Children who experience a parent's death by suicide are a vulnerable population at risk for emotional and mental health issues as well as suicide attempts (Cerel, Fristad, Weller, & Weller, 1999; Kuramoto et al., 2010; Wilcox et al., 2010). Yet, in spite of the knowledge that effective postvention is in reality prevention (Cerel et al. 2008), relatively little is known about these children and adolescents, particularly regarding their experiences following the suicide. The current research study investigated which resources, assistance, and actions of those around the child were perceived as most helpful and unhelpful following the parental suicide. Through semi-structured qualitative interviews using the hermeneutic approach, the researcher interviewed 17 adults who, as children or adolescents, were bereaved by parent suicide. Helpful experiences and support included assistance processing the suicide and an openness in the face of stigma. Unhelpful experiences included judgment and blame, silence regarding the suicide and deceased parent, and a heightened awareness of the surviving parent's challenges. Individuals who were perceived as helpful generally had pre-existing relationships with the children and helped meet their practical and emotional needs. It is recommended that customized and varied support be offered, along with the message that it is important to talk about suicide and memorialize the deceased parent. Additional research is needed to further explore the complex experiences of children of parent suicide; this will aid in the development of evidence-based interventions to better support them.
College and Department
David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Bennett, Suzanne Nicole, "Survivors' Perceptions of Support Following a Parent's Suicide" (2017). Theses and Dissertations. 6910.
parent suicide, child survivor, grief, bereavement, coping strategies, qualitative interview, retrospective