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.
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,