Suicide Prevention Month: How Funeral Directors Can Be A Vital Lifeline

As someone who has lost family and loved ones to suicide, I know just how shocking and gut-wrenching this kind of loss can be.

Not only are you dealing with the unexpected death of someone who is near and dear to you, but you are also left grappling with an endless number of unanswered questions. What could I have done to prevent this? How did I miss this? What signs did I not catch? Why did this happen?!

Unfortunately, my situation is not a rare one. Each year, more than 41,000 individuals die by suicide, leaving behind a broken web of friends and family who are left trying to navigate through their own loss, confusion and unanswered questions. And no one sees this more up close and personally than funeral directors.

In the days following my suicide loss, I was thankful for the important and invaluable role that our funeral director played in this personal tragedy. They were there to answer questions that no one else seemed to know the answers to; they were able to offer guidance to parents who didn’t quite know how to broach the subject of suicide with their children; and, most importantly, they were a vital lifeline for those who were facing hardships and depression of their own.

So in honor of September’s Suicide Prevention Month, I’m sharing four small, but vital ways in you can make all the difference in the aftermath of a suicide loss:

1. Break Down the Taboo

Suicide has always been a very “hush hush” topic with a lot of unfair stigmas and associations related to it. In many families, when someone passes away from suicide, the cause of death will even be brushed under the rug. This might be because people think that by not talking about what happened, they can change it. Or it may be simply because people don’t want to face the unanswered questions that come with this paralyzing type of tragedy.

But, unfortunately, the more that we don’t talk about suicide and the related disease of depression that often comes with it, the more we shut out others who may be facing their own difficult thoughts. Thankfully, funeral professionals are in the perfect position to spread knowledge and share stories about suicide loss, grief and recovery, in order to help destigmatize this loaded topic.

Be transparent, but careful in your language when talking about suicide loss. For example, avoid using phrases like, “they’re in a better place,” as it can glamorize the act to others who may be facing hardships. Also let families and relatives know that it’s okay to talk about suicide openly, and many of the subjects that relate to it. After all, making the conversation a comfortable topic is how you get people to come forward with their thoughts in the future.

2. Make Resources Easy to Access

When someone passes due to suicide, you often hear people repeat the same message: “If you are experience feelings of hopelessness or depression, talk to someone.” But telling family and friends that they should talk to someone is not actionable. What funeral directors should do instead is make helpful and healing resources as available and easy to access as possible.

For funeral professionals, this could mean putting together a resource portal on your website with helpful guides like “How To Recognize The Warning Signs of Suicide” or a list of local and anonymous suicide prevention resources. No matter what type of information you share, be sure to let your community know that these resources are safe spaces where they will face no judgement, and no question is too small. They have an entire community of people out there who want to lend a hand, which leads us to our next point…

3. Listen Without Judgement

Funeral homes shouldn’t just offer family resources that they can turn to when they need to talk about suicide loss and grief. They should be a resource. After all, in times of suicide loss, there are so few independent ears that family and friends can turn to to be honest about their feelings, without fear of judgement. So if you are comfortable and able, open up your doors and be that pillar of support to the families that you serve.

Even if you don’t have anything to offer up other than a list of helpful reading resources or a good contact for a grief counselor, the simple act of listening can be enough. Many studies have shown that people are less likely to feel depressed, suicidal and overwhelmed when they speak to someone who listens to them without judgement. In fact, they often feel more hopeful after.

Be that source of hope for your community in times of hardships.

4. Spread Your Expertise

Funeral directors can’t be all things to all people. There are simply not enough hours in the day. So rather than leave a gap in support for someone in your community, take the time to spread the knowledge and advice that you have come to acquire with others around you who may be interacting with the survivors of suicide loss. For example, religious leaders, school counselors or support group leaders.

You can do this by providing them with helpful fact sheets on suicide loss and grief, or by allowing them to host healing workshops at your funeral facilities, where you will be on hand to answer any questions.

You can also pass along some of our other helpful blog posts on the topic of suicide loss to further help the families and funeral professionals in your community during Suicide Prevention Month, and all year long:


What steps are YOUR funeral home taking to better serve families who are going through suicide loss? Be sure to leave your tips in the comments below!

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  1. Robert L. Hall

    Early in my life I can remember finding out that life was not the happy go lucky affair I thought it was. It was one of those points in life that I would have just as soon not had. The realities of life are mostly disturbing. I think abortion was the first of the tragic events that I learned of. Old enough to read a newspaper I began to see things that were happening (of course far away from my life) to people. The initial abortion issue was a result of a rape and the victim had chosen to have an abortion. I could not understand or comprehend how you made that decision first and then, who would knowingly perform that procedure. Then shortly thereafter a lady who was a friend of the family killed herself. At that point the reason was moot. I just remember being so disturbed anyone would take that action, for ANY reason. Since then I feel like I have been aware of a lot of suicides. I was always caught of guard and the most unsettling aspect of the event was being able to wrap my mind around how horrible life must have been to resort to that end. If there is one thing I know about life, it is that things change continually. You never know what will greet you the next day.Of all causes of death, suicide is the most cruel and unfortunately selfish-albeit I guess unrecognized by the victim. To me obscene is the word that best describes the taking of one’s own life. At 68 I still cannot emotionally deal with the results to the family and others affected. So it remains a mystery of this existence. I can only pray for those who have died that there is forgiveness (necessary in my religious belief) and relief.