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Crisis. 2007;28(1):26-34.

The lived experience of adults bereaved by suicide: a phenomenological study.

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Mid West HSE, Limerick Mental Health Services, St Joseph's Hospital, Ireland.


In recent years, a plethora of research studies have attempted to delineate the grief experiences associated with suicide from those of other sudden traumatic deaths. The emerging consensus suggests that bereavement through suicide is more similar than different to other bereavements, but is characterized by the reactions of shame, stigma, and self-blame. The causal nature of these reactions has yet to be fully understood. This study reports on the lived experiences of eight adults bereaved by suicides, which were obtained through in-depth interviews. Data were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Four main themes dominated the relatives' grief experiences. First, the early months were checkered by attempts to "control the impact of the death." The second theme was the overwhelming need to "make sense of the death" and this was coupled with a third theme, a marked "social uneasiness." Finally, participants had an eventual realization of a sense of "purposefulness" in their lives following the suicide death. Overall, the findings suggest that suicide bereavement is molded and shaped by the bereaved individual's life experiences with the deceased and their perceptions following social interactions after the event. The findings from this study suggest that "meaning making" may be an important variable in furthering our understanding of the nuances in suicide bereavement.

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