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Posttraumatic growth after suicide has rarely been studied.  A randomized survey of adults discovered that 40% knew at least one individual who had committed suicide. Over 20% of the whole population said their own lives had been dramatically affected by suicide.

There is evidence that people suffering this form of bereavement may be at increased risk for having trauma-related problems, like posttraumatic stress disorder or extended grief. However, according to some research, suicide bereavement can stimulate a form of personal growth, which is termed posttraumatic growth (PTG). Posttraumatic growth after suicide has rarely been studied.

The concept for posttraumatic growth has five different factors making up the construct, these include: New Possibilities, Relating to Others, Spiritual Change, Personal Strength, and a much stronger Appreciation of Life.

The goal of this study was to look into posttraumatic growth after suicide and examine what different variables might contribute to PTG in suicide-bereaved parents. These might be: resilience, reflective rumination, mood states, and various personality traits.

The study was carried out using online surveys of a sample of 154 parents who were grieving the suicide death of a child within the last 2 years.

Results of the survey showed that resilience actually inversely predicted scores for PTG, whereas reflective rumination didn’t predict PTG. Apparently people who are highly resilient have better coping skills and therefore may not have as much of a struggle dealing with the psychological effects of trauma and perhaps as a result not go through or make positive life changes.

There were positive correlations between the reflective and brooding subtypes of prolonged grief and rumination, which suggest an ongoing period of cognitive meaning-making and sense-making. This occurs in people suffering symptoms of prolonged grief. The scores on a number of factors predicted posttraumatic growth after suicide, including: Relating to Others, Resilience, Appreciation of Life, Openness to Experience, New Possibilities, and lower scores on Neuroticism.

This study showed that posttraumatic growth after suicide may occur, but it can become complicated by concurrent brooding, reflective rumination and the proximity of them to the death, which are unique experiences when trying to get an answer to “why” from this population. Because the search as to why is so prominent among people on this journey, it seems that the early brooding rumination might be happening simultaneously with the later reflection rumination.

Until these parents can come up with a partial or full answer as to why this death occurred, it may be crucial that they go back and forth from brooding to reflective rumination and keep doing this until they figure out an answer that makes sense and that they can accept. This is apparently an ongoing process of trying to make sense and make some meaning out of the suicide death of their child, which is part of their bereavement process and prolonged grief. If prolonged grief has left you feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope, consider treatment at our intensive outpatient program for depression and trauma.  Call us to set up an intake appointment.

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