The devastating grief of losing a loved one to suicide is that much worse when you’re the one who discovers the body. Most people have no idea what to do in such a situation. It’s difficult to act through the shock and trauma. Unfortunately, there’s a lot to do following this tragic event. Read on for a practical guide on what to do after discovering a suicide.
Please note, if the worst has yet to happen and you’re reading this because you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please seek help immediately. Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline or contact a local mental health professional.
Before you do anything else, call an ambulance. Even if the chances are slim to none that the paramedics will save the person, it will help you, in the long run, to feel you did everything you could to save his or her life. A medical professional must pronounce him or her dead if he or she is already gone, and the police will likely begin an investigation.
Close Off the Area
Immediately after notifying the authorities, ensure that no one else comes into the house or touches anything. Lock the doors, windows, and vehicles on the property until the first responders arrive. You may also want to close curtains or blinds to avoid nosy neighbors or the press. When the police arrive, they will fully secure the property, since the site of the suicide is considered a crime scene.
Find Somewhere Else To Stay
Now that your home is an active crime scene, you’ll need to make arrangements for alternative accommodations during the initial investigation. Before leaving the area, grab any essential documents or materials you’ll need, such as the deceased’s phone or contact list, legal documents, and financial information.
Now might also be a good time to ask about crime scene cleanup services in your area. Using a professional cleaning service after the police finish reduces the risk of biohazard contamination and allows you to return home without seeing the aftermath again.
Before you begin this step, consider your mental health. Telling people what happened is the most significant burden a survivor faces. It’s best to tell a large group at once or to talk to a few trusted people and enlist their help spreading the word. If you aren’t ready to answer questions or explain details, let people know beforehand, and have someone else to whom you can direct them.
Appoint Someone To Make Burial Arrangements
Discovering a suicide is a highly traumatic experience, and even more so when it happens in your home, a place you consider a safe space. At this point, you need to be protecting your mental health. Find someone else to iron out funeral and burial details. Many funeral homes can provide this service with minimal input, but ideally, you’d want to appoint another trusted loved one who wasn’t present at the scene to handle this task. That way, you’re free to grieve and process your trauma.
Seek a Suicide Loss Survivors Group
You’re likely experiencing conflicting feelings about your loss. Most commonly reported are intense feelings of guilt and anger. It helps to join a support group and be around others with similar experiences. If the method of suicide was particularly violent, you might want to consider seeing a counselor in a one-to-one setting to process the added trauma and begin to heal.
- About the Author
Alex Grigoryan is a Professional Home Improvement and Lifestyle Writer. He has been in the industry for over 6 years and has been writing for Chique Home Living since 2019. His work has been featured in prestigious blogs such as Spruce Home, Better Homes & Garden, and more.