Suicide by Sea

"The tides shall drift my sins away,
as the sea embraces my cold body."

This is an example of being Driven to Suicide in which you walk or swim into a body of water, such as an ocean, lake or river, and drown in it. This usually happens at nighttime for a calm, allegedly "painless" death. The sea, befitting this mood, will more often than not itself be relatively calm. This trope may evoke despair, or quiet contemplation, or both. The scene itself will most likely use dialog of Rule of Symbolism using "drifting away" metaphors.

Note: This trope does not include examples of jumping into the sea, via cliff or bridge or such, as that evokes a different mood, and is usually more about hitting the water in any case. May overlap with Barefoot Suicide.

A subversion of this is Sailing into the Sunset where the protagonist takes a small boat and heads to the blue seas with no intention of ever coming back. Death may not necessarily be due to drowning, but by exhaustion, sunstroke, dehydration or perishing in storm.

This is a Death Trope, so expect spoilers, marked and unmarked.
For any tropers who feel this way... You Are Not Alone. There are numbers you can call. Please, talk to someone.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Birdman, the protagonist tells the story of how he tried to commit suicide some years ago by walking into the sea but aborted his plan when he found himself in a field of jellyfish which made him return back to the shore.
  • Rather strongly implied at the end of Coming Home, when Bob takes off all his clothes and goes swimming out into the ocean after finding out that Sally cheated on him, but not definitely stated.
  • In the film The End a terminally ill man tries many ways to commit suicide. Ultimately it's walking into the ocean to drown that makes him realize he wants to live.
  • In The Face of Another (Japanese: Tanin no kao), the side-plot has a young woman and her brother live by the sea. Because of a disfiguring facial scar, she can't seem to have a fulfilled sex life. At one point she seduces her brother. Afterwards she dresses up and walks into the sea.
  • An ambiguous example in 1912 film The Land Beyond the Sunset. Joe, a ragged urchin regularly beaten by his abusive grandmother, lives in a filthy New York slum. He gets a ticket from the Fresh Air Fund for a trip to the country and an afternoon of fresh, clean air. While there, a guide reads a fairy tale to the children in which a boy sails away with the fairies to "the land beyond the sunset." Joe finds an abandoned rowboat and decides to imitate the story—by sailing off into the open ocean in his rowboat, without food or water, without even an oar. The film leaves the viewer to contemplate whether Joe is actually committing suicide or if he's sailing to "the land beyond the sunset" as in the fairy tale.
  • One adaptation of The Odyssey has Odysseus' mother do this when she fears he is dead. He later encounters her in the underworld.
  • On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Contessa Teresa "Tracy" di Vicenzo tries to commit suicide by walking into the ocean but is saved by James Bond. It was only one of her self-destructive behaviors, which included gambling with money she didn't have. Also occurs in Ian Fleming's original novel.
  • At the end of Point Break (1991) Bodhi paddles out to sea on his surfboard one last time to catch a once-in-a-lifetime wave. The area is surrounded by police and he will be arrested when he gets back to shore. It is fairly clear to the audience that he does not intend to come back.
  • A flashback to P.L. Travers' childhood in Saving Mr. Banks involves her stopping her mother from walking into a lake.
  • Norman Maine does this in A Star Is Born after his star fades and his depression worsens.
  • Played for laughs in Bjarnfreðarson, in which the title character, at a low ebb of depression, strips off his clothing and wades into the very cold Icelandic surf... only to emerge shivering seconds later, running awkwardly for his clothes.

  • In Kate Chopin's The Awakening, protagonist Edna swims far into the sea and lets herself be drowned. It's quite symbolic as learning to swim and bathing in the sea meant a lot for her and unleashed her desires and creativity.
  • In Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, Esther has been trying to commit suicide. After failing to hang/strangle herself because of her body's natural preservation instincts, she decides to swim so far out into the ocean that she won't be able to swim back. She chooses a large rock as a marker to swim to only to realize that if she reaches it, she'll simply climb on the rock. She tries to drown herself where she is but is unsuccessful.
  • In the bleak ending of Far Rainbow, the Tester Group swims to their deaths into the approaching Wave (a colossal wall of negative energy spawned by a scientific experiment Gone Horribly Wrong) while singing, rather than wait passively for it on the coast.
  • The protagonist of the short story "Le Jettatura" by Theophile Gautier does this after he believes he killed his girlfriend, since he thinks he has (and may or may not actually have) the Evil Eye, and blinded himself so as to avoid causing her harm only to find she was already dead.
  • Mary Wesley's novel Jumping the Queue and its TV adaptation begin with the protagonist about to drown herself in the sea but changing her mind, and end with her actually doing so.
  • The Kalevala: Aino drowns herself because she does not want to marry Joukahainen.
  • Long before the events of Ozma of Oz, King Ev sold his wife and kids to the Nome King in exchange for a longer life. He didn't realize until after the fact how horrible what he did was, and since he couldn't do anything to get them back, he threw himself into the ocean, wasting the very thing he'd sold his family for.
  • Two dogs that escape from a research laboratory, Rowf and Snitter, try to live as feral dogs in Nepenthe Productions' The Plague Dogs. However, when animal control and the police converge upon the two dogs in an attempt to recapture them, Rowf and Snitter swim out to sea rather than go back to the horrors of the lab.
  • In the Mary Higgins Clark novel You Belong To Me, one of the murder suspects does this (he's innocent of the murder, but the investigation has revealed equally nefarious things that he was involved in and he is certain to face jail time anyway).
  • Sweet Valley High. Surfer Bill Chase's backstory includes him attempting this after learning of his girlfriend's death—he grabbed his surfboard and went out into a storm.

    Live-Action TV 
  • All My Children. Hayley attempts this after falling Off the Wagon, having just found out that her ex-boyfriend is involved with her best friend. It isn't 100% clear whether this was intentional or if Hayley was just too drunk to realize what she was doing when she walked into the ocean. Either way, after she washes up on the beach, she admits that struggling against the waves made her realize that she wanted to live.
  • On an episode of Baywatch, lifeguard Eddie has to rescue a guy who's hell-bent on doing this. His girlfriend's reaction of "Oh, no. Not another one", indicates that this is a problem that the guards often have to deal with (probably in real life also).
  • The Blacklist has Reddington explain to Liz that this is how Masha Rostova got rid of herself after her husband was shot by Liz in an accident.
  • Parodied on one episode of The Daily Show when John Oliver visits Australia to find out how they passed tighter gun-control laws and concluding that American politicians would never have the guts, "so I'm going to walk into the ocean." The bit ends with him on a populous beach doing just that.
  • A character on Diagnosis: Murder commits this. As he does so, the footage freezes and turns black-and-white.
  • The Enemy at the Door episode "Call of the Dead" ends with a character taking off her shoes and walking into the sea, overwhelmed by the things she's done to survive.
  • In The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, Reggie fakes his death by leaving his clothes on the beach, making it look like he has committed suicide by walking out into the see.
  • The second episode of the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series has a man walking naked into the sea, throwing money away.
  • In the Murdoch Mysteries episode "Loch Ness Murdoch", a woman walks into Lake Ontario with weights in her dress, because her fiance has left her for another woman.
  • In The Phantom of the Opera miniseries, the titular character's mother tries to do this when her lover's reaction after she tells him that she's pregnant and wants to get married is that he's already married. He saves her, but she furiously rejects him afterwards.
  • In one episode of Reno 911!, Wiegel threatens to kill herself by walking out into the ocean, despite the state of Nevada being landlocked. Clemmy deadpans that Wiegel would be lucky if she could find her way to her own car, let alone the nearest coastline.
  • In the Scrubs episode "My Fishbowl" Elliot reveals she tried this during her Hilariously Abusive Childhood. She swam out into the middle of a lake and just floated, waiting to tire out and drown. Then she got whacked in the back of the head by all the oars of a passing rowing team who were training and was rescued without anyone knowing she was trying to drown herself.
  • The second season of Spooks ends with one of the main characters, fugitive from the law and with his career in shreds, walking into the sea. It's left ambiguous until the beginning of the next season whether this is a genuine suicide or a trick to evade his pursuers.
  • Top Of The Lake begins with a twelve-year-old girl trying to drown herself in the titular lake due to her pregnancy-by-abuse.
  • The BBC miniseries adaptation of Witness for the Prosecution ends with John Mayhew drowning himself in the sea at the end after hitting the Despair Event Horizon, when his wife reveals she no longer loves him, and he learns that the man he helped liberate was in fact guilty of the crime he was accused of.


  • In the finale of Der Silbersee by Kurt Weill and Georg Kaiser, Olim and Severin attempt to drown themselves in the Silbersee, but the lake miraculously freezes over.
  • In Hamlet Ophelia falls into a lake and just kind of lets her self drown. A subplot was trying to determine whether or not it actually was suicide.
  • Once On This Island: Ti Moune walks into the sea, guided by the gods, after Daniel marries Andrea.
  • Peter Grimes: Rather than face a mob angry over the death of 2 apprentices, the titular character sinks his boat with himself in it.
  • Althea, The Light Princess, attempts this, but is thankfully interrupted by the discovery that the lake gives her an artificial gravity.

    Video Games 
  • In The Secret World, this is a recurring event related to Solomon Island:
    • It happened en masse when the Fog that followed the returning Lady Margaret swept over Kingsmouth Town, most of the inhabitants walked into the sea and drowned—only to return as a horde of zombies to prey on the survivors.
    • This is the final fate of Tyler Freeborn. Driven to find answers, he dons a respirator and walks into a shallow strait, intent on pushing through to whatever is at the heart of the Fog and knowing that he won't be returning.
    • The tragic end of the Norsemen who saved the Wabanaki during the Darkness War. Exposed to the Filth, they returned home only to succumb to madness and disease, leaving their blighted villages behind as they marched into the sea to serve their new masters.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Comics 
  • In Bad Machinery, "The Case of the Fire Inside", Lorraine, an elderly woman with memory problems, mistakes a young selkie for her daughter, Ellen. She realizes the selkie's true nature eventually. When it comes time for the selkie to return to the ocean, Lorraine lies about being okay, and she walks into the ocean as soon as she's alone.
  • In an April Fool's comic for Gunshow The Anime Club plans to drive their car into the lake and all drown together.

    Western Animation 
  • At the end of the Adventure Time episode "The Great Bird Man", the reformed villain Xergiok tries to drown himself in a lake, after a brief relapse into villainy causes all his friends to abandon him in disgust. He immediately changes his mind when a hot mermaid hits on him.
  • This is what happens at the beginning of Father and Daughter, if one takes the opening scene literally—the father gives his daughter a goodbye hug, steps into a rowboat, and rows away into the ocean, never to be seen again. However, an equally likely interpretation is that the whole scene (and the whole cartoon) is a metaphor for death and remembrance.
  • The Simpsons episode "Homer the Moe" has Moe's bartending professor die this way.
  • The Walt Disney Presents episode "The Goofy Success Story" has Goofy attempting to do this, when he is distraught at not receiving an Oscar, as a Shout-Out to A Star Is Born. Thankfully, he's saved when he gets a telegram offering him a big role.