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The lived experiences of late-adolescent female suicide survivors: ‘A part of me died’

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Abstract:

People’s thoughts often focus on the suicide victim immediately after a completed suicide. Yet, the real victims of such an event are those individuals who are left behind to cope with the aftermath of the suicide. This phenomenological psychological study explored the lived experiences of lateadolescent suicide survivors, particularly those negative experiences that seemed to worsen in the weeks and months after a significant other’s completed suicide. The research participants were five female late-adolescents (aged 17–22 years) who were recruited by means of purposive sampling at a South African tertiary institution and at youth camps. Data collection consisted of collagefacilitated, face-to-face phenomenological interviews. In addition, some participants provided documentary material in the form of personal diaries, letters and poems. The data analysis was conducted according to Giorgi’s phenomenological method. The following salient experiences emerged during the data analysis: guilt, self-blame, blaming others or God, anger, loss or restriction of ‘self’, depression, suboptimal behavioural coping patterns, changes in relationship dynamics, and suicidality. The results of this study can be used by mental health professionals and caregivers to support adolescent suicide survivors effectively, in the midst of their mourning.

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