Those They Left Behind:
Interviews, Stories, Essays and Poems by Survivors of Suicide

Karen Mueller Bryson, Ph.D., 2006. ISBN 1430307552.
Reviewed by Trilla Pando
Posted on 08/22/2007

Nonfiction: Memoir; Anthologies/Collections; Nonfiction: Life Lessons

This had to be a hard book to put together. It is a hard book to read, but also it is a comforting one. The subject of suicide is never easy to think about. For those whose lives are touched by the actions of family or loved ones it is more than painful.

Author Karen Mueller Bryson knows this first hand. In the introduction to this collection she shares that her own life was permanently changed and molded by the suicide of her father when she was twenty-five.

Bryson is acutely aware of the statistics about suicide—each year in the United States more than 30,000 people choose to take their own lives. These actions profoundly change the lives of many more—those who are left behind—the focus of this collection. She chose to go beyond statistics to the "real person...writing about their experiences with tragedy and despair."

When Bryson began her search for suicide survivors (her term for those left behind) she was uncertain what the response would be. She recounts the overwhelming response. People want to tell their stories, to share their pain, and to heal in the process.

This book contains the stories of more than fifty people who have struggled with this loss. As I said, it is not an easy book to read. We ache through the stories of Ann, a woman who lost both her husband, who was 39, and almost twenty years later, her 29 year-old son, or Tracy, whose 16 year-old son took his life with a deer rifle. The losses are staggering. This is indeed tragedy, but it is also hope. As the stories unfold, there is comfort. People do indeed survive and go on with meaningful lives.

This book will be invaluable for those who have shared these tragic circumstances, but it is not for them alone. Any compassionate reader will gain from the honesty and love that imbues the stories.

Bryson has done a great service by gathering and sharing these stories. As she says in the introduction, "it helps us to read the stories of others—to know that we are not alone in our despair."

This book is available for purchase, but it may also be downloaded free at

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