“Unfinished Conversation chronicles a path of transformation from anger and despair to compassion and liberation. We may have lost a loved one, but with mindfulness, concentration, and insight, we have the possibility of helping ourselves and the many loved ones around us.”
—Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace
“This compelling, raw and honest book follows one man’s emergence through the anguish of great loss—a best friend’s suicide. While accompanying him, we are given a powerful set of tools that can support us in navigating and healing from the suicide of loved ones. Beautifully written, this book is pure medicine for the grieving heart.”
—Tara Brach, PhD, Radical Acceptance and True Refuge
“With a vulnerable and generous heart, Robert Lesoine shares the mind- sets and heart-sets that contribute to healing in the aftermath of a loved one’s suicide. Written in compassionate and practical language, this book invites you into a journey of restoration, reminding you that you can still laugh, love, and come full circle with your departed loved one.”
—Reverend Michael Bernard Beckwith, Founder and Spiritual Director, Agape International Spiritual Center, author of Spiritual Liberation
“Suicide is a pain that never quite disappears. This eloquent book is a personal companion for those left behind, a friend nudging us forward with compassion and wisdom to see below, behind, and beyond the limitations of our current understanding. Highly recommended for anyone who wishes to keep the heart open after losing a loved one in this way.”
—Christopher Germer, PhD, Clinical Instructor, Harvard Medical School, author of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion
“An extraordinary piece of work. This book is tough to read and impossible to put down. Recovering from a loved one’s suicide requires nothing less than everything we have. We need courage and real tools to approach the wounded heart unflinchingly, with love and wisdom. Marilynne Chöphel and Robert Lesoine provide those real tools, abundantly. It is possible to start again. Reading Unfinished Conversation will prove that over and over.”
—Richard Heckler PhD, author of Waking Up, Alive
“Thank you for the courage to look into this well of darkness and despair plaguing modernity and the world as a whole. More importantly, thank you for your courage to excavate the tragic and for making it yield the healing gems hidden within. May this gift serve as a map and a guide to numberless people trapped in this dark landscape of sorrow, and longing to come home.”
—Malidoma Patrice Somé, author of Ritual and The Healing Wisdom of Africa
“A welcome interdisciplinary resource for addressing the devastating impacts of suicide that facilitates the all-important healing process of grieving.”
—Joseph Bobrow, PhD, Founder, The Coming Home Project, providing support for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, service members, and their families
“A wise, deep, and powerful book… pulsing with honesty… it offers a path through suffering to some resolution and understanding. The authors handle a difficult topic with Grace.”
—Fred Luskin PhD, Director, Stanford Forgiveness Project, author of The Nine Steps to Forgiveness
Unfinished Conversation is a wonderful and heartfelt book. You have put together an invaluable resource for people who have gone through similar painful healing journeys. With gratitude and admiration for all of your incredible work in the world.
— Angeles Arrien Ph.D., Cultural Anthropologist and Educator, author of The Four-Fold Way and The Second Half of Life.
“A comprehensive toolbox for managing the sudden, violent loss that is suicide. We need all the help we can get to stay sane in the face of suffering.”
—Marilyn Pittman, actor, radio host. Creator of the award-winning 2011 Off-Broadway production “It’s All The Rage”
“This is exactly the kind of book I was looking for when I experienced the heart-wrenching loss of my daughter to suicide fifteen years ago. Robert shares his personal journey through grief with a profound and anguished honesty. Unfinished Conversation offers hope for healing and the possibility that great suffering can be transformed. I recommend this thoughtful and heartfelt book to other survivors searching for a way through the dark valley of grief.”
—Nancy Coughlan, Bereaved Parents Support Group Facilitator
“Suicide strikes our hearts unlike any other loss, often leaving us feel- ing a unique incompleteness. Unfinished Conversation guides the reader through a structured journaling process that may help on the path from tragedy to transformation. The authors have combined their own learning with classical grief work to provide a very accessible tool kit to sup- port healing.”
—Frank Ostaseski, Founder, The Metta Institute and The Zen Hospice Project, author of Being a Compassionate Companion
“A gentle, clinically grounded, and prayerful process of self-reflection that leads to a promise of perspective. It can be for the survivor, as well as for the fellow traveler and professional guide. Through its wisdom and wealth of tools of transformation, it’s an invaluable gift, a fitting self- conversation partner on the road to healing and new life.”
—David A. Lichter, DMin, Executive Director, National Association of Catholic Chaplains
“A highly recommended book for people navigating the aftermath of suicide in search of meaning, healing, and freedom. It can be immensely useful for individuals who have lost loved ones by suicide, and those of us who accompany them—their family, friends, support group members, and counselors. The book is filled with many practical suggestions and universal understandings that are adoptable to one’s particular spir- ituality and situation. A book about freedom and the spirit of L’Chaim— To Life.”
—Chaplain Bruce Feldstein MD, Founder and Director of The Jewish Chaplaincy, Stanford University Medical Center
“A much-needed tool and source of hope for the family and friends of those who die from suicide, a valuable resource that addresses each of the challenges and each stage of grieving in a very moving, mindful way.”
—Janina Fisher PhD, Assistant Director, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute, and leader in the treatment of trauma
“Suicide (and other traumatic events) shatters the soul of the survivor. This warm, wise, and loving book will open many a door for people who have experienced significant loss and long for deep healing to restore their feeling of wholeness. Thank you for a beautiful and understanding work.”
—Bryan Wittine, PhD, Jungian Psychoanalyst
“A roadmap from tragedy, through recovery, to eventual healing. It com- passionately tackles a tough topic in a user-friendly, highly readable way. The authors have answered the call to address one of the biggest challenges facing our society today.”
—Stephen J. Johnson, PhD, MFT, Executive Director, The Men’s Center Los Angeles, author of The Sacred Path
“The emotional storm felt by family members after suicide, bewildering and profound, must be worked with over time until gradually a sense of acceptance occurs. The authors have given us a wonderful and poignant portrayal of this process along with a map that all of us can follow when we need one, whether dealing with suicide or some other personal loss, be it our own or helping someone else.”
—Gill Cryer MD, PhD, Director, Trauma/Emergency Surgery and Critical Care Program, UCLA Medical Center
“This creative intervention takes us on a journey of healing that is practical, accessible, and offers an abundance of compassion and wisdom for survivors and professionals, as well as students of the healing arts. The healing potential offered here is priceless!”
—Dean Chambers LCSW, Special Crisis Response Coordinator, Critical Care Manager, Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services
“Just what we survivors need: a safe, enlightening, guided path into and through our fear and grief.”
—Beverly Cobain RN, author of When Nothing Matters Anymore and co-author of Dying to Be Free. Her cousin, Kurt Cobain, lead singer of the band Nirvana, died from suicide in 1994.
“A compelling account of one man’s personal journey depicting the human capacity to search and find meaning, love, and beauty in both life and death . . . even in the midst of great sorrow.”
—Jean Larch, co-author of Dying To be Free
“This book has the potential of informing prisoners considering suicide of the immense suffering of those they leave behind, and perhaps that can help to give them the courage to continue on—I hope so.”
—Sita Lozoff, co-founder, The Prison-Ashram Project and the Human Kindness Foundation
“A tremendous resource for those who are struggling to make sense of something that just doesn’t make sense. It explains the inexplicable, and brings comfort to those who are grieving, while allowing them to begin their own journey of grief and healing.”
—BJ Ayers, Executive Director and Founder, Grace for 2 Brothers Foundation
“Every year over 200,000 Americans suddenly, unwillingly, become the survivors of the suicide of someone they love. Their experience of grief is completely different and vastly more painful than for those people who grieve for other deaths. A helpful guide for what to expect at various stages and a set of strategies for handling these phenomena is a real gift for each of these people.”
—Eve R. Meyer, Executive Director, San Francisco Suicide Prevention
Book Review by Rick Hanson, PhD
Author of Buddha’s Brain and Hardwiring Happiness.
Unfinished Conversation is a wonderful book that offers a practical pathway through grief to healing for loved ones, grief support groups, and the healing professionals who support them.
Book Review by the American Association of Suicidology (AAS)
For their “Books Recommended by AAS for Survivors”
Reviewed by Quintin A. Hunt
Unfinished Conversation: Healing from Suicide and Loss begins with an invitation to take a journey into the pain of loss. This journey, the authors claim, will lead through the heart of the pain and help to heal shattered hearts and to develop a new relationship with the one who is now gone. The base of the book is taken from a journal that Robert Lesoine kept after the death of his friend, Larry. Expertly woven into the raw feelings expressed in the journaling of Lesoine’s loss are the tools and techniques of Marilynne Chöphel that will help to understand, heighten, experience and refine these emotions. The authors claim this journey will help anyone left after a suicide find greater perspective, meaning, and well-being in their lives. I agree without reservation.
When I began reading the book, I will admit that I was skeptical of the authors’ claim as I felt that I was being sold. However, the willingness of Lesoine to share his feelings in such an honest and sometimes vulnerable manner disarmed me. I connected with experience in a way that made differences in vocation, stage of life, or spiritual views irrelevant. Themes of Lesoine’s own experience of spirituality are prevalent in the book because they were prevalent to him; not because the authors were trying to tell me they should be prevalent to me as I had feared initially. In fact, it is because of these shared spiritual experiences—though different than my own—that I was able to connect so deeply with the book.
The guided journey in this book begins with an account of Lesoine’s experience of learning of his friend’s death. While the chapter acts as a preface for the following chapter—regarding shock and disbelief—it also gently invites readers to reconsider “getting over it.” Readers are invited to turn towards their pain and accept that a certain amount of grief may always be present but that it is possible to feel whole again. After this discussion of grief and shock, the authors then guide readers through feelings of responsibility, unanswered questions, feelings of abandonment, and many more common experiences after suicide.
Each chapter has questions designed to develop a further understanding of the experience of loss, sometimes to heighten the feelings, and also to bring the readers back down to earth. It is very worthwhile to note that with every exercise readers are invited to return to the present moment and be grounded. These exercises are valuable tools to cope with difficult emotion. As the book begins to close, readers are assisted in findings ways to remember their loved one but also to say goodbye as Lesoine says goodbye to Larry’s dog that served as a great connection and keeps Larry alive. The book also includes six appendices that are all extremely useful resources for this journey of healing, creating support, and for suicide prevention.
Unfinished Conversation: Healing from Suicide and Loss is a book that I will use in my own clinical practice and one that I will recommend to friends and family as well. The book helps to create some understanding out of an experience that is largely devoid of it. Most importantly, the book helps to believe that there really is hope that it gets better.
Book Review by Mindfulness Bell Magazine
Autumn 2013, Issue #64
Reviewed by Eleanor Stone
As a trauma psychotherapist, I so appreciate Unfinished Conversation: Healing from Suicide and Loss – A Guided Journey. This book offers itself not only as a resource but also as a companion, guiding the journey of loss from a loved one’s suicide. Written in short chapters that open with a personal narrative about author Robert Lesoine and the death of his best friend Larry, it is written in an accessible, engaging way that supports the reader in understanding some of the themes unique to this kind of loss. Each chapter walks the reader through journal exercises to help create meaningful closure and healing around the gaping wound of a sudden devastating loss.
Although the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention documents twenty-five reported suicides a day in the U.S., we often feel isolated in the wake of a suicide loss. Early chapters of the book look at the ways in which a suicide leaves us with feelings of “unfinished business,” such as disregarded warnings and an incompleteness that comes from unanswered questions. Each chapter ends with a simple exercise to return to the present moment. We have a chance to write an uncensored eulogy, sit with the positive and negative influences of this person in our life, explore our loved one’s shadow (and our own), and reflect on dreams in which we are visited by the one we lost.
The book takes us beyond the initial shock and disbelief and into a richer way to know ourselves and our loved one, working with the suicide as an opportunity for post-traumatic growth. Perhaps my favorite chapter, “Discovering Interbeing,” touches on one of the most meaningful themes of Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings. Lesoine writes, “What I am discovering is that the more I release him, the more I can connect with an affection and love for the Larry that transcends form.”
The way we choose to respond to suicide determines the quality of our consciousness as we make our way. Unfinished Conversation helps us see how to make choices that can heal us from the devastation of suicide with meaning and grace.
Book Review by Linda Graham MFT
Healing and Awakening into Aliveness and Wholeness Newsletter
I’ve recommended many books in the last year as particularly powerful and pithy resources for recovering resilience. This month’s e-newsletter focuses on a particularly poignant as well as powerful and pithy book: Unfinished Conversation: Healing from Suicide and Loss – A Guided Journey.
It takes real courage to acknowledge, talk about, read and write about suicide. Written by my esteemed colleague and friend Marilynne Chophel MFT, and her esteemed colleague and friend Robert Lesoine, Unfinished Conversation offers a guided journey to healing from grief and loss based on Robert’s experience grieving the loss of his best friend Larry to suicide.
I was present the evening Jack Kornfield and Pema Chodron were interviewed by Michael Krasny about compassion from the Therevadan and Tibetan points of view. 3,000 people were in the auditorium. When audience members were invited to ask questions, a woman stood up and asked how to cope with the suicide of a loved one. A hush fell over the entire auditorium. Jack asked anyone who had also lost a loved one to suicide to please stand up. 300 people stood up. Jack asked the woman to look around and see how many people, in this one auditorium on this one evening, could understand her pain from their own pain, moving from the “me” to the “we” to keep our hearts open in the face of our own suffering.
Over one million people worldwide choose to take their own lives every year; that’s one death every forty seconds; more deaths per year than lives lost to homicide and war combined. The annual number of unsuccessful attempts is far greater. The largest increase in rates of suicide (30%) is now among people 55-64 years of age. Yet there is a pervasive stigma attached to acknowledging any mental illness associated with suicide, including depression, which can prevent people from seeking help, and a powerful stigma attached to talking about, contemplating or recovering from the loss of a suicide.
While Unfinished Conversation is written expressly for survivors of suicide, it is a useful guide for moving through any death of any loved one. This poignant, powerful pithy volume “…invites you into a journey of restoration, reminding you that you can still laugh, love, and come full circle with the loved one you have lost.” – Michael Beckwith
May these reflections and exercises be useful to you and yours.
Robert tells his own personal story of using journal writing as a tool of grieving, resolution, and healing from the death by suicide of his best friend, Larry. Drawing on the deep wellspring of Robert’s personal experience, every chapter of Unfinished Conversation offers journal exercises to guide the reader to also find their way out of raw pain, sorrow and anger through deep grief, understanding, and forgiveness to a renewed sense of presence and love. Not an easy path but a sure one. (See “Exercises to Practice” below.)
Among the guided reflections suggested (see also “Exercises to Practice” below):
First Reactions….Telling Others….Remorse and Regret….Creating a Place of Honor….Gathering to Say Farewell….Creating Dialogues….Talking about the Hard Stuff….Unfinished Business….Grieving Around Strangers….Being In-Between….Gifts of the Shadow….The Uncensored Eulogy….Defining Moments….Turning toward Acceptance….Forgiveness….Ongoing Conversation.
For Robert, the depression underlying Larry’s suicide became more visible, more understandable over time. As Larry’s ex-wife Mary expressed at the memorial service:
Larry was not a coward; he was not selfish; he was tired. He was in the profound pain of an illness that often allows for no hope and blinds one to the love of self and, most cruelly, insists that there is no help anywhere to the sheer fatigue and loneliness that envelops those lost in its embrace.
Robert included these lines in his eulogy for Larry:
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man…
Born but to die, and reasoning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much;
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
Still by himself abused, or disabused;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled;
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!
– Alexander Pope
In conversations after the memorial service with the new love of Larry’s life, Kathryn, Robert was able to put together the missing pieces of the puzzle of the dust balls and cobwebs of the depression and physical pain, fears of inadequacy, and anger masking those fears, that blocked the light and love from Larry’s mind and heart that might have allowed him to go on living.
Chapter 16, Missing Pieces, is a moving conversation with the reader of Larry’s unraveling from hope and joy into dark despair again. Understanding the pain of Larry’s depression and estrangement cracked open Robert’s heart to understanding, compassion, and forgiveness.
Even so, there were waves of powerful emotions to manage as Robert moved through his own bardo. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the bardo is seen as a transitional state between death and life beyond death. Robert’s bardo was the transition from the life he knew with Larry to a life without him, letting go of the dreams, the possibilities, the conversations, letting go of beliefs about how life is supposed to be. Transitioning to a deeper understanding of the light and shadows of life to a new way of being with himself, with memories, with a sense of Larry’s presence within.
The latter third of the book describes the journaling of conversations, retreats, and ceremonies in the Lost and Found men’s group that were turning points in understanding, coming to terms, acceptance of Larry’s path and his final choice. As Robert begins to move beyond Larry’s death to life without him, but carrying his aliveness in his own heart, he could show up in new ways for his life without Larry, unfolding the path he must now travel without his best friend. The unfinished conversation becomes a series of ongoing questions about the meaning of life and responses to mortality.
Read More of this book review, including the following sections with excerpts from the book:
Poetry and Quotes to Inspire
Stories to Learn From
Exercises to Practice
November 23, 2013 is International Survivors of Suicide Day. For one of the most beautifully moving 9-minute videos you will ever see in your lifetime, click here.
Book Review by Laura K Kerr, PhD
Mental Health Scholar and Registered Marriage & Family Therapist Intern
Book Review appears in ACEs Connection andACEs Too High
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) provides trauma-informed practices to prevent ACEs & further trauma, and to increase resilience.
Robert E. Lesoine’s best friend Larry took his life by suicide on October 15, 2005. Although Lesoine knew Larry was struggling with feelings of disappointment, dejection, and loss, along with the return of debilitating pain associated with a past injury, Lesoine did not see the intensity of Larry’s despair.
In his grief, Lesoine, who practices Buddhism, initially planned to write to Larry for 49 days following his suicide. Buddhism claims that during the 49 days following death, consciousness is suspended before incarnation into the next life. What started as a deeply personal effort to grieve and continue his connection with Larry, Lesoine later expanded into a guide for grieving death by suicide, titled Unfinished Conversation: Healing From Suicide and Loss. In this book, Lesoine, along with Marilynne Chöphel, MFT, uses memoir, journaling exercises, and mindfulness practices to guide those who have lost a loved one to suicide towards greater self-understanding and compassion, which often are the hidden gems of the grieving process.
Grieving may be one of the most painful and courageous tasks we endure as human beings. Grieving is an initiation into what depth psychologists sometimes call the dark night of the soul, and myths like Persephone’s Journey into the Underworld, and similar spiritual tales, were created to model the inevitability of loss and its cyclic nature, teaching us that although despair and grief are inevitable, they too shall pass. Perhaps the pain of losing someone to suicide is that the deceased was unable to foresee the cyclic nature of suffering. And as suicide’s survivors, perhaps by choosing to accept the natural order of grieving, and being willing to both be with suffering and transform it, the survivor can also transform the departed’s choice of suicide into something meaningful. This, I believe, is one of the central lessons that Lesoine and Chöphel’s guided journey through grief teaches.
Yet without a spiritual tradition as a guide through grieving, or a community supportive of life’s inevitable losses, it’s all too easy in our modern world to avoid the journey into the Underworld of despair. Instead, many of us find ourselves stuck in depression or anger or apathy, unwilling or unable to face our own suffering. The emotions that can flood us in the wake of death — shock, sadness, hopelessness, numbness, guilt, anger, even rage — are amplified when death is by suicide, and often complicated further by feelings of shame. Too often, people try to shut down these powerful feelings by rationalizing them, dissociating them, denying them. Although distancing ourselves from powerful emotions is an important and needed survival mechanism, eventually they must be given attention. When grief is unresolved, especially after a tragic loss like suicide, it traumatizes the body, mind, and soul.
In the field of psychotherapy, we speak of complicated grief, which feels a lot like acute traumatic stress. Complicated grief is thought to happen when the person who has died is too dead. The felt need to push away painful and overwhelming emotions halts the grieving process. Healthy grieving is not as much about forgetting the deceased as remembering them differently, and thus starting a different relationship with them, one that involves death as part of the story we tell about who we were in relationship to the deceased, and who we have now become without them. This story we tell to ourselves, to others, and in our “unfinished conversation” with the departed.
The power of Unfinished Conversation is Lesoine’s willingness to continue the conversation with Larry, to honestly and openly engage with the emotions and fantasies pouring forth, filling the void his friend’s death created in him. Had Lesoine shared only his imagined conversations with Larry, the book would have been a beautiful memoir and an implicit guide for healing after losing someone to suicide. Yet by providing both journaling and mindfulness exercises in each chapter, readers are guided deeper into their own healing. Each chapter shares from Lesoine’s year following Larry’s suicide, including excerpts from his own journals. Much attention is given to processing difficult emotions and constructively engaging with the inevitable imaginings of the deceased. Lesoine and Chöphel gently lead readers towards a deeper understanding of how loss impacts who they are becoming in the aftermath of suicide while also coming to understand how suicide changes their relationship with the deceased.
While Lesoine and Chöphel weave Buddhist beliefs and other spiritual practices throughout the book, they address aspects of grieving that are universal, transcending all spiritual traditions. Each chapter ends with a brief mindfulness practice, which ideally helps readers recenter in the present moment and in the body following potentially emotionally charged writing experiences. Especially through Chöphel’s contributions, Unfinished Conversation has the added benefit of including exercises specifically adapted to the latest research and practices from the field of trauma-informed care. In Appendix A, Chöphel provides an important “Tool Kit For Your Journey To Healing” that I would recommend reading before beginning the exercises. Since the fear of being emotionally overwhelmed often keeps us from exploring difficult material or remembering painful experiences, it’s important to feel emotionally safe and grounded while doing the exercises, thus avoiding the risk of retraumatization. This appendix, along with other useful resources, can be found at the book’s companion website, unfinishedconversation.com, which itself is a wonderful resource.
Unfinished Conversation is a deeply personal book and a gentle guide for grieving death by suicide. It’s also a courageous book. Lesoine unflinchingly shares his intimate journey, showing the inevitable pain and messiness that grieving involves, but also the heights of the human spirit that are reached when we are willing to face what frightens us the most.
Book Review by DZ
Organization/Management Development Consultantwith over 30 years experience working with
Corporate, Health Care, Government and Non-profit organizations
Unfinished Conversation is a handbook and resource book for those who have lost a loved one to suicide. It offers a roadmap for navigating through the very difficult process of great loss, toward the path of transformation and healing. A comprehensive toolbox filled with powerful and practical tools for everyone regardless of where they are in their process or how long ago the loss occurred. This book is a handbook for healing, a handbook for life, that I will refer to again and again through the years ahead with the certain losses that life will bring.
Throughout reading Unfinished Conversation, the line, “We arrive at nirvana (end of suffering) by way of moving through samsara (mundane existence, full of suffering and misery)” seemed to fit. The book brought to life the phases of loss and grief described by Elizabeth Kubler Ross, providing a beautiful illustration of moving in and out, and back and forth, through all the phases, giving the reader a sense what each phase looks, feels, and sounds like. It demonstrates how someone can, with self-awareness and consciousness, move through all the phases and move toward healing and wellbeing in their life. It models, with depth and compassion, how to release and discharge the traumatic traces from the past. Not forgetting, but forgiving, and growing in wisdom about the person that has passed – and about one self.
Unfinished Conversation is compelling to read, a real page-turner. And it is beautifully written, coming from the heart, with grace, depth, and integrity. The language used makes it very accessible to a wide audience at all ages and stages. At the same time, it is very nuanced and concise with extraordinary clarity, compassion, and honesty.
The writing and tools provide an emotional vocabulary and “model” for others in the writing of their journals and letters. Robert’s journey unfolds in a way that feels very real, with each step easy to follow and understand. How wonderful to read about the depth of love two men feel for each other – who are not gay. Robert’s experience through grief is expressed with such authenticity, honesty and vulnerability… and without shame or embarrassment. His level of psychological and spiritual awareness is a role model for men, as well as women.
Organization of Book
The Preface is very moving, setting just the right tone for the book, and immediately establishing creditability for the authors. I loved the book’s format. It’s very reader friendly. The self-reflective journal exercises are very “do-able” for a wide audience, and the reader can easily pick and choose their own path through the guided healing process. The mindfulness section at the end of each chapter is inspiring, being both a prayer and statement of validation. The appendices are excellent, with the Tool Kit for Your Journey to Healing and Creating Support resources especially helpful.
I liked that Larry wasn’t idealized or demonized. Rather, the reader has a very real sense of him and his complexity along with the complexity of his relationship with Robert, the brothers, former partners, and other loved ones. All the characters are extremely well written and come alive with their humanness. The writing demonstrates that forgiveness isn’t about making an effort to “do the right thing” or “let go.” It’s the natural outgrowth of moving fully through a healing process, with no rush or time-table, at one’s own pace of coming to terms with such great loss. The book presents many surprises and delights, even the unexpected sweet relationship with the dog Buddy, demonstrating the healing that is possible with letting go and death.
I liked that several rituals, used by Robert as well as the brotherhood of men, are described and provide another kind of “modeling.” The book remains anchored in reality with actual names of teachers and teachings, as well as psychologists, being included in the story. And there is an extensive bibliography, so the reader can further reference those names. There are excellent educational pieces throughout, such as sharing information about how “unresolved grief or trauma from the past also compounds the complexity of your current loss,” and helpful information that guides the reader through the final stages of the transformational healing process.
The book presents a perspective and compassion for the person who takes their life by suicide, so we can better understand what happened and why from their experience. This “inquiring into” the loss helps the reader better deal with feelings of anger or judgment about their loved one’s choices and the impact their actions had on him/her self, and the reader. It also keeps open the compassionate perspective and honoring of individual choice.
Deep bows to Robert and Marilynne for your courage. I know writing this book meant visiting and re-visiting, and diving deep into dark and difficult areas of your own personal history. I appreciated your mutual acknowledgement of each other and the value of the collaborative process of co-creating the book. My feelings echo Tara Brach’s words, “this book is pure medicine for the grieving heart.”
Unfinished Conversation is a reminder that the challenges in our lives, the ones that rock us to our core, have common elements. All involve embracing acceptance, making meaning, finding courage, gaining clarity, tapping our inner wisdom and knowing, and restoring wholeness and integration, as a pathway toward transformation and liberation. Thank you Robert and Marilynne, for bringing this gift of healing to the world.
Book Review by Eve Siegel, Certified Life Coach
Kailas Career & Life Transitions Coaching
The book, Unfinished Conversation: Healing from Suicide and Loss, is about one of the most deeply painful existential experiences possible– and therefore, I thought might be much too dark for me, personally, to want to finish. However, I felt drawn in immediately by the book’s beautiful cover with flying crane in a misty sky. Plus, it’s not a lengthy book, though very potent, and the story line carries you on before you know it. Robert Lesoine’s unflinchingly honest relating of the impact of the suicide of his best friend, followed by the healing journey he undertook in its aftermath, is a powerful affirmation of the value of having the time and wise guidance needed to carry on to inner completion the “dangling conversation” with a person one has lost so tragically.
Co-author Marilynne Chöphel’s psychological and spiritual wisdom brings to this book a profound and compassionate grounding in how to stay supported, connected, and empowered through the grieving and healing process. Her healing exercises and body-centering affirmations at the end of each chapter, plus her supplementary “Tool Kit for Your Journey to Healing,” “Creating Support,” and “Clinical Theory Behind Unfinished Conversation’s Healing Process” appendices, add practical, tested, positively oriented ways with which to deal with the grief and loss of the suicide of a friend or family member with awareness and self-caring. I highly recommend Unfinished Conversation as a must-read book for us all as human beings seeking to be in authentic connection with loved ones ripped away from us “untimely”– and with ourselves.