A Phenomenological Investigation of Suicide and Family Connectedness
AuthorNicholas, Steven Wood
AdvisorHarrison, Thomas C.
Counseling and Educational Psychology
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Extensive research acknowledges the influences of a suicide on peers and family members, yet the degree to which familial survivors of suicide communicate within their family constellations and, additionally, what family transformations ensue have not been studied. This phenomenological multi-case study proposes to understand the lived experiences of family survivors and to discover how family interactions connect or disconnect the family system. The context for this study was the professional counseling practice of Steve Nicholas, the author of this manuscript. Four family constellations comprised of 10 individual adult survivors were studied. Two genogram descriptions for each survivor illustrated inter-familial relational styles before and after the suicide, and complemented initial and follow-up interviews. The researcher discovered that the familial roles within each family shifted with several thematic descriptions of connectedness and disconnection. Themes for connectedness were togetherness, openness, acceptance, and peace. Themes for disconnection were conflicting emotions and withdrawal. Increased understandings of how family connectedness might change after suicide offers the counseling profession insight into how the bereaved re-establish homeostasis with possible combinations of cohesion and disengagement.