Survivors of Suicide Help and Information

Judy Raphael Kletter

Survivor, Speaker and Author

The term "survivor of suicide" refers to the family members and friends who remain alive following the death of their loved one by suicide. This site offers help and information for survivors of suicide from a survivor.

The day was January 19, 1948; the time was very early morning. I was 4 years old. I got out of bed to go to the bathroom and discovered my fatherís body hanging from a rope tied to a pipe over the toilet. He had committed suicide. I remember this very vividly, even though my mother tried to convince me for the rest of my life that I never saw what happened. My mother even went so far as to make imaginary visits to the hospital every week for five months, bringing me a present each time telling me it was from my father. How could this have been, he was dead, I saw him hanging? My mother was protecting me, and protecting herself from a tragedy she only could deal with by denying its very existence. And, by doing so, denying me the opportunity to grieve and put the tragedy behind me. My young mind could not cope with this confusion, so my response was hostility towards my mother, hostility that must have been so intense, my motherís only recourse was to have me institutionalized from age 7 to 10. I have spent the past 52 years forgetting and remembering one small part of one day of my life that has affected me for my entire life.

In 1998 my mother died and I felt I now had permission to find out about my past.
I got in contact with the institution I was in as a child to see if they had any 

records on me from 50 years ago, they did and sent them to me. Reading them was both traumatic and insightful. From that point on I have been driven to tell my story, a story I never shared with anybody until now. The telling all began with my daughters Elisa and Jenny, age 26 and 24. They never knew how their grandfather died. I had never told them for fear that they would consider suicide in a moment of despair. The only way I felt comfortable telling my story was through the written word. Well, the words just kept coming and coming and soon I had a book: "Trying to Remember, Forced to Forget (My Fatherís Suicide)." To learn more about my book, click here.

Looking for answers about genetics and suicide, in 1999 I became involved with the American Association of Suicidology. They encouraged me to tell my story at their annual conference in Los Angeles, which I did in April 2000. It was a very emotional experience, but I learned and so did the psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health professionals, and other survivorsĖit was an eye-opener few days! My book is now recommended by the American Association of Suicidology Publications Committee.

I have also spoken at the institution, where I was committed as a child, to donors, staff, and parents about my past.
I have told my story on local TV and radio as well as speaking at various symposiums for mental health professionals, social workers and survivors.  I have also contributed to a book on suicide in addition to facilitating a monthly Survivor of Suicide Support Group. Helping others has finally helped me come to grips with my own loss.

I feel I now have a lot to offer other survivors. As a survivor, I believe that sharing your grief is the tool for healing. And by the telling of my story I hope to show others that it's the survivors of suicide who ultimately determine how tragic the event will be, not the suicide itself.


To contact me:e-mail Judy