Recently, we were called upon by the family of a man whose death had been ruled a suicide, a conclusion with which the deceased man’s siblings did not concur. The family of the deceased man did not share with us precisely how he had died. They did volunteer that there had been an investigation of his death that lasted for several months that resulted in an official determination that the man had taken his own life.

The family explained to us that they wanted to pursue the matter of how their sibling died because they were fairly well convinced that the man didn’t take his own life. They suspected foul play. In this regard, they visited with a private investigator but were told he required at least $10,000 up front to take on the case.  The cost of hiring a private investigator was beyond their financial reach.

The aftermath of a suspected suicide, particularly in a situation in which at least some surviving family members don’t believe the official determination, can be particularly challenging for those close to the person who has died.

With some regularity, when a loved one is lost to what is determined to be a suicide, those left behind end up not concurring with the official cause of death. This case brought to mind the infamous case of television’s Superman who died of a gunshot wound.

The Death of Television’s George Reeves

As mentioned, George Reeves starred in the television program The Adventures of Superman, which aired in the 1950s. In the summer of 1959, after the show had gone off the air, Reeves died of a gunshot in the bedroom of his Benedict Canyon home. The death occurred while others were gathered in his home socializing. The official cause of Reeves’ death was determined to be suicide. Despite that official determination, a good many people speculate that his death was the result of an intentional or accidental shooting and not suicide.

Reeves’ mother engaged an attorney to pursue a second investigation of her son’s death. A second autopsy was performed which confirmed the cause of death as suicide. Nonetheless, to this day people question the dual findings of suicide based on the contention that facts do not support a self-inflicted gunshot would. For example, there was no gunpowder on Reeve’s hand, which was to be expected if the cause of death was suicide.

The Life of the Deceased Man

The family provided some vague insights about the life of their sibling. The man whose life ended compressed into a modest room in a boarding house evidently lived quite differently until more recent times. We did learn that the man had lived in a large, upscale apartment before landing in the boarding house. In the past the gentleman had succeeded in his career, which was exemplified by fine furniture he’d brought with him to the boarding house and kept in storage unit. Despite what seemed to be notable prior success, something seemed to have gone off track, which resulted in his change of residence and likely contributed to the coroner’s determination that the man took his own life.

The family seemed to think that their brother’s life may have taken a turn that somehow brought him into contact with nefarious characters that may have caused his death. They did seem pretty firm in their belief that their brother did not kill himself. 

We did obtain some indication as to what the man did for his career. However, as we discerned some information about how he made a living, and evidently a successful one, we also fully understood that the brother and sister were intent on maintaining privacy, including their own and their deceased brother’s as well.

The Deceased Man’s Home

The man’s room at the boarding house was in disarray. The boarding house itself was run by a family and well kept on the inside of the building. No matter the underlying cause of the man’s death – suicide or foul play – the final days of his life did not appear to be lived in a joyous manner. The brother and sister had an understanding of the state of the deceased man’s room and elected to stay out of the room.

The siblings were at the boarding house during the cleanup process. We would bring personal items to them to ascertain what they wanted to keep. In the end, they wanted to remember their brother by the positive mementoes and other personal items he collected during his life rather than the circumstances surrounding the way he lived at the end of his time on Earth.

Grief, Healing, and Family Restoration

Even though the family didn’t share much about themselves or their brother, we nonetheless did get to know at least something about them. Specifically, we were able to realize the pain, anguish, and grief they are enduring. In the case of this brother and sister, there was a profound sadness in their eyes that still sticks with me. They lost their brother and were getting what they believed were inadequate, if not outright inaccurate, answers about why he died. 

Part of the grief, healing, and restoration process for this family obviously was trying to make some sense out of their brother’s death. That seemed elusive for them, which undoubtedly contributed to their grief.

The family was intent on ensuring that no matter how their brother died, something meaningful could come from the tragedy. While they did keep personal mementoes of their brother for themselves, they made the decision to donate his personal property, including home furnishings in the boarding house room and a storage unit, to an organization called Alexandria House. Alexandria House is an important not-for-profit organization that provides housing and support services for people who were the victims of sex trafficking

When our work at the boarding house was finished, the sister took me aside for a brief moment. “This has been horrible. We can’t make sense of any of this,” she said. “One of the things you brought to us when you were cleaning was a photo of the three of us in elementary school, my two brothers and me.”

The deceased man’s sister went on explain that she lost her copy of the photo years ago. She added that her living brother lost his copy of the picture as well. “Getting that photo, that was the only hopeful thing that has happened since our brother died. Thank you for that,” she added. The only real personal bit of information she shared during the time we worked at cleaning up the boarding house room was that she hoped the day would come when her sharpest memories of her deceased brother was when they were all children. “That was a truly happy time and that is how I want to remember my brother,” she said.