “why” or until YOU are satisfied with partial answers.

3. Know you may feel overwhelmed by the intensity of your feelings but that all your feelings are normal.

4. Anger, guilt, confusion, forgetfulness are common responses. You are not crazy, you are in mourning.

5. Be aware you may feel appropriate anger at the person, at the world, at God, at yourself. It’s okay to express it.

6. You may feel guilty for what you think you did or did not do. Guilt can turn into regret, through forgiveness.

7. Having suicidal thoughts is common. It does not mean that you will act on those thoughts.

8. Remember to take one moment or one day at a time.

9. Find a good listener with whom to share. Call someone if you need to talk.

10. Don’t be afraid to cry. Tears are healing.

11. Give yourself time to heal.

12. Remember, the choice was not yours. No one is the sole influence on another’s life.

13. Expect setbacks. If emotions return like a tidal wave, you may only be experiencing a remnant of grief, an unfinished piece.

14. Try to put off major decisions.

15. Give yourself permission to get professional help.

16. Be aware of the pain in your family and friends.

17. Be patient with yourself and others who may not understand.

18. Set your own limits and learn to say no.

19. Steer clear of people who want to tell you what or how to feel.

20.Know that there are support groups that can be helpful, such as Compassionate Friends or Survivors of Suicide groups.

Iris Bolton, Suicide and its Aftermath (Dunne, McIntosh, Dunne-Maxim, Norton et al., 1987). American Association for Suicidology

Suicide Grief Websites and Support Groups

“After a Suicide” is a portal linking people who are grieving after a death by suicide to an online directory of resources and information to help them cope with their loss.  

Perhaps the figure is reeling from a loss so catastrophic that all one can do is scream to sky, to stars, to sun–to wherever forever is, to where forever is out of reach forever again.

Beth Brown, My Forever Son, From Sorrow to Joy: How Pain Colors Loss

The suicide of a child of any age presents unique circumstances that can intensify and prolong the mourning process for parents, family members and friends. Suicide is believed to be a reaction to overwhelming feelings of loneliness, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness and depression. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in the United States among 10-14 year olds and 15-24 year olds, and the second leading cause among 25-34 year olds.

2017 The Compassionate Friends, USA

Wear out your questions, anger, guilt, or other feelings until you can let them go. Letting go doesn’t mean forgetting.

Know that you will never be the same again, but you can survive and even go beyond just surviving.

Iris Bolton, Suicide and its Aftermath, (Dunne, McIntosh, Dunne-Maxim, Norton et al., 1987). American Association for Suicidology

In-Person Support Group Directories:

Hydrangea in Pastel Pink, My Forever Son

“Thoughts from a Long-Term Survivor of Suicide Loss”

By Desiree Woodland

Jul. 26, 2019 – Thirteen years ago, my son took his life. At the time, I could not imagine living one more day or hour without him, much less these many years. His absence was a heavy weight. I could barely breathe. The overwhelming pain, and the intense longing I felt for him, seemed unendurable.

With the passage of time and the facing of grief, I have adjusted to living my life without my son. Will I always wish it could have been different?  Of course. Ryan’s death was out of order: my child dying before me.

In many ways it feels like a dream that my child was ever here. The passage of time poses its own challenges. Cultivating hope over the long haul has required both tenacity and forgiveness. I have learned – and continue to learn – to forgive reality for what it is. Since losing my son, many changes have taken place in my heart. The loss changed my life’s trajectory. I am not the same person I was before Ryan died. There is a distinct before and after.

How have I changed?

My son accompanies me on this road that is paved with both sorrow and joy. Not his physical presence, but a deeper knowledge that he is still with me. He guides me as I walk, often stumbling, as I move forward to make life better for others as an offering to him.

I have become an advocate for youth mental illness awareness and suicide prevention. As a teacher and as a parent, I was not educated about mental illness and was in denial when it came to my own son. I now know that most people who die by suicide had a mental health disorder- whether unrecognized, undiagnosed, undertreated or untreated. Half of all serious mental illness begins by age 14, and yet often treatment doesn’t begin until ten years later.

Many survivors find that volunteering to support others facilitates their own healing, too. I am a facilitator for the Survivors of Suicide support group in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This has been part of my healing journey.  I value the fragility of life and the sacredness of every story I hear, from others who have lost loved ones to suicide. I value the privilege of being a companion to other hurting parents along the road of loss.

I have also become involved with a local program called Breaking the Silence NM. The program offers school presentations across the state, designed to help young people be in touch with their own mental health, and identify when what they’re going through might go beyond typical adolescence. We want them to know that treatment works, and that there is no shame in either counseling or medication. Additionally, we focus on the strengths associated with talking with a trusted adult about their struggles without shame or embarrassment; the importance of getting support from their friends; and exercise, eating right, and avoiding alcohol and smoking.

My involvement in these things has helped me in my own continuing journey as a long-term survivor of suicide loss.

In 2016, in Chicago, I attended the first AFSP long- term survivors of suicide loss conference, called “Our Journey Continues.”  The acknowledgement I felt at referring to myself as a long- term survivor was a refreshing relief. Grief is still grief, but society, and even we survivors, haven’t always known how to refer to ourselves. Long- term loss needs to be acknowledged in the suicide survivor community. We still need to be gentle with ourselves and take time to remember. As the author Rachel Naomi Remen says, we need to recognize the value of “revisiting our wounds to see what might have grown there.”

I sense that Ryan has left me with many gifts. I believe I am a better human being. I am less impatient. (Though not always!) I am less judgmental, and view life less through a black and white lens, but rather in shades of gray. I realize now that there is so much I don’t understand about our human lives, but I sense the mystery in them. Since Ryan’s loss, I have cultivated deeper friendships with others. I see the wisdom in my wound that offers a place of refuge and meaning not only for myself, but for others. I see more of the deep down of things, and have the sense that God is not hurried along in time. This understanding has allowed me to give myself permission to slow down and be more mindful in my life.

Coping with long-term loss is different than the more immediate loss of early grief. And somehow, we learn to find and use tools like journaling and writing poetry that lets in a little more light. We learn to be okay with the grief process, and maybe even to accept that process. We educate ourselves about suicide, and some of us find a way to heal our grief through suicide prevention advocacy, as well as the community found within AFSP’s Out of the Darkness Walks, and International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.

This poem expresses the longing I feel for my son, even as my life moves forward.

Don’t fade from my mind like words written on a letter long ago.

The memory of you was vivid and shot through with color.

The brightness of your smile, the warmth in your hazel eyes, the joy of your laugh.

With the passage of time I am unable to imagine how you would look now.

I see you through the sepia tones of time.

Stay sharp, stay poignant.

Don’t leave me again.

Desiree Woodland, “Thoughts from a Long-term Survivor of Suicide Loss,” AFSP

Phlox in Pink and White, My Forever Son

Coping with Impossible Grief: Losing a Child to Suicide

Nationally, suicide has emerged as the second leading cause of death for children ages 10-19 years old.

*Nearly 1 in 6 teens has seriously contemplated suicide in the past year.

*Suicide affects people of all backgrounds. 

*Early identification of risk factors can aid behavioral health specialists in prevention strategies for youth at risk of suicide.

*Suicide is complex and tragic yet often preventable if communities are provided with the right tools.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Center for Suicide and Research

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not a mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition and of unspeakable love.”

Washington Irving

Books About Healing After Suicide Loss

After Suicide. Hewett, J. (1980). Westminster Press.

After Suicide Loss: Coping with Your Grief. Baugher, R., & Jordan, J. R. (2002). Self-published (contact

Finding Peace Without All the Pieces: After A Loved One’s Suicide. Archibald, L. (2012). Larch Publishing.

Healing the Hurt Spirit: Daily Affirmations for People Who Have Lost a Loved One to Suicide. Greenleaf, C. (2006). St. Dymphna Press.

Life After Suicide: A Ray of Hope for Those Left Behind. Ross, E. B. (1997). Insight Books. Mourning After Suicide. Bloom, L. A. (1986). Pilgrim Press.

My Son, My Son: A Guide to Healing After a Suicide in the Family. Bolton, I. with Mitchell, C. (1984). Bolton Press.

No Time to Say Goodbye. Fine, C. (1999). Main Street Books.

Touched by Suicide: Hope and Healing After Suicide. Myers, M. F. & Fine, C. (2006). Gotham.

Books to Help Understand Suicide Loss: Principles, Theory, Guidance

Devastating Losses: How Parents Cope With the Death of a Child to Suicide or Drugs. Feigelman, W., Jordan, J. R., McIntosh, J. L., & Feigelman, B. (2011). Springer.

Grief After Suicide: Understanding the Consequences and Caring for the Survivors. Jordan, J. R., & McIntosh, J. L. (2010). Routledge.

The Impact of Suicide. Mishara, B. L. (1995). Springer.

Left Alive: After a Suicide Death in the Family. Rosenfeld, L., & Prupas, M. (1984). Charles C. Thomas.

Living with Grief after Sudden Loss. Doka, K. (1996). Taylor & Francis.

Retelling Violent Death. Rynearson E. K. (2001). Brunner/Routledge.

Rocky Roads: The Journeys of Families through Suicide Grief. Linn-Gust, M. (2010). Chellehead Works.

Silent Grief: Living in the Wake of Suicide (revised edition). Lucas, C., & Seiden, H. M. (2007). Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Suicide and Its Aftermath: Understanding and Counseling the Survivors. Dunne, E. J., McIntosh, J. L., & Dunne-Maxim, K. (1987). Norton.

Survivors of Suicide. Cain, A. C. (1972). Charles C. Thomas.

Why Suicide?: Questions and Answers About Suicide, Suicide Prevention, and Coping with the Suicide of Someone You Know (revised edition). Marcus, E. (2010). HarperOne.

A Winding Road: A Handbook for Those Supporting the Suicide Bereaved. Linn-Gust, M., & Peters, J. (2010). Chellehead Works.

Books about Personal Accounts: Lived Experiences with Suicide Grief

Artful Grief: A Diary of Healing. Strouse, S. (2013). Balboa Press.

Before Their Time: Adult Children’s’ Experiences of Parental Suicide. Stimming, Mary, & Stimming, Maureen. (1999). Temple University Press.

Blue Genes: A Memoir of Loss and Survival. Lukas, C. (2008). Doubleday.

Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Sibling. Linn-Gust, M. (2001). Bolton Press.

His Bright Light: The Story of Nick Traina. Steel, D. (1998). Delacorte Press.

In Her Wake: A Child Psychiatrist Explores the Mystery of Her Mother’s Suicide. Rappaport, N. (2009). Basic Books.

Real Men Do Cry. Hipple, E. (2008). Quality of Life Publishing Co.

Seeking Hope: Stories of the Suicide Bereaved. Linn-Gust, M., & Cerel, J. (2011). Chellehead Works.

Stronger Than Death: When Suicide Touches Your Life. Chance, S. (1992). Norton.

The Suicide Index: Putting My Father’s Death in Order. Wickersham, J. (2008). Mariner Books.

Words I Never Thought to Speak: Stories of Life in the Wake of Suicide. Alexander, V. (1991). Lexington Books.

Books to Help Children and Their Caregivers

After a Parent’s Suicide: Helping Children Heal. Requarth, M. (2008). Healing Hearts Press.

After a Suicide Death: An Activity Book for Grieving Kids. (2001). The Dougy Center.

But I Didn’t Say Goodbye: Helping Children and Families after a Suicide. Rubel, B. (2000). Griefwork Center.

Red Chocolate Elephants: For Children Bereaved by Suicide (includes DVD). Sands, D. (2010). Karridale Pty Ltd.

Someone I Love Died by Suicide: A Story for Child Survivors and Those Who Care for Them. Cammarata, D.T. (2009). Limitless Press.

from After a Suicide Resource Directory

Suicide Data and Statistics from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

SuicideData: United States State Fact Sheets

About International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

Each year, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention supports hundreds of large and small events around the world, in which survivors of suicide loss come together to find connection, understanding, and hope through their shared experience. Learn more

Where to Go for Online Support After Suicide Loss

Parents, Friends, or Family Members
Parents of Suicides 
Friends and Families of Suicides 

These two online groups offer support, hope, and healing for parents, friends, and families of those bereaved by the suicide of a child.

They are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Both online support groups for parents of suicides and families and friends of suicide are free.

These support groups for survivors consist of other bereaved parents (parents of suicides), and family and friends (Families and Friends of Suicide).

Perhaps the figure is reeling from a loss so catastrophic that all one can do is scream to sky, to stars, to sun–to wherever forever is, to where forever is out of reach forever again.

Beth Brown, My Forever Son, From Sorrow to Joy: How Pain Colors Loss

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By Beth Brown

Rememberer of dreams. Whisperer of gardens green.
At the whim of "Most Beloved" and a hot cup of tea.
I live life between, straddled here now and then,
My continuity through writing--
Pen dripping ink, mind swirling confused,
Love lingering still, and Most Beloved's purring soothes.

Blogger at "Gardens at Effingham" (where cats do the talking) and "My Forever Son" (where a mother's heart runs deep after losing her son to suicide)
Musician. Writer. Literary Connoisseur.
At the whim of a calico cat and a strong cup of tea.

7 replies on “How to Survive the Death of a Child By Suicide-Support, Resources, and Hope”

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