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Survivors - Bereavement After Suicide

Bereavement After Suicide: Understanding the Experience of Suicide Loss

 

Who Is A Survivor?

  • Previous definitions focused on exposure, kin, and psychological proximity.
  • A broader definition: "A suicide survivor is someone who experiences a high level of self-perceived psychological, physical, and/or social distress for a considerable length of time as a result of the suicide of another person."

How Many Survivors Are There?

  • 6 Survivors for every suicide (180,000 new survivors each year)?
  • Exposure - Crosby & Sacks (2002):
    • 7% of U.S. population exposed in a year (21 million each year)
    • 1.1% have lost a family member (3.3 million each year)
    • Of those exposed: 3.2% lost immediate family/13.7% extended family/80.4% friend or acquaintance

Are Survivors at Risk?

  • Qin, Agerbo, & Mortensen (2005) found:
    • completed suicide in immediate family associated with 2.1 fold increase in risk for completion of suicide themselves
    • In young survivors (under age 21), paternal suicide associated with a 2.3 fold increase, and maternal suicide associated with a 4.8 fold increase in risk for completion
    • Loss of a child or spouse is associated with increased risk of suicide in survivors - and loss to suicide increases risk even more
  • Hedstrom, Liu, & Nordvik (2008) found:
    • Men exposed to loss of a family member 8.3 times more likely to die by suicide
    • Men exposed to loss of a work colleague 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide (work setting under 100)

Prominent Themes for Survivors

  • Why? Making Sense of the death: what signs did i miss? How could he/she have hidden this? This isn't the way it's supposed to be.
  • Responsibility: Guilt & Blame
  • Trauma & Helplessness: Shock & Horror
  • Anger: Rejection & Abandonment
  • Relief: The end of suffering
  • Shame: stigma associated with suicide and mental illness
  • Social Disruption: Isolation & Social Ambiguity
  • Suicidality: Why go on?
  • Sorrow: Grief & Yearning

Prominent Themes for Survivors: Family Impact

  • Information management: who and what to tell, powerful impact of secrets
  • Disruption of family routines, rituals and role functions/Changes in emotional availability/Changes in distance and power in relationships
  • Communications shut-down
  • Coping Asynchrony - Differences in grieving styles
  • Blame/scapegoating
  • Developmental anxiety about repitition
  • Result=Loss of family cohesion

Post-Traumatic Growth after Suicide

  • Changed Identity: Survivor, worthy of self-care
  • Changed relations with others: more priority on relationships, more expression of love/affection, more compassion for others, ending dysfunctional relationships
  • Changed outlook on life: Purpose, Greater appreciation/gratitude, Deeper spirituality/faith, Hope

RESOURCES
HOTLINES
HOW TO HELP
TIPS FOR PARENTS
BEREAVEMENT SUPPORT GROUPS
AFSP SURVIVOR OUTREACH PROGRAM
JOE’S PROJECT
MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES & TREATMENT FACILITIES
ONLINE RESOURCES
READING RESOURCES
SUICIDE PREVENTION, INTERVENTION AND POSTVENTION RESOURCE DIRECTORY FOR THE LONG ISLAND REGION
WARNING SIGNS
SOCIAL MEDIA - HOW TO CONTACT SAFETY TEAMS
YOU ARE NOT ALONE