"It’s like an oak tree growing slowly across a barbed wire fence": learning from traumatic experience of bereavement by suicide in later life

Trish Hafford-Letchfield, Jeffrey R. Hanna, Evan Grant, Lesle Ryder-Davies, Nicola Cogan, Jolie Goodman, Susan Rasmussen

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Abstract

Bereavement by suicide is a traumatic and life changing experience but we know little about the lived experiences of people bereaved by suicide themselves and their voices are notably absent from current suicide prevention and intervention strategies. Understanding these different individual experiences and pathways arising within suicide research points have potential for developing more service user led social and therapeutic interventions. This qualitative study explored the critical themes and features evident in the meaning making, coping and adaptation needs of people in later life who were bereaved by suicide through the lens of transformational learning. In-depth interviews with 24 people aged 66-92 generated two themes on the centrality of experience, critical reflection and meaning making in later life following suicide trauma; and the journey of discovery and how this interacted with social and political rights in later life. Findings suggest that further research is necessary to generate practice-based evidence which identifies the impact of bereavement by suicide on people in later life; how their needs for support are currently assessed and identified; and how to respond more holistically to people with psycho-social problems which stem from these learning experiences and to build on the knowledge of people with lived experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Population Studies
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2023

Keywords

  • trauma
  • suicide
  • older adults
  • bereavement

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