The Suicide Survivors' Club
Reviewed by Ginny Sparrow, AAS Book Review Chairman
Among the dozens of books that have been written by suicide loss survivors to support other survivors, the collection of small books titled Suicide Survivor’s Club is a very unique example. It is not quite like any other book (or series of books) in this domain, and as such, may well be of help to parents and children in a family where a parent has taken their life. In essence, the five volumes in the Suicide Survivor’s Club are the stories of a wife/mother, and each of her three children (a daughter, 18, and two sons, 7 & 5), as they confronted the suicide of their husband/father. The fifth volume is written by Becky, the wife/mother, about the challenges of parenting her children and holding her broken family together after the suicide of her husband.
Each volume is a very brief, “bare-bones” narrative about one family member and how suicide has impacted and changed their life as an individual, and their lives together as a family – from that individual’s perspective. The author (Laurie Phillips) has based the text of each volume on extensive discussions with each member of the family. The words are simple, searing, and authentic. Each volume is also exquisitely illustrated, and very spare in its prose. The books look and read like a children’s book, and the volumes by the younger children would make fine reading for any children above the age of 5 or 6. But the simplicity of the prose and illustrations should not mislead the reader – each volume of the Suicide Survivor’s Club is a rich glimpse into the inner thoughts and feelings of a given family member. Reading them is almost like sitting next to the person, listening to them relate what their journey has been like for them. The volumes are also rich with ideas about coping, surviving, and even growing stronger after such a tragedy. The volumes offer real hope about healing – they can be of help to any family who want to know how another family like theirs has survived the catastrophe of losing a husband/father to suicide.
John (Jack) Jordan, PhD, is a licensed psychologist who's worked with survivors of suicide and other traumatic losses for more than 35 years. He is the Professional Advisor to the Loss and Healing Council of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). He is Co-Chair of the Survivors of Suicide Loss Task Force of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. This Task force has released postvention guidelines titled Responding to Grief, Trauma, and Distress After Suicide: U.S. National Guidelines.