Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bridging the Gap: Interview with Author Jack Jordan

Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Suicidology's Surviving newsletter

Jack Jordan, co-author of Grief After Suicide (available on
As I was pulling together my syllabus to teach a course on Suicidology to graduate level clinicians, I was searching for a text on suicide postvention when one arrived at my doorstep. Dr. Jack Jordan, a clinical psychologist from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, had sent a copy of the recently published book Grief After Suicide: Understanding the Consequences and Caring for the Survivors. Jack co-authored the book with Dr. John McIntosh and sent it to me for my review. After flipping through the pages, I was impressed with the depth and breadth of the book, and called him immediately to thank him and interview him about this work. The following conversation transpired on December 3, 2010.

Sally: Who is Jack Jordan?

Jack: I’m sort of an odd duck. I’m a clinical psychologist in private practice, but I also function like an academic. Twenty-five years ago, I became involved in the “Family Loss Project” – a group of practicing clinicians who were interested in the impact of loss on family systems, especially multigenerational impact.

Sally: How did you get into the work of studying grief among survivors of suicide loss?

Jack: Thirteen years ago, I had an epiphany. We were working with survivors of suicide loss in our practice and I thought, “They should be talking to each other.” So, we started a support group and it ran for about 13 years. To me, this was an inspiration. I saw their suffering, but I also saw their resilience and how they helped each other.

Sally: What came next?

Jack: I became involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and co-wrote the manual for their facilitator training program with Joanne Harpel. I took the training for the Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s Assessing and Managing Suicide Risk curriculum. Now I train and consult around the country and the world.

Sally: Has suicide touched you personally?

Jack: I am a distant suicide survivor – my great uncle took his life in 1987, but it was not a life-transforming loss because I only knew him in my childhood. It was my Dad’s death due to cancer when I was in my 20s that pulled me into grief work.

Sally: What is the inspiration for the book?

Jack: The book comes out of my interest in bridging the gap between research, academia, clinical work, and survivors. It has been apparent to me for a long time, somebody needs to do this; so finally I decided, maybe it’s me. I invited John [McIntosh] to work with me because he has researched and written about survivor issues for a long time.

Sally: What are the goals for the book?

Jack: Our target audience is really researchers and clinicians, and to a lesser extent activist survivors. This is not a self-help book; it’s really meant to say, “What has happened in the last 20 years in the field of survivor studies?”

Sally: Tell me about the book’s journey. What have been some of the challenges and celebrations?

Jack: I have gone from despair – was I actually going to survive this? – to some revelations. Everyone connected to you endures some of this. I pay homage to my wife for her patience. The revelation came because this work helped me see even more clearly how much is going on simultaneously around the world. Suicide awareness and prevention have been coming out of the closet. Now survivors are too. I hope the book accelerates this. All this amazing stuff. This work also helped me understand that despite some obvious cultural differences, the themes of survivor grief are similar around the world. I expected more differences, but at the heart of it all, losing someone to suicide transcends cultural difference.

I had a great partner in this. John loves to do the stuff I loathe. The APA references made me completely nuts. Thank God John could do this. My forte is about broad strategic thinking and writing.

Sally: What has happened since the book was published?

Jack: I went to a conference in October [2010] and had not seen a hard copy yet. There it was, and someone asked me, “Would you autograph these?” Strange experience. Surreal. I thought, “Oh, the cover came out pretty good. Maybe I’ll buy a copy.” Hopefully, the book will serve as a catalyst in the field, stimulating more research and clinical theory.

For more resources for Survivors of Suicide Loss visit the American Association of Suicidology: click here.
The Carson J Spencer Foundation offers families recently bereaved by suicide iCare Packages (semi-customized resources packets). For more information: click here.

What are your thoughts on what is needed to support survivors of suicide loss?

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