A Special Scar: The Experiences of People Bereaved by Suicide

By Alison Wertheimer | Go to book overview

Chapter 9

Facing suicide as a family

I was ignorant of suicide. I didn't think it could happen to me, an ordinary, decent, well set-up, middle-class family with everything going my way…I would never have believed it could happen to my family. (Carol)

The death of one its members will have an impact on family life and relationships and the balance within the family. The effects of loss on the family system will depend on the role the deceased played within the family and whether the death leaves a gap which someone else must now fill. The emotional integration of the family will affect the degree to which its members can help one another cope. And whether families value or hinder communication, particularly when it comes to expressing emotions (Worden 1991).

The earlier literature on suicide bereavement often presented a rather negative picture of the impact of self-inflicted death on the family, as in Cain's dramatic portrayal of the family bereaved by suicide:

Psychological processes…are often shaped by and amidst family interactions contorted by individuals too deeply preoccupied with their own grief to be helpful to each other, brimming with needs to blame and externalise, contending with newly erupted affects and problem behaviour in themselves and each other, abruptly forced into restructuring delicately intertwined family roles and skills…buffeted as well by major practical problems which weigh towards further dissolution of the already harshly rent family structure.

(1972:15)

Subsequent research presents a more optimistic picture in relation to some families. A study of parental bereavement after suicide and accident (Seguin et al. 1995a) found that while suicide had a negative impact on some families this was not necessarily true for all families. Some parents in the suicide group felt that the event had brought the family closer together,

-95-

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A Special Scar: The Experiences of People Bereaved by Suicide
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword xi
  • Preface to the Second Edition xiv
  • Acknowledgements xvii
  • Part 1 - Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Suicide: an Introduction 3
  • Chapter 2 - Survivors of Suicide 17
  • Part 2 - Aspects of Suicide Bereavement 33
  • Chapter 3 - Meeting the Survivors 35
  • Chapter 4 - When the Suicide Happens 39
  • Chapter 5 - Looking Back 53
  • Chapter 6 - Why Did It Happen? the Search for Understanding 66
  • Chapter 7 - The Inquest 79
  • Chapter 8 - Funerals 90
  • Chapter 9 - Facing Suicide as a Family 95
  • Chapter 10 - The Impact of Suicide on Individual Family Members 108
  • Chapter 11 - Facing the World 124
  • Chapter 12 - Looking for Support 136
  • Chapter 13 - Facing the Feelings 149
  • Chapter 14 - Finding a Way Through 166
  • Part 3 - Responding to People Bereaved by Suicide 179
  • Chapter 15 - Meeting the Needs of Survivors 181
  • Chapter 16 - Groups for People Bereaved by Suicide 196
  • Chapter 17 - Counselling People Bereaved by Suicide 215
  • Postscript 237
  • Appendix 1 239
  • Appendix 2 244
  • References 247
  • Name Index 257
  • Subject Index 261
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