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The Forgotten Mourners: Sibling Survivors of Suicide    by Magdaline De Sousa order for
Forgotten Mourners
by Magdaline De Sousa
Order:  USA  Can
Outskirts, 2011 (2011)
Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

The Forgotten Mourners is part memoir and part handbook for those who have lost a brother or sister to suicide. John's Sister, the author, begins the book with a moving account of her brother's death. It was shocking in its unexpectedness and devastating to her and her family, as well as to John's many friends.

John was a freshman in college, seemingly a lighthearted young man, with many good friends. Although he wasn't close to his older sister while they were growing up, once she left for college they started having frequent phone conversations which drew them close together, and all of the big sister/little brother problems that they had during their younger years fell away. She was a senior in college when he killed himself. By then she felt so close to him that, after his death, she didn't know how she was going to go on living without him. She gives the reader a step-by-step account of how she went through the grieving process, first identified for the general public in Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's landmark book, On Death and Dying. John's sister goes on to explain the special problems faced by those whose loved one took his or her own life.

There seems to be a growing problem with suicide at the present time. For some unknown reason more and more people are giving up on life, so any book dealing with how to cope with the grief after these deaths is timely and important. This book is intense, well-written, and easy to put down when reading it becomes too difficult. Later, picking it up again, the reader has no difficulty continuing without having lost context. The chapters - from the first which gives the details of John's death, through chapters on the stigma of suicide, the change in family dynamics, the unique problems of special days and holidays, to the last chapter on how to get help - are laid out in a straightforward way that makes it easy to use the book as a handbook. Many resources are documented, from readings, Internet links, and support groups to professional counseling.

Many years ago I experienced the suicide death of a boyfriend. Around the same time in my young life I became friends with a woman whose brother had killed himself. The resources available to help us at that time were slim, and we both worked our way through our grief with the help of family, friends, and the greatest healer of all, the passage of time. I'm sad to think that so many people are going through this terrible sort of mourning now, but heartened by how many, many resources are available to help. This book is invaluable for its brevity, wealth of information, and the emotional account of the author's experience. She ends the book on a hopeful note, acknowledging that although she will always miss her brother, she will also always hold him close to her in her heart.

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