Planning a Funeral for a Suicide Victim
Some funerals are more difficult to plan than others. While all grief is real and painful, circumstances can make planning a funeral a struggle. This is especially true in instances where the cause of death was suicide.
Historically, suicide victims were not allowed to have a traditional funeral or be buried in the same consecrated ground as their families. While religious ideology may still play a role in how a suicide victim is buried and remembered, the funeral industry opens its doors to families undergoing this kind of loss.
A Suicide Victim’s Funeral
On the outside, a funeral for a suicide victim looks just the same as any other funeral. You can choose burial or cremation, embalming, and select between an open or closed casket. You can hold a religious or personal memorial service. You can send sympathy flowers and write an obituary. The only major difference is in how you and your family treat the subject matter surrounding the death.
Although every family (and every individual) reacts differently to suicide, most experts agree that the best way to address your collective loss is to make space for everyone’s feelings of grief and loss. Cloaking the death in euphemism or avoiding the subject of suicide may make the funeral itself run more smoothly, but it denies the real heart of a funeral—which is allowing people to say their goodbyes and come to terms with their loss. By ignoring the circumstances of the death or otherwise hiding it, you may end up stifling feelings and contributing to more grief and despair once the funeral has ended.
This does not mean that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to planning a funeral for a loved one who died of suicide. Instead, it is best to address the issue early on. Talk with other family members to get a sense for how they’d like to incorporate the cause of death. You can work with the funeral director and/or clergyman to select passages, hymns, and prayers that are appropriate for this situation. And if you find that a particular funeral home or church group is not approaching the funeral in the manner you would like, by all means exert your rights to choose another. No one should be allowed to make your family feel anything other than what is natural.
Finding Support Services
One thing that should be made available regardless of religious denomination or the funeral plans you make is additional support services and information. It is likely that friends and family members will be struggling to come to terms with this kind of tragic loss—no matter what the circumstances.
Contact a suicide support organization (or several) and gather up pamphlets and other information to have available at the funeral. You can also emphasize a favorite book on coping or make referrals to a counselor familiar with your situation. By providing an outlet for this kind of grief, you are helping to not only ensure a better funeral, but equipping attendees with the resources they need to move forward with their lives.