The first edition of this important book opened our eyes to the special needs of people bereaved by suicide. Since that time the author and others have increased our understanding of these needs and have helped to develop services to meet them. In this second edition she has drawn on this knowledge and experience to augment and enhance the foundation which she laid.
Why should it matter so much how people die? Surely what really matters is how they lived? Yet the way to death does matter. One of the saddest things about suicide is the fact that it may become the only thing that is remembered about a person, and remembered with fear. Part of the reason for this is the difficulty which we, the survivors (for we are all survivors), have in making sense of anything so senseless. Suicide calls into question the priority which we give to life, it outrages our basic assumptions. When life is all we know, how can anyone be anti-life?
This book is written by a survivor of suicide. Alison Wertheimer lost her own sister by suicide, but she has not made the mistake of assuming that this makes her an expert on the subject. Her expertise comes from very wide reading and from the systematic interviews she has carried out with fifty other people who have been bereaved by suicide. In fact she is very self-effacing and she avoids pontificating, theorising, and offering simple answers to complex problems. In much of the book she allows the survivors to speak for themselves, elsewhere she quotes the opinions of others, but they are always opinions offered for our consideration rather than holy writ. And because she shows us bereavement through the eyes of the bereaved, what we see is often direct and painful, but not without hope. Her witnesses are coming through one of the most painful and complicated types of bereavement. Little by little, in their own ways, they are picking up the pieces and assembling a new model of the world. Often, one feels, it is a stronger and more mature set of assumptions which is emerging and we, the readers, are privileged to share in this process of maturation.
There are, of course, many kinds of suicide and many different reactions to suicide which may be appropriate. There are suicides which come