March 21, 2010

Buddhist books, articles on how to cope with Suicide of a loved one?

Recently, a fellow Buddhist sangha (community) member lost a dear friend to suicide. She inquired of our sangha if there were any resources out there that might help her, and the family of her friend, “bring obstacles to the path.”

Dear loving and large sangha,

A dear friend has just lost one of her sisters, only in her 30’s, to suicide.

She has come to me asking for Buddhist support materials about coping with her loss.

I know of some good books on death and Buddhism, but I am wondering if anyone in particular has good practices/articles/essays on how to use Buddhist practice to cope? Most of what is out there on the internet is oriented towards classical Buddhist philosophy.

Many thanks,

I emailed M:

Can you let me know what kind of helpful responses you get? I’d like to make them more widely available via elephantjournal.com. I’ve lost several loved ones in my lifetime already to suicide.

M. replied:


Sorry to hear that. Ugh. I am getting a lot of really general posts, you know, like “read Pema’s Things Fall Apart.” Maybe I wasn’t clear enough – cuz that’s not helpful. My friend’s really trying to get at this specific loss of suicide, which, as I suspect you know, isn’t the same on a lot of levels.

So far, i think I am going to send her the following:

> Making Friends with Death Judith Lief (deals more with dying, but it is really good)
> Five Ways we Grieve by Susan A Berger (self help Buddhist; since she just also lost her dad this looks great)

Then for non-Buddhist, specifically re suicide, this is what i have found with an hour’s worth of research on Amazon:

> no time to say goodbye by carla fine (main st books) memoir/self help – context/intellectual**
> Silent Grief by Christopher Lukas (Jessica Berger) – self help***
> Dying to be Free by Beverly Cobain (self help to heal the family)**

the last one is Kurt Cobain’s sister!

If you have anything personal to recommend that is not necessarily Buddhist but akin, please do.


I asked my mom, a senior Buddhist student and teacher, if she knew of any resources.

Mom, any advice on good books to read to help cope with a loved one’s suicide from a Buddhist perspective?

Her response:

It’s slim pickings.
> The best for all death is the Tibetan Book of the Dead, esp. the Francesca  Fremantle/VCTR edition  The prayers at the end are very helpful, esp. pp100-102
> Facing Death and Finding Hope by C Longaker but there’s just a few relevant pages
> Chogyam Trungpa “Acknowledging Death” in the Heart of the Buddha
> Chapter 9 of Boundless Healing by Tulku Thondup is on death

Because suicide is rare and frowned upon by Buddhadharma cultures, there’s not much specific written about the issue.  Judith Lief has written the most re: Death.


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