Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling Psychology & Community Services


The purpose of this study was to compare bereavement experiences of suicide survivors with those of other survivors. The primary focus of investigation was upon grief reactions suggested to be unique to suicide bereavement and upon quality of grief resolution two to four years after death. Fifty-seven women and men, between ages 24 and 48, who had experienced the death of a marital partner were interviewed. Subjects were assigned to one of four groups by cause of death (Suicide, Accident, Unanticipated Natural, and Expected Natural). The categories of death served as the independent variable. Dependent variables were total grief reactions, defined grief reactions, and quality of grief resolution.

ANOVAs and Scheffe Procedures were performed to test for the presence and location of significant differences among the four groups. No significant differences were indicated among survivors on frequencies of grief reactions considered common to all bereavements. Suicide survivors were significantly different from all others on certain grief measures, including rejection and unique grief reactions, from Unanticipated and Expected Natural Death survivors on total grief reactions, stigmatization, and shame variables, and from only Expected Natural Death survivors on search for explanation and responsibility variables. No significant differences were indicated among the four groups on measures of recovery from grief.

Primary conclusions based on these findings included: (1) suicide survivors consistently experience greater number of grief reactions when compared with other survivors; (2) suicide bereavement is an accretion of different forms of grief reactions including those common to all bereavements, those concomitant with unexpected death, those concomitant with other-than-natural death, and those rare to bereavements other than suicide; (3) suicide survivors do not recover from grief in any manner significantly different from other survivors; (4) accident bereavement is closer in impact to suicide bereavement, whereas unexpected natural death is closer to natural death; (5) course of bereavement and recovery is influenced by factors more critical than cause of death; and (6) complications previously reported among suicide survivors result from factors needing further delineation. Suggestions regarding bereavement studies, methodological limitations of this study, and comments regarding grief experiences of young adults were discussed.

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