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Surviving Ben's Suicide by Caroline Comfort…
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Surviving Ben's Suicide

by Caroline Comfort Shields

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Recently I received a request to review the book Surviving Ben's Suicide by C. Comfort Shields. Initially, I wasn't anticipating to accept the request. But after seeing the positive reviews that it was receiving on LibraryThing, I decided that it might be worthwhile for me to read as well.

I was not just a little nervous to accept and begin reading this because of its subject. I have had several friends commit suicide in high school and while at college and continue to live with my own tendencies. I should not have been afraid--Comfort has written a beautiful, honest, and touching memoir. Surviving Ben's Suicide is about just that--how Comfort learned to live again after her first boyfriend, her first love, shot and killed himself while she was in college.

As Comfort states in the preface of the book, one of the reason's she felt compelled to write about her experience was because there was virtually no one else writing about it. She found it very difficult to find books written by or for people ho had survived the suicide of their partner, spouse, or significant other. Literature about the death of a loved one existed, but nothing specific enough to what she was going through.

Comfort definitely succeeds in presenting her story. Intensely personal and very readable, she provides something that was lacking in many ways for people in similar circumstances--recognition of the pain, grief, guilt, and suffering experienced by those who have lost someone so dear to them through suicide.

The narrative is not linear, which at times can be a bit confusing. She tells of falling in love, only to lose it soon after. At first blaming herself, she comes to realize and accept that she cannot control others' actions and decisions. Though it took her many years, she has survived to become a stronger, more confident individual. Relying on the strength and importance of memories and experience, Comfort has not only written a potent memoir, but has also created a fitting memorial for Ben.

Experiments in Reading ( )
1 vote PhoenixTerran | Apr 24, 2009 |
I was shockingly mistaken in my perceptions about this book. I thought it would be a plain self-helpish, non-fictiony slow, boring to read book, but I loved the way C. Comfort Shields wrote this as a literary memoir! I read every page of this, and held on to it tight. I finished it in a day. Shields is an excellent writer, and I enjoyed her style and honesty throughout the painful process which she writes about. Once I was into this one, I realized just that it really wasn't as distant from me as I had thought. My father-in-law committed suicide, but that was about 4 years before I met and fell in love with my hubby (B). After reading this memoir I understand much better all the pain and guilt that would come from such an abrupt- but not entirely surprising ending to a loved one's life. However I hope to never know how it would feel to have this happen so close to me.

When life ends by one own's hand there are so many questions that come up, so much pain, guilt, suffering and loneliness. A feeling that being all alone, maybe you are responsible, you MUST be responsible. I was so interested in the amount of care Shields put into explaining the sickness, the disease, the illness that lead up to Ben committing suicide. The irate phone calls of blame, the pushing away and pulling in causing Comfort to feel the burden as a harsh reality.

This is not a self- help book, well, it is and it isn't. It is a memoir of a woman who experienced the death of a boyfriend, the suicidal death. Shields is changed through this blow, learning more about herself, more about life and death and relationships. I admire Surviving Ben's Suicide in that it has gone where no other book has gone before, in being the first literary memoir about this topic. Suicide is hard to understand, but even harder to cope with. This is an excellent book to take with you on the journey. An Excellent read for anyone, not just those who have had a loved one commit suicide. ( )
  Bbexlibris | Aug 29, 2008 |
This book is a memoir of Comfort and her relationship with Ben and her years afterwards in dealing and trying to come to terms with his death. Initially Comfort did not realise the seriousness of Ben’s mental health problems, but overtime this became more apparent as Ben could be so cruel one day and loving the next. It seemed that Ben went from one medication to another and one psychiatrist / therapist to another, but unfortunately it seemed no one was really able to help him. It was something Comfort had to come to terms with that although at times it seemed as if her words held some comfort for him at other times there was no penetrating his thought processes.

I feel it must be awful for Ben to suffer so much and try to gain help, but then feel after a number of years that there must be no more help out there for them and so the only option they feel they have left is death. Not because they want to die, but they just can’t bear living how they are, but as Comfort learnt: She could not control others and the outcomes – That’s something I’ve learnt too!

She is very honest in her portrayal of her relationship with Ben and the affects that it had upon her. As she states at the end of the book that she feels Ben’s suicide will always be with her, which I think is only natural. It must have been so difficult for Comfort to work through some of the things Ben did, but even though she said many people appeared to shun Ben she could see more and could really appreciate some of the aspects of Ben that others did not always seem able to see. Comfort also explains how guilt ridden she felt, as well as the immense pain of suffering she endured and also how difficult it was for her at times not to be able to have some questions answered following Ben’s death.
Many people are left behind when a loved one commits suicide and sometimes those affected are not expected by society in general to have the grief as intensely as they do and as Comfort found there may not be the support out there for those that may not be related to the deceased, but because of relationships can be those closest to them and actually be one of the people that could feel the loss the most deeply.

It’s strange that I’ve read 2 books in a row that have not been linear in their telling, but I have to say I had no problem following this book at all. I think Comfort has written an excellent, moving and beautifully written book and I’m so glad that she wrote it as I feel there must be many people suffering alone with their grief and this book could help them feel less alone. I felt that Comfort really understands that human emotions can be so very complex. I would highly recommend this book to anyone that has suffered a loss, but especially those having lost a partner, boyfriend, girlfriend or very close friend to suicide. It’s 7 years since my loss to suicide and so many times through this book I could relate to Comfort and I’m very grateful that she wrote it.

Review also here:
http://bookannelid.wordpress.com/2008/08/20/surviving-ben%e2%80%99s-suicide-by-c... ( )
1 vote loopyloo100 | Aug 20, 2008 |
When Comfort Shields was a freshman at Sarah Lawrence she met and fell in love with Ben, a former Navy recruit who joined the college as a second year freshman. Their relationship would impact Shields’ life on many levels. While he initially helped her cope with the tragic death of a classmate a year earlier in London, his mental imbalance proved to turn her life upside down. He didn’t return to Sarah Lawrence for sophomore year without telling her and it all kept tumbling out of control after that. When his erratic moods and behavior culminated in his not altogether unexpected suicide, Comfort is without an anchor. Finding little advice that applied to her situation or anywhere else to go, she wrote this book to provide others with what she did not have.

Having survived a suicide within my family 16 years ago this October, I was very much interested in Comfort’s story. Although in my situation it was my paternal uncle and not my lover or spouse, I was interested to read about the author’s experiences and insights. I turned 21 the week before Uncle Randy died. Although I knew that he had been sick for some time, his illness wasn’t something I had to experience very often. What sticks out the most to me when I think back on my relationship with him was how he seemed to become another person overnight. All of my dad’s brothers teased us cousins continuously and Randy was always the edgiest of the bunch; but, about 5 years before this happened, edgy became cruel. I spent many years afterwards being angry at him for how this affected his family, my grandparents, my father, and my brother. It took time and life experience for me to come to understand him. Now I’m just sad that he wasn’t able to get the medical help he needed and never got to meet his beautiful grandchildren.

What hit home the most to me when reading Surviving Ben’s Suicide was the author’s discussion of shame and guilt that is associated with those directly impacted by another person’s suicide. Even though this happened almost 20 years ago, it’s not something I share regularly or talk much about. Just like Shields, I worry about what people I don’t know well might think about me, my family, and – more importantly, my children. My family lived over an hour away from Randy’s and at the time he was his most sick, I was in college. Family wasn’t my highest priority then. I still feel guilty for caring more about my own life when my uncle and his family were suffering. I also know that this wasn’t my fault and, while I’m sure that my aunt and cousins would have appreciated my support, there wasn’t anything I could have done singlehandedly to change what happened.

As much as I could empathize with Comfort Shields, I didn’t find this book particularly insightful. I believe this was due to a combination of the differences in our experiences as well as the way in which the story was told. Had this story been told in a linear fashion, the impact would have been greater. Toward the end of the book she indicates that Ben’s suicide marked the end of his life and a major turning point in hers. Because of the back and forth, I was unable to fully identify how that turning point changed her life. Despite the fact that this was written after she wrote about meeting and marrying her husband and the birth of her two children into the world, there was a disconnect for me. I couldn’t recreate how she got there from where she started. I couldn’t identify what might have been different had Ben not been a part of her life or if he did not commit suicide at all.

Although Surviving Ben’s Suicide was not as meaningful to me as I’d anticipated, I hope that others who have shared similar experiences will read it. I will be passing my copy on to a friend whose brother, also named Ben, committed suicide 6 years ago this month. Books like this and Regina’s Closet are a wonderful way to heal from a suicide as well as create dialog about it. I wish Comfort Shields much success with this book. It is an excellent resource and I’m so thankful that she gave of herself to write it. Perhaps this is something that I should consider myself.

http://literatehousewife.wordpress.com/2008/08/07/93-surviving-bens-suicide/ ( )
  LiterateHousewife | Aug 7, 2008 |
Surviving Ben's Suicide by C. Comfort Shields is the story of a woman whose college boyfriend and first love committed suicide. Sheilds describes how she met Ben and fell in love with him, and how she dealt with his mental illness and his eventual death by suicide. She illustrates their tumultuous relationship with great detail. Once Ben killed himself, Sheilds describes how it took many years to recover from the suicide and how she went through many phases of grief. I have never known anyone who committed suicide.personally, but I was still fascinated by the intricacies in Comfort and Be's relationship and everything that led us to the suicide. I also thought it was very interesting how Comfort learned to accept Ben's suicide and not blame herself. Overall, I enjoyed the book. It was very honest and raw at times and you could feel the author's pain. I would recommend the book to anyone who has lost a loved one through suicide. 4 stars. ( )
  picklechic | Jul 22, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0595468063, Paperback)

As a thirty-five-year-old woman, C. Comfort Shields is haunted by the memory of her first true love's devastating suicide eighteen months after she met him at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. While searching for answers about Ben's death and her place in his life, she also begins her own personal journey of self-discovery.This symphonic memoir of life and death, love and anger, and guilt and forgiveness sways back and forth-in an extraordinarily candid narrative-from the love story of a nineteen-year-old to her reflections years later. She shares her insights into the survivor's complex as she learns to live, love, and trust again. As a mother, wife, and teacher, she realizes the profound influence she has in the lives of others but also knows that she cannot guarantee their future, as she could not control Ben's.Intimate and frank, Surviving Ben's Suicide follows Shields's passage through the stages of grief. Her story symbolizes how memories of the past and new life experiences are interwoven. The reality of surviving Ben's suicide was not glamorous, but she grew as a person and came out on the other side with a deeply satisfying life.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:02:42 -0400)

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