Date of Conferral





Counselor Education and Supervision


Melinda Haley


Every year more than 47,000 individuals die by suicide in the United States, leaving behind numerous family and friends who become suicide survivors. While there are prodigious amounts of research on suicidal behavior, little research has focused on what the surviving family members, friends, and community members need after the loss. Many suicide survivors use social media to address their grief and pain in a very public manner. A constructionist social theory of grief and existential phenomenology provided the framework for this qualitative study to examine the use of the Internet and social media as a forum for those grieving the loss of a loved one to suicide. Suicide survivors were recruited through purposeful sampling and interviewed about their experiences using the Internet and social media as a coping tool for dealing with their loss. Four themes emerged from the research: intrapersonal, interpersonal, community, and societal. These themes identified how positive social change can result from survivorship and the use of the Internet and social media as a tool for growth. Through this study, I contribute to social change by providing more knowledge about how suicide survivors can address their needs after losing a loved one. Additional research will allow mental health professionals, medical providers, and natural supports (e.g., friends, family, or clergy) to understand this population's needs. This new knowledge also provides insight for website designers who work with groups such as the American Foundation on Suicide Prevention and others in providing online opportunities for grieving, making their efforts more effective, especially for those living in rural areas.