School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling (EdD)


Bridgette Hester


suicide survivors, widow/widower, bereavement, spiritual change, post traumatic growth


Social and Behavioral Sciences


A crippling concern that has swept the world and shown to be a significant public health issue is suicide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2022) show suicide is among the top ten leading causes of death in ages 10–64. The survivors of suicide are at increased risk of adverse consequences. The purpose of this interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) study explores the lived experiences of spouses of suicide loss (SOSL) living in the United States (U.S.) regarding the spiritual change (SC), the process of suicide bereavement, and posttraumatic growth (PTG) within ten years post-loss. To better understand lived experience, this study conducted one-on-one Zoom interviews with fifteen SOSLs within a ten-year post-loss, only after year one. Two research questions addressed the study: How do SOSL experience the suicide bereavement process, SC, and PTG? How do SOSL interpret the suicide bereavement process, SC, and PTG journey? Two theories guided the researcher throughout the study. Johnson and Zitzmann's (2020) post-homicide spiritual change (PHSC) theory is a nonlinear illustration of homicide survivors' spiritual changes after loss. While Worden's task-based mourning model illustrates four tasks of mourning, helping in the bereavement process. A hermeneutic phenomenological design assisted in revealing the lived experiences of all fifteen SOSLs. Van Manen's analysis approach was utilized to reflect upon the lived experience, which helped the researcher interpret and describe their SC, suicide bereavement, and PTG journey—utilizing this methodology allowed for an objective view to encompass the participant's experiences. Regarding RQ1, the lived experience, participants drew upon the dissociative feelings after a suicide loss, adjustment change after trauma, and a reflective approach during transformation. Several attested to additional trauma after the suicide. In response to RQ2, the SOSL interpretation of their lived experience, the expression of self during re-establishment, the process of enhancing self, and an elementally whole self. The demonstration of two additions included some participants interpreting SC afterward and thoughts of self-death. The developing themes are harmonious with existing research, and further recommendations have been supplied.