Suicide

As with all funerals, the Celebrant, in consultation with the family, will discern preferences they have concerning the memorial service. These take precedence over any advice provided by others or concerning content shared below. It is essential that we be sensitive to the expressed needs of those we serve, even to granting them final assessment of what we prepare so that they can remove what they choose from what we have prepared before the service begins.

CELEBRATE THE DECEASED

A memorial service is exactly what the name implies.
It is a chance for the life of the deceased to be remembered, ideally in a fond way.
While it may be hard to separate the suicide from your recollection of the deceased’s life,
there was far more to it than just that final act.
The deceased was a child once with hopes and dreams.
He was a son, father or grandparent with favorite movies, music and jokes.
Include amusing stories about the deceased, and reminisce about the elements of his personality people found most appealing.
Chances are, others will relate and begin entertaining positive, healthy, healing thoughts.
Focus on the things the deceased enjoyed and accomplished in life
when they were in a happier frame of mind.
Those things exist regardless of how that life ended.

DO NOT SPECULATE

The immediate aftermath of a suicide for the survivors
brings a barrage of questions,
both internal and from other people.
None of these questions has an easy answer.
“Why did he do it?” is the most common question,
and survivors can fall into the trap of compulsive preoccupation with such speculation.
If you include it in the memorial, it must be for the purpose of helping people set it aside.
The memorial service should bring respite from such fruitless thinking for the survivors.

Without evading the realities of thee situation,
help them gather to remember the deceased in the best possible light
just as they might for a deceased individual
who died peacefully at home in old age.

BEWARE DETAILS

In telling a story about happy experiences in the deceased life in detail is appropriate
to assist listeners to refocus on happier times.
Going into detail in discussing the manner in which the deceased died, is morbid.
Do not start or engage in any such conversations or deal with it in the service,
even if others closer to the situation
find it necessary to talk graphically and openly about all the grisly details
to try to make sense of the situation
or as an expression of their grief.

LISTEN ATTENTIVELY

If you are worried about saying the wrong thing
or don’t know what to say,
by simply listening, with minimal input
you provide one of the most helpful tools for healing,
a sympathetic, listening ear.

WORDS FOR THE SERVICE

There is something heavy and bothersome about a gathering where everyone is dwelling on something deeply burdensome that is never spoken. The stress of an unmentionable subject that troubles the living and the dead with subtle shame is defused when it can be named.

So, it is important to name the circumstances of suicide and make space for the feelings that accompany that. However difficult, therefore, in opening remarks, offer some statements about the person’s choice and make room for some of the feelings that evokes—open a window to vent pent up emotions of troubled spirits.

However hard at the time, guests will be relieved that you name the person’s choice with respect for his human struggle and express understanding for difficulty accepting the finality of his/her actions.

After an initial greeting, you might say, “We gather to honor _____’s memory and to support one another in grieving a death that is the hardest death to grieve: death that is chosen.”

The effect of saying something like this is remarkably liberating.

Further remarks might include…

We come into this time with a range of emotions
as deep and complex as the man/woman we are remembering.
Here there is love – and the searing pain of separation.
Here there is anger – and the futile search to understand
why ________ could not weather the despair
that locked him/her alone into him/her self.
Here there are questions – why, mostly. Why?
Some of you come feeling bruised by this death
and asking what you could have done to prevent it.

________’s choice to die touches the despair
that courts many of us in our own moments of loneliness
and threatens the structures of meaning
that affirm our own lives.
Let us remember that no single act of desperation
can define a life.

No matter how stalked by pain,
________’s life also had its moments of delight and happiness,
caring and friendship,
sharing and love.
Death by choice is not a denial of life;
it is the cry of despair for more life.
It grows from a deep personal alienation
or profound suffering
and is carried out alone,
after a struggle within one’s self.
When a death such as this cuts across life in its fullness,
we are left with a sense of incompleteness.
We know that ________ leaves much unfinished, unfulfilled, unsaid. There are still other things you wanted to share with him/her,
and he/she with you:
graduations, weddings, the birth of grandchildren;
another walk on the beach at sunset with _____,
another _________ with _______,
another ________ with_______.
This sadness for the loss of this life, full and blossoming,
mingles with the sadness for the loss of possibilities not realized.

 

Another possibility….

 

On ________, ________ completed a decision.
Where there is pain and confusion, despair and doubt,
we long for the end to suffering.
For some, like ________, life no longer had any choices but one.
Life left scars that ________ could not find the inner resources to heal. The inner pain was too great
– pain that he had contained within himself for years,
pain that often lashed out in anger, mostly at himself.
________ chose to end the suffering for himself.
The mind was exhausted,
the heart frightened,
and the end taken.
The suffering does not end, however,
for those who have loved and cared for him.
Friends and family are left
with feelings of shock, betrayal, anger, sadness,
and – in time – compassion and forgiveness.
Those who are left ask and continue to ask,
“What could I have done?
Why didn’t I see it?”
No one knows.
And nothing will bring him back.
No one is responsible for ________’s choice but ________.