Provided courtesy of Confessions of a Funeral Director.
When a son commits suicide and his mother writes his obituary, this is what it looks like.
This is pretty intense.
Many years ago, I was taught to use the term “Completed Suicide” as opposed to “Committing Suicide”. Just one of those things I picked up along the road.
As a side note, It was thirty six years ago this week that I started my first job at at a funeral home.
My how things ave changed.
Ray, thank you for sharing this with us. Big hugs to Spencer’s family. May his Mom’s honesty help another family.
Profoundly similar to stories I hear…my reason for caring so much, so seriously.
Would you elaborate on your thoughts about committing versus completing?
Thanks for reading and for the question.
As I remember it…..
I believe I was taught the term while in mortuary college (1982-83) with the idea being that the survivors of someon who completes suicide often go through a very complicated grief, wondering what role they could have played to prevent the act. The term “completed” for me, at least, supports the fact that the person chose (and that is also a subjective term) to end their life. I am going to ask my resident grief expert, (and long-time friend and reader of this blog) Linda G. to chime in on this wiith some more authority, which may even contradict what I am doing. All I know is that it has become ingrained in me and is an automatic response.
Stand by for further……RJV
Hi Ray! What a powerful piece this was to read! Since you asked for my input concerning the terms “committing” versus “completing” suicide, here are my thoughts. When I talk with families who have experienced the suicide of a loved one, I’m not sure whether they really care which word I use–“committed” or “completed.” Either word indicates that the person who died chose and completed the action that resulted in death. However, when examining the two words, “committing” suicide seems to imply committing an action that is morally wrong–like “committing” murder. Suicide has often been called “self-murder.” On the other hand, “completed” suicide (actual suicide) is a clinical term that is used in contrast to “attempted” suicide (in which the person tried to die and did not succeed). When talking with those who have experienced the suicide of someone they love, the best words I’ve found to address this kind of death is to say that their loved one “died by suicide.” The loved one has died, and the cause of death was suicide–an act of desperation, whether pre-planned or impulsive–that ended whatever pain or problem the person was facing, while plunging their loved ones into great pain as they try to make sense of why the person chose to die.
When people die for other reasons, we say they died from illness or accident. I think saying that a loved one died by suicide explains what happened without saying the person “committed” a wrong action or that they clinically “completed” an attempt to die. No matter what term we use, the person chose to die, and the family and friends left behind struggle with many questions about what they might have done to prevent the death. It is a complicated grief that must be worked through, and there are no words (e.g., “committed,” “completed,” or “died by”) that really help that process. The important thing is to listen, avoid trying to give answers to unanswerable questions, and encourage those who are going through such a difficult and complicated loss to get help as they begin to navigate the journey ahead of them (grief counseling, a suicide grief recovery group, or a suicide grief support group) and work through the pain.
An excellent resource for those who have experienced a death by suicide is the book “Finding Your Way after the Suicide of Someone You Love” by David Biebel and Suzanne Foster.
Linda Gill, RN, MSN, MA in Counseling, LPC
Clinical Grief Specialist
“Joy in the Mourning”® Center for Life Losses
Thank you, Linda.
Thank u both.