Date of Award

Spring 3-27-2017

Document Type

Dissertation - University of Massachusetts Global access only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Lynn Larsen

Second Advisor

Dr. Keith Larick

Third Advisor

Dr. Martinrex Kedziora


Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore posttraumatic growth experiences in individuals bereaved after someone close to them died by suicide. Specifically, this study examined the lived experiences of survivors of suicide on five posttraumatic growth domains: relating to others, new possibilities, personal strength, spiritual change, and appreciation of life.

Methodology: This study used a qualitative phenomenological research design to examine the lived experiences of posttraumatic growth in suicide-bereaved individuals. First, study participants were administered the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI) to see if they exhibited signs of posttraumatic growth. Participants who demonstrated posttraumatic growth were invited to the next part of the study, a semi-structured interview about their experience of posttraumatic growth. The population for this study included suicide-bereaved individuals in the Riverside and San Diego counties of California.

Findings: This study found that suicide-bereaved individuals reported an increased appreciation of life and loved ones and encountered new opportunities and possibilities, including new roles and opportunities to help others. This study also found that participants had an increased awareness of spiritually after their loss. Additionally, this study found that respondents had an increase in their personal strength and their ability to survive a tragic loss.

Conclusions: These findings led the researcher to conclude that when suicide-bereaved individuals experience posttraumatic growth after a loss, they are able to grow, heal, and transform as a result of their loss. This growth encompasses embracing life and others in different ways, including having new experiences and opportunities. Additionally, suicide-bereaved individuals demonstrate posttraumatic growth by experiencing increased personal strength which enables them to do things that they didn’t do before. Participants also experienced growth through an increased awareness in their spirituality and by finding a new purpose in life.

Recommendations: Mental health practitioners can assist their clients by understanding the underpinnings of posttraumatic growth to employ interventions aimed at promoting growth in their clients. Additionally, professionals should promote communication as a useful tool to work through grief and connect with other family members. Lastly, professionals should enable and assist clients in the pursuit of finding a new purpose in their life post loss.