Family members of a person who has died by suicide are at an increased risk of experiencing depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide ideation, and suicide. However, despite the experience of losing a family member to suicide, most families continue to function and even live well following this difficult experience. This study sought to understand and describe the transformation process that occurs in family member survivors using a grounded theory approach. Seven families, who experienced the loss of an adolescent in their family by suicide, participated in this qualitative study that used a grounded theory methodology. The results describe the transformation process experienced by the family, one of growth and learning, even though the wound from their tragic loss was still present. According to the grounded theory developed in this study, the suicide is a cataclysm, followed by a sinking period that is tempered by the presence of lifebuoys, which are supports that can be found within the families or from people around them. It is necessary for family nurses to understand this transformation process to better support surviving family members and improve suicide postvention care.
Keywords: adolescent suicide; families; nursing support; post-traumatic growth; postvention; suicide bereavement.