How Parents Cope With the Death of a Child to Suicide or Drugs

William Feigelman, Ph.D., John R. Jordan, Ph.D.,
John L. McIntosh, Ph.D., & Beverly Feigelman, LICSW

New York, NY: Springer - 2012

This book is based on the largest study of suicide survivor parents ever conducted (575 individuals). In addition to a large sample of parents bereaved by the suicide of a child, the study also collected data on parents who have lost a child to drug-overdose (non-suicide), accidents, and natural causes, allowing for ground-breaking comparisons of the impact of different types of losses. By also including a range of parents from the very recently bereaved to those who were 10 or more years after their loss, the book also allows a cross-sectional look at the “trajectory” of parental bereavement over time. The book includes chapters on the role of stigma in grief, utilization of various support resources (including support groups), the marital impact of traumatic child loss, post traumatic growth, and other important topics that have been poorly studied in large samples up until now. Written in part by a couple (Bill & Beverly Feigelman) who lost their only son to suicide, Devastating Losses is also filled with the stories and vignettes of real bereaved parents who shared their painful journey with the researchers. It will be of help to clinicians, researchers, and bereaved parents alike.

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Publication Reviews:

“Grounded equally in solid clinical practice and uniquely relevant research, and tragically leavened by the personal bereavement of two of the book's authors, Devastating Losses sheds new and compassionate light on the experience of a child's death to traumatic causes.  Readers will find in these pages the stories of many who have suffered the unspeakable death of a son or daughter to suicide, drug overdose, or fatal accident, and who have struggled with and often surmounted the subsequent symptoms and stigmatization with the help of family, peer support, online communities and sometimes professional help.  This book is for all parents who experience the tragedy of sudden bereavement, and all those who try to help them, as they reach through suffering to survivorship, and from grief to growth in the journey.”

--Robert A. Neimeyer, PhD, Editor of the journal Death Studies, Techniques of Grief Therapy: Creative Practices for Counseling the Bereaved and Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society: Bridging Research and Practice

“This volume is a pioneering and long overdue work, a study not only of grieving parents who lost a child to suicide but also of parents whose children succumbed to drug overdoses. The authors have done a masterful job of blending their quantitative research findings and the anguished voices of parents attending survivor support groups to create a rich and very engaging book. Their scope is huge as they discuss the unique characteristics of traumatic loss, how stigma affects grief and healing, the impact of multiple losses, early and later years after losing a child, the essentials of bereavement support groups (including internet groups), post traumatic growth and resilience, gender differences in grieving parents and how losing a child affects marital function and continuance. Clinicians who read “Devastating Losses” will come away with enhanced empathy, essential new insights and a skill set that will give sustenance and hope to these shell-shocked yet courageous parents on a bumpy journey of recovery and repair, a journey they never asked for.”

Michael F Myers, MD Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY and Author (with Carla Fine) of Touched by Suicide: Hope and Healing after Loss