The best books to come to peace with your hippy parent’s suicide

Sophie Stocking Author Of Corridor Nine
By Sophie Stocking

Who am I?

I’m a Canadian writer, and a mother of three. I think I do qualify as an ACOH (Adult Child of Hippies). My mom taught elementary school, and my dad was a university professor, but otherwise they fully embraced the hippy movement. It was a rich childhood in terms of nature, literature, art, and foreign cultures, but dysfunctional and confusing on the emotional front. Sadly, dropping a lot of acid leads to a lifetime of anxiety and depression. My father descended into mental illness and opiate addiction when I was an adult, eventually leading to his suicide. I came to terms with his death by writing Corridor Nine


I wrote...

Corridor Nine

By Sophie Stocking,

Book cover of Corridor Nine

What is my book about?

Two worlds coexist in the novel Corridor Nine, the domestic life of Bernadette Macomber, housewife and mother of four, and an afterlife space where her father Fabian Macomber resides following his suicide. Having severed relations with her father seven years prior, Bernie cannot sleep for guilt. Now she returns to her parent’s home to find evidence of Fabian’s insanity and fiasco as a parent. Bernadette hunts for absolution as the constellation of her four children spirals increasingly out of control. Meanwhile, her father searches for a loophole through the bureaucracy of personal evolution. Seeking the promised land of Valhalla, or some suitable equivalent, he is abetted by the demon/angel Bune during a re-education period prior to his next incarnation.

The books I picked & why

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Adult Child of Hippies

By Willow Yamauchi,

Book cover of Adult Child of Hippies

Why this book?

I love this book because it makes me realize mine wasn’t the only crazy bohemian family out there! This extremely funny read with authentic ’60s photos is structured as a test to determine if you really are an ACOH (Adult Child of Hippies). People might find this strange, but humour was a necessary ingredient in my coming to terms with my father’s suicide (and the reason my novel is both tragic and funny). Although my father struggled with mental illness and addiction, he had a wickedly funny black sense of humour. For me, it is a tribute to my father to see the ridiculous and laugh even in the face of grief. Certainly, there is much to laugh about in the flower child era.

Adult Child of Hippies

By Willow Yamauchi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Adult Child of Hippies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Do you have a name such as Willow, River, Oak, or Sunshine? Have you ever lived in a commune, or done yoga naked with your family? If yes, then you are an Adult Child of Hippies (ACOH). ACOHs grew up in extreme conditions: eating sprouts, and lugging herbal tea to school in their Thermoses (if they were fortunate enough to make it to school). ACOHs were born and brought up mostly in the 70s and 80s. As their parents reveled in the counterculture, their children struggled with basic hygiene, not to mention broader social acceptance. Until now, this group has…


The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving My Mother's Suicide

By Gayle Brandeis,

Book cover of The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving My Mother's Suicide

Why this book?

Gayle Brandeis’s intimate memoir of wrestling with her mother’s suicide following a long mental illness kept me company in the ways it mirrored my own experience. It is sometimes easier to mourn a stranger’s pain, as you edge towards your own grief. Brandeis’s reading through her mother’s letters, with their paranoid delusions and grandiose aspirations, “passionate and creatively punctuated,” rang true to my father’s crazy literary outpourings. Her experiences of entering her mother’s home to witness the evidence of her last activities, to the almost physical trauma of learning the stark details of her mother’s suicide method, comforted me in their familiarity. The suicide of a mentally ill parent leaves a lot of guilt and confusion in its wake. Anger and resentment aren’t what one “should” feel after a death of a parent, but Brandeis doesn’t sugarcoat the complex mess of emotions that needs to be untangled. 

The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving My Mother's Suicide

By Gayle Brandeis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Art of Misdiagnosis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Award-winning novelist and poet Gayle Brandeis’s wrenching memoir of her complicated family history and her mother’s suicide

Gayle Brandeis’s mother disappeared just after Gayle gave birth to her youngest child. Several days later, her body was found: she had hanged herself in the utility closet of a Pasadena parking garage. In this searing, formally inventive memoir, Gayle describes the dissonance between being a new mother, a sweet-smelling infant at her chest, and a grieving daughter trying to piece together what happened, who her mother was, and all she had and hadn’t understood about her.

Around the time of her suicide,…


Your Soul's Gift: The Healing Power of the Life You Planned Before You Were Born

By Robert Schwartz,

Book cover of Your Soul's Gift: The Healing Power of the Life You Planned Before You Were Born

Why this book?

This book is written by a hypnotherapist who talked to various psychic mediums to apparently, channel spiritual knowledge on big-picture questions. Although this is very “woo woo,” I feel my hippy inheritance entitles me to such explorations! In the face of something as devastating as suicide, “whatever works,” works for me, and I found great consolation in the idea of a soul’s evolution through various reincarnations. The chapter on suicide presents a theory of Spirit, which sees the act of suicide not as a sin, but as a choice (though not a recommended one) that still allows for future growth. For those left behind, it charts a path through guilt and anger to eventual acceptance. 

Your Soul's Gift: The Healing Power of the Life You Planned Before You Were Born

By Robert Schwartz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Your Soul's Gift as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In his groundbreaking first book, Your Soul's Plan: Discovering the Real Meaning of the Life You Planned Before You Were Born, Robert Schwartz brought the idea of pre-birth planning into the mainstream. Now, his compelling sequel delves even deeper. With detailed discussion and the deeply personal stories of his interviewees, Schwartz offers an incredible guide map to the soul and encourages his readers to heal at a profound level. Through complex ideas such as the development of greater self-love, an emergence from victim consciousness, and understanding the qualities you came into this lifetime to cultivate and express, Schwartz bestows practical…


In the Wake of Suicide: Stories of the People Left Behind

By Victoria Alexander,

Book cover of In the Wake of Suicide: Stories of the People Left Behind

Why this book?

This helpful book digs into the stigma of suicide, how it has been viewed as taboo, and how the bodies of people who committed suicide have traditionally even been denied burial. The people left behind find themselves isolated by their shame and the fear that others will shy away from a topic considered sinful in most religions. This was certainly my experience. Had my father died of cancer or a heart attack, I would have talked openly of his death and received a lot of support. But I felt his mental illness, addiction, and suicide too dark a topic to impose on anyone.

Happy, functional families don’t go through things like this. It was an extension of the shame I’d internalized as a child growing up with socially divergent parents who struggled with mental health issues. Alexander, who lost her own mother to suicide, gives links to survivor support groups, and discusses the importance of “storytelling,” recounting your experience to others to process your loss. The thirteen stories she tells of survivor families are very helpful in reducing the reader’s sense of isolation, as well as showing different paths to healing. 

In the Wake of Suicide: Stories of the People Left Behind

By Victoria Alexander,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Wake of Suicide as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Breathtaking stories of incredible power for anyone struggling to find the meaning in the suicidal death of a loved one--and for all readers seeking writing that moves and inspires. After author Victoria Alexander's mother took her life, she spent the next ten years collecting stories from people, like herself, who have walked through one of life's most difficult journeys. The result is a beautifully written book of powerful, spellbinding stories told by those who were left behind--parents, children, spouses, lovers, friends, and colleagues. In the Wake of Suicide offers survivors the understanding, compassion, and hope they need to guide them…


The Emotional Incest Syndrome: What to Do When a Parent's Love Rules Your Life

By Patricia Love,

Book cover of The Emotional Incest Syndrome: What to Do When a Parent's Love Rules Your Life

Why this book?

Although this book isn’t about suicide, I include it because families with mental health issues, often exacerbated by the “anything goes” ethos of hippy culture, can suffer from confused or “enmeshed” parent/child boundaries. It was one of the first, and I think best self-help books I ever read. With great clarity, it showed me what was destructive in my family of origin. Enmeshment or “parentification,” basically using a child to meet the emotional needs of an adult, is not widely understood and often goes undetected (versus more obvious physical or sexual abuse).

Dr. Love’s book gave me straightforward guidelines for being a non-destructive parent myself, something I think I did achieve due to much self-education and counselling prior to having kids. It’s always been obvious to me that my father’s mental illness and substance abuse took root in his very unhappy childhood. I think my father would be glad that I’ve given his grandkids what he never had, and thereby “broken the chain”. This gives me a lot of peace.

The Emotional Incest Syndrome: What to Do When a Parent's Love Rules Your Life

By Patricia Love,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Emotional Incest Syndrome as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Dr. Patricia Love, a ground-breaking work that identifies, explores and treats the harmful effects that emotionally and psychologically invasive parents have on their children, and provides a program for overcoming the chronic problems that can result.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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