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How does a parent ever cope with losing a child, let alone to something as unthinkable as suicide? This was the question that Jan Andersen had asked herself many times prior to losing her eldest son Kristian in November 2002. However, when the unimaginable did happen, instead of giving up on life as so many would, she began to channel her grief into what I can only describe as an incredible piece of writing.
Not only has the author tackled an immensely difficult and highly emotional topic, but she has articulated her thoughts, feelings and experiences in such a way that the reader can vividly picture the scene and almost feel her suffering.
In the book’s introduction, the author says, “When my son died, I wanted to die. I was caught in an undercurrent of frightening and unbearably painful grief, the enormity of which is impossible to describe in the limited words that exist in the English language. I was thrown violently around, in danger of being sucked under and drowning. I am confined to repeatedly using words such as excruciating, crucifying, crushing, overwhelming, torment, anguish, devastating, horrifying, shattering, shock, disbelief and so on. There is a need for a new set of words to be created to describe the depths of emotions that cannot adequately be conveyed using words that currently exist.”
Nevertheless, despite the author’s own admission about the repetition of certain “trauma” words, she has successfully managed to assimilate these limited words outstandingly to convey a powerful picture of grief and love that I am certain will touch the hearts of all who read the book.
The first chapter tells her son Kristian’s life story, beginning at the point where she is sitting with him at the hospital following his suicide, then tracing his life from his birth through to the time when she last saw him alive and concluding with the scene in the hospital where the chapter began.
The following chapters continue from the trauma of the immediate aftermath of the suicide through to the funeral, the inquest and the years ahead.
The author hasn’t just covered the suicide of her own son and the range of emotions and situations that she had to face, but has included a plethora of experiences from families around the world, all in different family set-ups. She has included experiences from grandparents, siblings, stepparents and so on, so that no one within the extended family has been forgotten. She has also included experiences from young people suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts.
She has also raised topics that I would never even have considered, such as the way in which a bereaved parent reacts to physical contact after the loss, dealing with the insensitive things that people do and say, memory triggers that send your hurtling into the depths of intense grief and two really uplifting chapters on life after death and coping strategies.
I have two children and one of my biggest fears has always been losing one of them, a fear with which I am certain all parents can identify. I am not certain that I would be able to carry on if something ever happened to one of them, so I have even more respect for the author in having pulled herself from the depths of her grief to produce something so positive, so helpful and so touching.
I cannot deny that the book is heartbreaking and on several occasions I had to stop reading because I was sobbing, but there are parts that are inspirational and encouraging. It also made me think about certain issues a lot more deeply and has made me realise the enormous importance of communicating with my children. It has definitely made me more aware that suicide is not confined to certain sectors of society, but can happen to anyone, anywhere and at any time.
Without a doubt, this book has made me re-think the way in which I will respond to anyone who has suffered a bereavement and I hope that it has taught me to say something more appropriate.
Chasing Death: Losing a Child to Suicide is one of the few books I have read that I had
The Shock The Disbelief The Horror
Chapter3 Rewriting the Script
Trapped in a Storm of
Wearing a Mask
Grieving in Your Own Way
Referring to Your Child as
The Familys Grief
Bizarre Thoughts Actions
Handling Insensitivity from
The Years Ahead