Suicide Funerals: A Difficult Reality

How to Write an Obituary for a Suicide Death.

The planning and preparation of the funeral of a loved one often comes unexpectedly, and no one is really prepared for all that entails. But when your loved one’s death was the result of suicide, everything changes. A death by suicide is painful to talk about, and one of the difficult funeral elements that you may be dealing with now is the official death announcement.

How do I write an appropriate obituary?

One of the first challenges you will face is the death of your loved one. How do you word the announcement, knowing that friends, family, and strangers will read it and find out how they died? Suicide is a taboo topic in our society, and you may feel embarrassed or afraid or nervous about writing the truth into the obituary. You are not alone with these feeling, and you should not be ashamed of them. There are several options ahead of you in regards to the obituary.

The first option is getting the whole truth out in the open right from the start, and the death announcement is the best way to do that. Many people feel hesitant to write that their loved one “committed suicide,” because the word “commit” is associated with criminal or sinful acts. One commits a crime, commits adultery, commits a burglary, etc. Some alternatives include “completed suicide,” “death by suicide,” “self-inflicted death,” or “took their own life.” If accurate, you could also write that they overdosed and leave it at that.

The second option is to leave out the cause of death. It may sound unorthodox, but if you’d feel more comfortable avoiding the topic altogether, then it’s really up to you. Don’t feel pressured to disclose everything. There are a lot of phrases you can use, such as “died unexpectedly,” “passed away,” or “left this life/world.” Focus on their life and positive things about them, mention the grief felt by their loved ones, and emphasize that many people are mourning for their loss. It will be a beautiful announcement, though you may get questions and rumors spreading because of the nature of the announcement.

Thirdly, you can forego the obituary altogether. There are pros and cons to this option. It keeps the truth among family and close friends. It will probably reduce the number of people at the funeral because fewer people will know about it. It doesn’t put a stop to rumors and questions, necessarily, but better directs them to people who actually know what they’re talking about. And it’s one less thing for you to do.

Whatever you choose to do with the obituary, know that there is no wrong option. Since this burden has fallen on your shoulders, since you are the one grieving an unexpected death, you get to decide how much you can handle and what you want to share publicly. What matters at this time is remembrance and reverence, and it’s important that you take care of yourself.


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