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Everitt, H. (2015). Losing a Parent to Suicide (2014) by Marty Loy and Amy Boelk, published by Routledge. Att: New Dir. in Psychother. Relat. Psychoanal., 9(1):92-97.

(2015). Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, 9(1):92-97

Book Reviews

Losing a Parent to Suicide (2014) by Marty Loy and Amy Boelk, published by Routledge

Review by:
Hélène Everitt

This book caught my interest because one of my clients had experienced the loss of her mother through suicide ten years ago when she was eighteen years old. I wondered how Loy and Boelk's work could help me understand her better. I also wondered how suicide bereavement was different from other kinds of grief. Numbers are telling; children of parents who have died through suicide are two and half times more likely to commit suicide themselves (p. 3).

The starting point of this book is to give voice to survivors' perspectives and use them to inform bereavement counselling. The participants in this research were asked to reflect on their experience immediately after the trauma and a few years later. Their coping strategies are described and the kinds of support that they found to be helpful and unhelpful are identified. The uniqueness of this study comes from the account of their experiences not only around the time of the suicide, but a few years later, as adult survivors. Long-term impacts of early responses were not known as no studies existed in which adults described their experience of parental suicide in childhood. This work informs both psychotherapists and survivors of what helps healing.

The first chapter reviews the bereavement literature from Freud to Bowlby and beyond as well as outlining the procedures for the present study. All participants expressed the view that the retelling of the traumatic events was at the same time difficult and healing as they gained understanding, control, and meaning of the events. Their testimony supports Bowlby's recommendation to work with the pain of the loss: in the words of the authors they endorse his approach describing grief work as “a process of redefining the self and situation, accomplished through the realisation of the permanence of the loss and restructuring of the internal models to align them with any changes” (p. 8).


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