Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


This study examined the ways that survivors of suicide make meaning following the death of a person they defined as a family member, intimate partner, or shared a close friendship with. Meaning making was conceptualized through the lens of postmodernism that assumed that meaning was not a fixed entity but an on-going process of evaluation and reinterpretation. Two frames of meaning were used to examine the process; the global understandings people use to organize and make sense of the world and the appraised meaning that people create around specific events. The appraised meanings are informed and shaped by the global meaning. Meaning making was investigated through interviews with twelve survivors of suicide. The participants were asked questions which were meant to elucidate possible sites of meaning making. The findings of the study showed that people's global and appraised meaning systems were greatly challenged by the loss; the suicide taught them to relearn their worlds. Participants created meaning in a variety of ways, but most were unable to validate the meanings they found. The prevalent ways of meaning making were the creation of a loss narrative, an on going connection to the deceased, and a reframing of the participants meaning structures.


Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2008. iii, 68 p. Includes bibliographical references (p. 58-60)