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Viewing the body after bereavement due to suicide: a population-based survey in Sweden.

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Omerov, Pernilla 
Steineck, Gunnar 
Runeson, Bo 
Nyberg, Ullakarin 


BACKGROUND: Research on the assumed, positive and negative, psychological effects of viewing the body after a suicide loss is sparse. We hypothesized that suicide-bereaved parents that viewed their childs body in a formal setting seldom regretted the experience, and that viewing the body was associated with lower levels of psychological morbidity two to five years after the loss. METHODS AND FINDINGS: We identified 915 suicide-bereaved parents by linkage of nationwide population-based registries and collected data by a questionnaire. The outcome measures included the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). In total, 666 (73%) parents participated. Of the 460 parents (69%) that viewed the body, 96% answered that they did not regret the experience. The viewing was associated with a higher risk of reliving the child's death through nightmares (RR 1.61, 95% CI 1.13 to 2.32) and intrusive memories (RR 1.20, 95% CI 1.04 to 1.38), but not with anxiety (RR 1.02, 95% CI 0.74 to 1.40) and depression (RR 1.25, 95% CI 0.85 to 1.83). One limitation of our study is that we lack data on the informants' personality and coping strategies. CONCLUSIONS: In this Swedish population-based survey of suicide-bereaved parents, we found that by and large everyone that had viewed their deceased child in a formal setting did not report regretting the viewing when asked two to five years after the loss. Our findings suggest that most bereaved parents are capable of deciding if they want to view the body or not. Officials may assist by giving careful information about the child's appearance and other details concerning the viewing, thus facilitating mental preparation for the bereaved person. This is the first large-scale study on the effects of viewing the body after a suicide and additional studies are needed before clinical recommendations can be made.



Adolescent, Adult, Bereavement, Emotions, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Parents, Psychometrics, Registries, Suicide, Surveys and Questionnaires, Sweden, Young Adult

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PLoS One

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Public Library of Science (PLoS)