What to Do When Your Home Has Become the Scene of a Suicide

One of the most shattering experiences is the loss of a family member or other loved one by suicide. The tragic, traumatic loss becomes more complicated and overwhelming when the death occurs in the home. A survivor of suicide loss not only faces seemingly insurmountable grief but also a good deal of confusion as to what needs to be done next. There are certain steps that do need to be taken in the aftermath of a self-inflicted death in the home.

Contact Law Enforcement

When the death of a family member or other loved one in the home is discovered, the first step that must be done is to contact local law enforcement. Law enforcement officials are called to these scenes to confirm that the death was by suicide and not by some sort of criminal act.

If there is a question about the manner of death being a suicide as opposed to a homicide, the coroner will be brought to the scene. Further investigation will ensue, including an autopsy and other forensics testing. However, in most cases, there is no issue about the manner of death being suicide as opposed to the result of criminal activity.

When the police have completed their work at the scene, which in these types of situations typically is concluded in short speed, the residence is turned back over to your control. You are than able to undertake the additional steps that follow the suicide of a family member.

Arrange for Removal of Your Loved One’s Remains

The next step in the process is to arrange for the removal of the remains of your loved one and transport to a funeral home. Funeral homes are on call 24 hours a day to transport the remains of deceased individuals. Preplanning may have already occurred as to the needs of the deceased family member. If not, you will have to select a funeral home and make some preliminary decisions as to funeral arrangements and disposition of the remains. This includes a consideration of whether a burial or cremation will be selected.

A funeral home must disclose to you the complete cost associated with transporting the remains to the funeral home before arriving at your home. Additionally, a funeral home in California must provide with printed information about all other costs for services and other purchases (like a casket) before you make a final decision on these matters.

Engage the Services of a Suicide Cleanup Company

In theory, survivors of suicide loss can undertake the cleaning of the death scene on their own. With more than 50 percent of suicides involving a firearm, and more still involving a blade of some sort, these death scenes can be difficult to behold. The recommendation is that survivors of suicide not personally undertake the cleaning of the death scene. Rather, they should retain the services of an experienced, reputable, compassionate suicide cleaning company.

You should not delay in making these arrangements. Any type of scene involving blood is more efficiently cleaned and restored to its original condition when remediation efforts commence promptly.

As is the case with a funeral home providing transport of the remains, a reputable suicide cleaning company provides an estimate in advance of commencing work. Moreover, a company with a solid reputation does not bill you for services until after work is completed.

Arrange to Stay Somewhere Else

Even though only part of the residence is directly impacted by the death, you should consider seriously making arrangements to stay somewhere else until the suicide cleaning process is completed. 

Some survivors of suicide loss do elect to stay away a bit longer as part of their own grieving process. There simply is not a right or wrong answer about when you should return home. The only generally clear point is that you should find somewhere else to say until the cleaning process is completed.

Obtain and Organize Deceased Loved One’s Documents

Whenever someone dies, including by their own hand, there are issues that need to be addressed almost immediately. These include not only funeral and disposition decisions and arrangements, but issues pertaining to bills, the deceased individual’s work, and his or her estate. Thus, an array of different types of documents need to be obtained and organized in the aftermath of a person’s death. These include:

  • Last will and testament
  • Other estate and trust documents
  • Any separate funeral or disposition directives
  • Bank account statements and other information
  • Tax information
  • Work-related documents
  • Bills
  • Debit and credit cards
  • Social Security card
  • Driver’s license

Consider Obtaining Grief Support or Counseling

You must not overlook your own needs during the challenging time following the loss of a loved one by suicide. You need to take steps to protect your own health and wellbeing.

With this in mind, you may want to consider obtaining grief support or counseling. This might include taking part in a special survivors of suicide loss support group. You may also want to consider grief counseling. There are grief counselors in California and elsewhere around the United States that specialize in working with people who’ve lost family members or other loved ones by suicide.