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How to Talk About Suicide in Memorials and Obituaries

by | Dec 12, 2017 | For Families

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Suicide is a sensitive topic that wasn’t always talked about at funerals. But now, more families are including it in memorials and obituaries to reduce the stigma.

Ultimately, it’s the family’s decision whether or not they want to talk about it. If they choose to, it can be difficult to find the right words to say. That’s why we created this guide to make things easier.

Writing About Suicide in an Obituary

By writing about suicide, you reduce rumors that may occur when a death is sudden and left unexplained. You should go about writing the obituary as you would any other obituary. Include the basic facts about their death, like the date, and mention the word suicide. Avoid words like “committed” and “completed.” Instead, say phrases such as “died by suicide” or “killed him/herself.” Don’t include any details about it or any wording that glamorizes it. This helps reduce stigma while also avoiding encouraging others who may be thinking of killing themselves.

For example, these are a few sample sentences from the Ontario Funeral Service Association:

  1. “John will always be remembered for his courage during difficult times. Unfortunately, this time the pain was too difficult, and John died by suicide on Saturday evening.”
  2. “After a courageous and long battle with depression, the pain became unbearable and Sarah took her life.”
  3. “Mary Lee, her life taken too soon by her own hand.”

Instead of focusing solely on the suicide, be sure to talk about their life, interests, and personality. Focus on the positive parts of their life and why they were loved and will be missed.

At the end of the obituary, along with including surviving family and funeral details, you also can include something about suicide prevention. It can be a suggested donation to a suicide prevention organization or the family’s memorial fund. You also can include resources for those who might be considering killing themselves.

The obituary also provides future generations with a written record of their family member’s death. By mentioning it in the obituary, there won’t be any ambiguity about how they died.

Talking About Suicide at a Memorial Service

Like we mentioned above, when talking at the memorial service, you can talk about why they were loved and will be missed. Talk about their hobbies and passions, and what made them who they were. And, if you wish, don’t be afraid to say the word suicide.

By openly talking about it, you help reduce the stigma that comes with it. You also can raise awareness and encourage donations to organizations and support groups, such as the American Association of Suicidology. Additionally, it allows family and friends who lost someone to suicide to offer their support from their experience.

Saying the word out loud also can help with beginning a healthy grieving process. Family and friends may feel overwhelmed with shock and denial when their loved one dies suddenly and unexpectedly. But it’s important to find a healthy way to grieve so it doesn’t turn into complicated grief.


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