1

Immediate steps

If you’ve recently learned that someone you care about has taken their own life you are probably feeling shocked and wondering how this could have happened. You may be dealing with coronial services and police and this can be overwhelming.

It’s important for you to know that there are people who understand what you are going through right now. When you are ready, there are people who can provide information and support – you do not need to go through this on your own.

You can go to the Group support page to locate support near you.

Immediate practicalities

In the next few days and weeks you may be dealing with making funeral arrangements. It can be challenging to consider whether or not to view your loved one. Some people are reluctant to do so while others feel a strong need to do this. Listening to yourself and what you need to do is helpful.

Responding to children, answering their questions and wondering about how to guide them through the experience is also challenging. It can be very beneficial to involve family and friends, including children, in decisions about the funeral. It might help to know that children sometimes do want to be involved and that this can be beneficial for them if they are listened to and supported through the experience. Go to the Children and grief page for more information about this.

People also have different views on speaking about suicide at the funeral. Some find it too difficult while others would prefer to be direct about it. These differences of views can sometimes cause conflict and distress. Finding a balance and respecting differences can help as this conflict can lead to arguments and further distress.

It is also important to keep in mind that it can take a week or more for the coroner to release the body of your loved one.

Finally, in relation to the funeral, there can occasionally be difficulties in regard to religious or spiritual faith. In society, suicide is still surrounded with stigma and, though it is rare nowadays, there can be difficulties in the funeral rites from some religious ministers. This can be deeply distressing however, in most cases it will be possible to find a priest or minister who will respond with compassion and respect. If you encounter someone who will not conduct the service, look further until you find someone who will.

Financial considerations

There may be many financial issues that require consideration:

  • Decisions about moving house
  • Administering the will if there is one
  • Insurance and superannuation
  • Bank accounts
  • Dealing with Centrelink

A death certificate is often needed to carry out financial transactions and handle the accounts of your loved one. Sometimes the information on the certificate is very detailed and you may be reluctant to show this to institutions and organisations. Births, Deaths and Marriages in some states offer an abridged certificate which will be accepted by some organisations. It’s a good idea to check with the organisations before you proceed with ordering the abridged certificate. You may also need to consider legal advice and/or engage legal aid to assist with these issues.

Personal

In all decisions, it is important to consider what is right for you, however, it is often suggested that you delay making major decisions for 12 to 18 months following a significant bereavement. This applies particularly to moving house and dealing with some of the belongings of your loved one. There are, of course, situations where making decisions sooner than this is necessary.

Ongoing support is an important part of bereavement. We know that social support and connections are very beneficial in the experience of bereavement. This support can also be from professionals and other bereaved people.

Resources such as counselling services, support groups, books and online information are all available in many areas. Links to some of the resources on this site are listed below:

Work

Bereavement or Compassionate Leave in Australia is often limited to three days. In the case of suicide, this will often not be long enough. It may take several weeks before you are ready to return to work. For some people, work provides a focus and a routine which is helpful. For others, the impact of the trauma and bereavement impacts significantly on the capacity to return to work. The Returning to work page has some suggestions about getting back to work. It may help to consult your General Practitioner if you are having difficulty returning to work.

Family

Because suicide is difficult to make sense of and understand, it is possible to begin to see yourself or others as responsible for what has happened. In the emotionally charged atmosphere, guilt and blame can result in conflict, arguments and a breakdown in communication and relationships. This increases the level of distress and can leave some feeling isolated and alone.

If anyone is feeling particularly angry, which is not unusual, it is helpful to keep in mind that it is beneficial for the long-term wellbeing of the family, and especially children, that care and support are offered to everyone in these heightened emotional circumstances.

Go to the pages on Grief and Trauma for more helpful suggestions.