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Funeral of a Suicide Victim

Funeral of a Suicide Victim

Funerals may be emotionally difficult events under any circumstances, but a service for a suicide victim may present special challenges for everyone involved, from the mourners to the officiant. Death by suicide may add another level of grief to the already significant loss of a friend or loved one. Often, there may be some mystery as to the exact cause of death, further complicating the idea and attainment of closure. The details of how the person died may not be clear, or perhaps the person was out of contact with the people close to him or her. Whatever the case, it may be a confusing time for all. As a funeral officiant, you want to find the right words to comfort people experiencing this very difficult loss.

Navigating the Stigma

Many religions hold the belief that suicide is wrong. Some religious organizations officially ban funeral rites for people suspected of taking their own life. It may be its own challenge to provide comfort to family and friends that have been brought up with those beliefs. Their loss may feel deepened by the thought that their loved one has lost the protection of the church by committing suicide. A funeral service if it happens in a church or place of worship, or whether it is a non-religious event serves the primary purpose of providing comfort to the living. The service need not arrive at any judgments about the circumstances of the death. An officiant may refer to scripture if it is appropriate, or create an original service based on what is known of the person who died and on what seems to be beneficial to the mourners. The following are some basic considerations for presiding at the funeral of a suicide victim:

  • Be present and available to the mourners
  • Clearly state the cause of death to alleviate the weight of the silence that may surround a death by suicide
  • Acknowledge the suffering of both the deceased and the attendees
  • Offer the thought that even overwhelming pain may pass
  • Acknowledge and validate mourners' suffering and confusion conflicted feelings play a natural part of any funeral gathering

Helping People Cope With Difficulty

In many ways, a service for someone who took their own life may be no different than any other memorial. An officiant seeks to create a safe place for people to grieve, consider their loss, and remember the person who died. While it may not be necessary to focus on the cause of death, it may be appropriate to take an opportunity to remind people of their connections to one another. It may help to speak of the importance of reaching out. People experiencing loss may support one another in the moment. They may also take away the message that they may make themselves available to people who are suffering, and take comfort from others in their own times of distress. The loneliness of suicide may be one of the most difficult aspects for people to deal with. It is painful to imagine a loved one dying alone. An officiant may acknowledge the loneliness anyone may feel while reminding the mourners that they may look to one another for support.

Honoring the Life That Is Lost

One of the difficulties many organizations face with funeral services for suicide victims is how to honor the deceased person without condoning an action that runs contrary to religious doctrine. This challenge may apply outside of the church as well. For some, it may benefit the officiant to state that the actions of the person who died may be neither condoned nor emulated by the living. Not everyone feels strongly about this sort of statement, as not everyone holds the same beliefs regarding suicide. To know how to proceed, an officiant may want to spend time before the service listening to family or close friends to best support their needs when the time comes.

Category: Get Ordained Funeral

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