Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

You Are Not Alone: A Few Survivors of Suicide Loss

Survivors of suicide often feel completely alone in their sadness, which is quite understandable. Unlike losing a husband or child or parent to heart disease or cancer, loved ones of person who have committed suicide can’t express their grief publicly. As often as suicide happens – approximately 30,000 times a year in our country alone—the topic is still so taboo.

Awhile back I interviewed Eric Marcus, author of the sobering book, “Why Suicide?” He has now launched a blog with the same title, “Why Suicide?” where he will be posting essays and memories of persons who have taken their own lives. I’m certain it will become a healing forum for many.


Both of us have published a comprehensive list of celebrities and notable leaders or artists from the past who are suicide survivors. Dan Fields of the Grief Support Services program of Samaritans, Inc., has compiled the comprehensive list.

Thank you, Dan, for taking the time to compile this list, so that other suicide survivors feel less alone.

Lost a Child

President John Quincy Adams (son)
James Arness, actor (daughter)
Marlon Brando, actor (daughter)
Gro Harlem Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway (son)
Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (daughter)
Judy Collins, singer/songwriter (son)
Tony Dungy, football coach (son)
Robert Frost, poet (son)
Major General Mark Graham (son)
Eric Hipple, NFL quarterback (son)
Brit Hume, TV journalist (son)
President Andrew Johnson (son)
Walter Koenig, actor (son)
Art Linkletter, radio/TV personality (daughter)
Willie Nelson, singer/songwriter (son)
Carroll O’Connor, actor (son)
Marie Osmond, singer and actress (son)
Senator Gordon Smith (son)
Danielle Steel, romance novelist (son)
Gloria Vanderbilt, fashion designer (son)


Lost a Parent

Mikhail Baryshnikov, ballet dancer (mother)
Richard Belzer, actor (father)
Larry Bird, basketball player and executive (father)
Drew Brees, NFL quarterback (mother)
Sarah Brightman, singer/songwriter and actress (father)
Frederick Buechner, writer and theologian (father)
Perry Farrell, singer/songwriter (mother)
Jane Fonda, actress (mother)
Peter Fonda, actor (mother)
Mariette Hartley, actress (father)
Christopher Hitchens, writer (mother)
Randi Kaye, CNN anchor (father)
Joshua Logan, stage and movie director (father)
Archie Manning, NFL quarterback (father)
Chester Marcol, NFL kicker (father)
Freddie Prinze, Jr., actor (father)
Senator Harry Reid (father)
Melissa Rivers, TV personality (father)
Linda Gray Sexton, writer (mother: Anne Sexton)
Michelle Ray Smith, actress (father)
First Lady Bess Truman (father)
Ted Turner, media tycoon (father)
Kurt Vonnegut, writer (mother)
Jake Weber, actor (mother)
First Lady Ellen Wilson (father)


Lost a Sibling

Clay Aiken, singer/songwriter (sister)
Robert Antonioni, Massachusetts State Senator (brother)
Anderson Cooper, CNN anchor (brother)
Cameron Crowe, screenwriter and movie director (sister)
Mia Farrow, actress and humanitarian (brother)
Julia Glass, novelist (sister)
Mariel Hemingway, actress and writer (sister: Margaux Hemingway;
also lost grandfather: Ernest Hemingway)
Katharine Hepburn, actress (brother)
Michel Martin, NPR host (brother)
Patrick Swayze, actor (sister)


Lost a Spouse

Stephen Ambrose, historian (wife)
Louise Erdrich, novelist (estranged husband)
Henry Fonda, actor (wife)
Katharine Graham, Washington Post publisher (husband)
Helmut Kohl, Chancellor of Germany (wife)
Courtney Love, singer/songwriter (husband: Kurt Cobain)
Helen Steiner Rice, poet (husband)
Joan Rivers, comedian (husband)

Lost Other Loved One

David Bowie, singer/songwriter and actor (half-brother)
Carmen Electra, actress and model (half-brother)
Eminem, singer/songwriter (two uncles, one of whom he regarded as a father)
Sylvie Fréchette, Canadian synchronized swimmer (fiancé)
Ferguson Jenkins, baseball pitcher (fiancée)
Senator John Kerry (grandfather)
Eli Manning, NFL quarterback (grandfather)
Peyton Manning, NFL quarterback (grandfather)
Liza Minnelli, singer and actress (aunt)
Demi Moore, actress (stepfather)
Denis Potvin, hockey player (cousin: Marc Potvin)
David Spade, actor and comedian (stepfather)


Compiled by Dan Fields for the Grief Support Services program of Samaritans, Inc., Boston (July 2011)

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mary Anne Thompson


    Wow what a list! I had heard about some of these people loosing loved ones in their lives to suicide but alot of them surprised me. I wanted to share that one of my very best gf’s that I have known since I was 16 yrs old had her older sister commit suicide back when we were both in our teens. Then just a cpl of yrs ago her older brother took his life. My friend whose name is Cynthia (so everyone can keep her in your prayers) has struggled with it many times. She admitted to me recently, over the phone that one night she was crying out..and said GOD if you exist you better show me. She recalled how she heard an audible voice in her room, had a light shine on her in the darkness and now she is a reborn woman. She has been reunited with a man she used to wk with back in the 70’s and is starting her life over, planning on moving up North to live with him and share their lives together. I shared that though to say this: suicide seems to run in families, once one life is snuffed out it seems to pull others down with it.
    I was blessed in yrs past to hear Ed Brandon from Channel 13 news here in Houston, Texas tell his story at an open AA mtg. He is a survivor! He was an alcoholic, cocaine addict and about to commit suicide in a Dallas hotel room when he had a spiritual experience. Not only did he NOT go through with it but he got his job back doing the weather report at the television station, he now has double digit sober time and it an inspiration to alot of other struggling people. Suicide is a KILLER! A permanent solution to a temporary problem. I admit that I too have had thoughts of it. Thank the GODS I never acted on it. Like you Therese, I always had back up bottles of pills I thought I could take if the need ever arose. I would like to challenge you today to do something WITH T. Let’s BOTH take all the old pills, bottles we may have hung on to and get rid of them so that is NO longer an option. Flush em all ! keep only your recent med’s that u are currently being prescribed….in Jesus name!
    So Mote It Be (for us Pagans) love ya, Mary Anne

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Crystal Mang

    Using the word “committed” with suicide insinuates that it is a crime – which in many cases adds to the survivor’s anxiety. Please use the word “completed”. Suicide is not a crime. It has received that connotation because police and/or medical rescue teams are called. Police are sworn to “serve and protect”. Protecting someone from themselves or others is why police are called to an attempted suicide, and if the a suicide is successful they are called to investigate.

    Thank you for the information you provide.

  • steven

    After attending the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Todd Hanson joined the Onion in its second or third year (1990) and has been writing for them for 20 years. He also worked for Comedy Central and the Jon Stewart Daily Show. Todd suffers from major depression and two years ago made a failed serious suicide attempt at a hotel in Brooklyn. He recently went back to the hotel and had a conversation with his friend Marc Maron about his life, his depression and his attempted suicide. It is brave and fascinating.

    You can link to a podcast of Hanson’s interview at:

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jean

    It’s fairly amazing, too, to see how many future generations can be affected by this act. When my mom was a child, an older married sister in another city killed herself. She had one small child, who was raised along with my mom. No one in the family would talk about the incident (maybe late 1920s) and to this day, no one really knows anything about it. I now think that ‘silence’ is one of our biggest enemies.

  • Jodi Edwards Wright

    As someone who survived an attempted suicide, I feel I may have something to contribute to this discussion. Perhaps hearing about my experience will help others. I hope so.
    Dear suicide survivor,
    At the time of my attempt, I was not myself — far from it. In fact my husband, who found me swallowing handfuls of pills, told my daughter, “That was not your mother.” I was suffering from a biochemical disorder that completely undermined my ability to reason and consider the consequences of my actions.
    I was in so much mental pain that if putting my head through a concrete block wall would have stopped my misery, I would have done it. Utter despair overwhelmed me, and it was all I could perceive. It was as if I was on a bad drug trip that warped all of my perceptions.
    When I came to in the hospital, I was horrified at what I had put my family through, and what I had almost put them through, and I vowed no matter what, somehow I was never going to do that to them again.

    I believe totally that the loved one you have lost was utterly incapable of comprehending all the ramifications of his/her act on the people who cared for him or her. If anything, I may have thought that I was relieving those around me from the burden of my illness. I never for a second understood at the time the kind of hurt I was inflicting on the ones that I love.

    My attempt was no one’s fault. It was not a result of a lack of love on my part, or a lack of love on anyone else’s part. Nothing that anyone else had done or could have done would have affected my choice one way or another, because my thought processes were too impaired to even reflect upon such things.
    I have lost a child (though not to suicide). I am aware now of the extreme grief losing a family member can bring, although I doubt that I can fathom all that you have been through. You have my deepest sympathy for your loss.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Kevin Keough

    Apparently one million people around the planet kill themselves every year. In the USA lives lost to suicide double the number of those lost to homicide. And the suicide rate is increasing in some demographic groups.

    I lost my father and a sister to “slow suicides” after direct attempts failed they deliberately refused to seek medical attention for serious medical conditions they knew would kill them soon enough.

    I am afraid to count how many people I have personally known that killed themselves. Suffice to say it is a double digit number each leaving me with a profound sense of loss and inconsolable sadness. For me, the worst is delivering the news to parents and other loved ones.

    We have bracelets and campaigns for innumerable medical diseases. Someday before too long we will have those rubber bracelets to signal our collective intention to get serious about endeavors to minimize suicide.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Darlene C.

    Thank you so much for writing this article. I have known quite a few people who have taken their own lives. As a result of suffering from depression for most of my life, there is a part of me that understands the dark despair that makes suicide seem like the only option to be free from the unbearable pain, feeling as though their loved one’s will be better off without them. Although I can understand it, does not by any means mean I agree with it.
    I have a horribly conflicting situation I must find a way to deal with, or make peace with. My father is 73yrs.old. We have been very close throughout my entire life, he has always confided in me, which as I became an adult I realize it has been very unfair and harmful to me emotionally.
    He has been diagnosed with dementia, it is getting progressively worse.Very recently he informed me that when his condition reaches a certain point, he will take his own life, He has the entire thing planned to the final detail, the final detail being…. he will call me from his car immediately before he carries out his death. I was raised to be a loyal person, to keep the things that are told to me in confidence to myself at any cost. Well, doing so has come at a great cost to me. This particular “secret” has made me angry, resentful and very hurt.
    I dont mean to ramble like this,I dont know what to do, or how to mentally deal with this information. Because I can’t tell anyone I know about this, I was hoping maybe someone could give me some feedback, advise on how to make peace with what I know is to come in the near future. Thank you all for taking the time to read my post. I dont mind giving my e-mail address for any opinions, advise I desperately need.
    Thank you,
    Darlene Cox

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment martha


    I have never faced your situation and I can’t pretend I have an answer. But I want you to know that I am so sorry to hear of the agonizing position you are in. You are absolutely right to be feeling so angry and raw about it. It’s not fair.

    I am like you – I consider myself very loyal and I am an ironclad secret-keeper. But your father’s request is an abuse of your loyalty. I would make an exception in this case. Through no fault of your own, you will face awful fallout no matter which path you choose. So you might as well choose the one your gut is telling you that you can live with.

    I wish you strength and peace in dealing with this. I am so sorry to hear of your troubles.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Pete D

    I’m feeling so sad today and need to grieve my mother taking her life. I’m 47 and this happened 40 years ago. It’s taken me decades to discover what happened. No one will talk about it. Zero. I have slowly but surely been able to find places where I can safely cry with good witnesses. Thank you for this place. God Bless!

  • Amberq Aubuchony

    Now I was so tired, and now this time I have got some rest by seeing this funny YouTube video, thanks, keep it up.

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