Posttraumatic Growth Among Parent Survivors of Suicide
Posttraumatic Growth Among Parent Survivors of SuicideDespite the burden of suicide in the United States and anecdotal clinical opinion that this cause of death creates a unique form of grief among those left behind, there is a dearth of research on those who are bereaved by suicide. There is some limited evidence that "suicide survivors" may be at higher risk for posttraumatic stress disorder or prolonged grief. Growing theory in the positive psychology literature suggests that trauma, such as suicide bereavement, may also promote growth within the confines of distress, referred to as posttraumatic growth. Posttraumatic growth is a construct of positive psychological change that occurs over five domains: relating to others, new possibilities, personal strength, spiritual change, and appreciation of life. Previous research has suggested that reflective rumination predicts posttraumatic growth and that it occurs closer to the traumatic event than farther away. However, posttraumatic growth and variables that may contribute to or undermine it, such as demographic variables, rumination subtypes, prolonged grief, resilience, personality factors, and mood states have not been previously studied in survivors of suicide. The present study investigated posttraumatic growth and these variables among a convenience sample of 154 parents bereaved by the suicide death of their child within two years. Multiple regression analyses revealed that resilience inversely predicted posttraumatic growth scores. Resilience also inversely predicted posttraumatic growth factors of relating to others and new possibilities. Contrary to predictions, neither reflective rumination nor prolonged grief predicted higher posttraumatic growth scores. Additionally, posttraumatic growth did not correlate with any of the variables assessed. Additionally, there were not any significant differences in posttraumatic growth scores for those who met criteria for prolonged grief and those who did not. The overall posttraumatic growth scores of the parents in the present study are also low compared to parents bereaved by other causes of death, suggesting that posttraumatic growth may occur later in the course of suicide bereavement. Implications for future research are discussed.
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