Buddhist books, articles on how to cope with Suicide of a loved one?

Via Waylon Lewis
on Mar 21, 2010
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buddhist suicide buddhism "tibetan book of the dead" fremantle

Recently, a fellow Buddhist sangha (community) member lost a dear friend to suicide. She inquired of our sangha if there were any resources out there that might help her, and the family of her friend, “bring obstacles to the path.”

Dear loving and large sangha,

A dear friend has just lost one of her sisters, only in her 30’s, to suicide.

She has come to me asking for Buddhist support materials about coping with her loss.

I know of some good books on death and Buddhism, but I am wondering if anyone in particular has good practices/articles/essays on how to use Buddhist practice to cope? Most of what is out there on the internet is oriented towards classical Buddhist philosophy.

Many thanks,

I emailed M:

Can you let me know what kind of helpful responses you get? I’d like to make them more widely available via elephantjournal.com. I’ve lost several loved ones in my lifetime already to suicide.

M. replied:


Sorry to hear that. Ugh. I am getting a lot of really general posts, you know, like “read Pema’s Things Fall Apart.” Maybe I wasn’t clear enough – cuz that’s not helpful. My friend’s really trying to get at this specific loss of suicide, which, as I suspect you know, isn’t the same on a lot of levels.

So far, i think I am going to send her the following:

> Making Friends with Death Judith Lief (deals more with dying, but it is really good)
> Five Ways we Grieve by Susan A Berger (self help Buddhist; since she just also lost her dad this looks great)

Then for non-Buddhist, specifically re suicide, this is what i have found with an hour’s worth of research on Amazon:

> no time to say goodbye by carla fine (main st books) memoir/self help – context/intellectual**
> Silent Grief by Christopher Lukas (Jessica Berger) – self help***
> Dying to be Free by Beverly Cobain (self help to heal the family)**

the last one is Kurt Cobain’s sister!

If you have anything personal to recommend that is not necessarily Buddhist but akin, please do.


I asked my mom, a senior Buddhist student and teacher, if she knew of any resources.

Mom, any advice on good books to read to help cope with a loved one’s suicide from a Buddhist perspective?

Her response:

It’s slim pickings.
> The best for all death is the Tibetan Book of the Dead, esp. the Francesca  Fremantle/VCTR edition  The prayers at the end are very helpful, esp. pp100-102
> Facing Death and Finding Hope by C Longaker but there’s just a few relevant pages
> Chogyam Trungpa “Acknowledging Death” in the Heart of the Buddha
> Chapter 9 of Boundless Healing by Tulku Thondup is on death

Because suicide is rare and frowned upon by Buddhadharma cultures, there’s not much specific written about the issue.  Judith Lief has written the most re: Death.



About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


8 Responses to “Buddhist books, articles on how to cope with Suicide of a loved one?”

  1. Tyler_Dewar says:

    I'm not sure if it treats suicide directly, but Being With Dying by Joan Halifax has some wonderful teachings and practices for embracing grief and making it into a loving path of awakening.


  2. Tyler_Dewar says:

    And, I must be offer an affectionate rebuttal to the venerable Linda Lewis, and say that the _other_ "best of all" book related to death and the dying process, complete with plentiful supplementary materials, is Mind Beyond Death by Dzogchen Ponlop. (Full disclosure: I am a fortunate student of said author.) It also features a sutra of the Buddha called "Wisdom for the Time of Death" that is succinct and beautiful.

  3. Tyler_Dewar says:

    Finally, I'd like to offer aspirations of support to the woman who lost her young sister. Grieving a suicide is very difficult, both for individuals and communities. I hope the bereaved people and communities in this particular case have the support and resources they need to practice well and move through the grief.

  4. mykool_be says:

    "The Zen of Living and Dying: A Practical and Spiritual Guide" by Philip Kapleau, also offers a wide array of multi-discipline and multi-faith wisdom and solace on this difficult matter.


  5. Thanks! Most helpful.

  6. Joe says:

    Good one! Aside from counseling, you can also use this book as your reference. I am sure this will enlighten you on those dark times of your life.

  7. Emma says:

    I'm so sorry for your losses. Such a sad way to bow out.

    My favorite book on life, love and death:

    Grace & Grit by Treya & Ken Wilber