The experience of being informed of the death of a loved one by suicide: an interpretative phenomenological analysis

Pye, Naomi (2020) The experience of being informed of the death of a loved one by suicide: an interpretative phenomenological analysis. DClinPsy thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Introduction. Individuals bereaved by suicide may be at an increased risk of psychological complications and their bereavement process can be influenced by interactions with professionals immediately following the death. However, there is a paucity of research into how the news of a suicide death is delivered and the impact of this. There has been a call for research to explore suicide survivors’ experiences of interactions with front line responders.

Objective. The aim of this study was to explore individuals’ experiences of being informed by a professional of the death of a loved one by suicide.

Method. Nine White British participants (eight females, one male) aged 30-62 years volunteered, however one participant was excluded due to not meeting the inclusion criteria. Semi-structured interviews were conducted, audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. The data was analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.

Results. Analysis yielded three superordinate themes with subordinate themes within each: ‘Orienting and Perspective Taking’ (subordinate themes of ‘making sense of the police presence’ and ‘making sense of the informer’s actions’), ‘Compassion in the Transaction’ (subordinate themes of ‘demonstrations of care’ and ‘the importance of clarity and accuracy’) and ‘Navigating a New World’ (subordinate themes of ‘impact of the news’, ‘supporting the transition’ and ‘beginning of the grief journey’).


The themes that emerged from the data reflected participants’ understanding of the informer’s presence and their actions; the need for care and compassion; effective communication of the required information; participants’ transitions into a new world and how informers could support this at the beginning of the grief journey. The findings were considered in relation to the extant literature on suicide bereavement and breaking bad news. Whilst the findings were consistent with the literature, they also further understanding of suicide bereavement, the impact of being informed of the death and this signifying the beginning of their bereavement. The findings also add to the literature base on breaking bad news, specifically in relation to police officers delivering the news of a death by suicide. These findings, therefore, have important implications for professionals required to inform families of a death by suicide and those responsible for training and supporting these informers. There are also implications for professionals supporting suicide survivors and those developing effective and high-quality services for them. A numbers of methodological considerations of this study are discussed including recruitment, demographics and homogeneity of the sample, and reliance on participants’ retrospective accounts. Suggestions for future research are also presented, including addressing limitations of this study, development of psychologically informed evidence-based guidelines for delivering the news of a death by suicide, impact of delivering this news on informers and suicide survivors’ experience with other professionals following the death.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (DClinPsy)
Supervisors: Sabin-Farrell, Rachel
De Boos, Danielle
Smith, Angela
Keywords: Suicide; Bereavement; Grief; Front line responders
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Item ID: 59573
Depositing User: PYE, Naomi
Date Deposited: 24 Jul 2020 04:40
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2020 04:40

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