Can Good Come from Bad?

Do suicide survivors experience growth from their loss?

Authored by: Melinda M. Moore

Routledge International Handbook of Clinical Suicide Research

Print publication date:  October  2013
Online publication date:  October  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415530125
eBook ISBN: 9780203795583
Adobe ISBN: 9781134459292


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In his seminal book, Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl recounts his search for meaning in the suffering he experienced and witnessed while interred at Auschwitz during the Holocaust. He argued that, “Even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation, facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by so doing change himself. He may turn a personal tragedy into a triumph” (2006, p. 146). Years before Lawrence Calhoun and Richard Tedeschi pioneered the concept of “Post-traumatic Growth” (1996), Frankl described a process of personal transformation inspired by internal processes initiated under unfair and unjust circumstances. To a person who loses a loved one to suicide, there can be no greater injustice. Unfortunately, it is an experience that occurs more frequently than expected. Every 15.2 minutes an individual in the United States dies by suicide (McIntosh, 2010), leaving behind in the wake of this tragic death loved ones, family, and friends known as “suicide survivors” (Knieper, 1999), also known as the “suicide bereaved.” It is estimated that for every death by suicide, there are six individuals profoundly affected (McIntosh, 2010). Others place the number as high as ten (Mitchell, Kim, Prigerson, & Mortimer-Stephens, 2004). Some have suggested that as many as 28 individuals may be touched directly by a suicide death (Knieper, 1999). While it is difficult to calculate the actual number affected directly, when extrapolating from suicide death records from 1983 to 2007 and using the more conservative approach to approximate the number of suicide survivors, it is estimated that 4.6 million Americans have been personally impacted by suicide over this 25-year period. In 2007, the year for which we have the latest data, that number grew by 207,588 individuals (McIntosh, 2010).

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