Sunday, 18 September 2016

A Special Scar: The Experiences of People Bereaved by Suicide

by Alison Wertheimer; foreword by Colin Murray Parkes

I hesitate to call this book a “must read”. And no, not all experiences in this life are necessary. You wouldn’t wish this one on your worst enemy.

The book is based on interviews of 50 suicide survivors conducted by the author, a suicide survivor herself. It’s not your typical “self-help” book. Nor is it an easy reading but, ultimately, a very gratifying one. You’ve got to get used to Ms Wertheimer’s dry, almost academic writing style. As Colin Murray Parkes points out,

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.

A hope — for those who tries to make sense of what happened, who is looking for clues which cannot change anything, who feels guilty, who feels alone, orphaned and abandoned, who feels angry and betrayed, who feels robbed of their past, present and future, who feels diminished, cut in half, who wants to talk and cannot talk, who strives both to forget it all and remember everything, who listens to the door opening with a familiar sound (could it be? ... but no), who wakes up in the middle of the night and thinks, thinks, thinks, who asks oneself, for the nth time, all these “why him?” or “why her?” or “why me?” or “what if?”, who wants to move away, to never wake up, to disappear, who needs to carry on as before — a hope is not a small thing.

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