Year: 2021 Source: The Family Journal. (2021). Published 30 November 2021. doi:10.1177/10664807211052492 SIEC No: 20210923

The effects of suicide are both widespread and long-lasting in the lives of those closest to the deceased. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), suicide is the third leading cause of death in adolescents. Some research has shown that families who lose someone to suicide are at a higher risk of complicated grief compared to those bereaving from other types of losses. These risks may be emphasized given the socio-cultural context surrounding suicide that may problematize the grieving process. In this review, we analyzed 58 qualitative studies describing the experiences of family who lost someone to suicide. We discuss how negative social interactions due to cultural views towards suicide impacted their grieving process. We provide an integrative interpretation of the experiences of family who lost someone to suicide across the following themes: social withdrawal, family communication approaches, role change, cultural attitudes, the role of professional support, interactions with health care providers, and interactions with religious institutions. We examine these findings using the Assumptive World Theory which proposes that humans seek preservation of their reality by using their perceptions of the past to establish expectations for the future. We find that suicide loss is an experience that challenges people’s assumptive worlds; suicide loss can be an unexpected trauma that can have a “shock effect” on the assumptive worlds of the bereaved. The assumptive worlds of relatives grieving suicide loss face unique challenges compared to other forms of bereavement because of ambiguity in social norms surrounding suicide that influence interactions.