Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Robert A DiTomasso, PhD, ABPP, Chair, Department of Psychology

First Advisor

Susan Panichelli Mindel, PhD, Chair

Second Advisor

Stephen R Poteau, PhD

Third Advisor

Terri Erbacher-Duff, PhD

Fourth Advisor

Petra Kottsieper, PhD


The objective of this study was to examine whether or not (1) the quality (emotional attachment, level of psychological closeness) of the pre-mortem relationship between a suicide survivor and the deceased, and (2) the amount of guilt experienced has influenced grief reactions in suicide survivors. Specifically, complicated grief, perceived stigma, and overall quality of life were examined. Data were collected from 1130 adult participants between the ages 18 and 80, who identified as having lost someone to suicide, in a time period more than six months prior to survey completion. This dissertation's findings suggest that guilt has a detrimental impact on all investigated grief reactions in suicide survivors. Also, the perception of an emotionally close pre-morbid relationship with the decedent does significantly impact both complicated grief reactions and perceived stigma. Based on these results, it is suggested that additional supports and resources be provided to what appears to be a vastly overlooked and under-served population of suicide survivors.