Resilience: A Health Promoting Strategy for Aboriginal Women following Family Suicide


The purpose of this research was to explore resilience in Aboriginal women following family suicide. A participatory action research design, using in-depth interviews was used for the study. Ten Aboriginal women who had lost loved ones to suicide were interviewed twice to explore factors which contributed to their resilience. An inductive process was used to analyze the data, iteratively coding to identify themes and relationships among themes. After a very difficult adjustment period, the women developed strategies to reestablish balance in their lives. Spiritual beliefs, prayer, a connection to the deceased, and the support of family and friends were key supportive factors. Other health promoting strategies included: keeping busy and having a routine; the pursuit of physical health; the importance of laughter; and comfort in nature. The themes that emerged were consistent with the holistic perceptions of health represented in the teachings of the traditional medicine wheel. The lessons learned from the suicide helped the women cope with other adversities and motivated them to give back to their community. In spite of experiencing the profound loss of a loved one to suicide, these Aboriginal women demonstrated their resilience by developing health promoting strategies that enabled them to move forward in their healing journey. A better understanding of how resilient women develop health promoting strategies will guide the development of effective services and programs in communities to assist women in adverse situations regain balance in their lives.

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