Unfortunately, in spite of the best efforts of many, suicide happens. This leaves surviving loved ones to navigate a confusing and difficult aftermath.
If you are coming to this resource through the Bio-One website, it is likely you are in the very recent aftermath of a loved one’s death and are unsure of what should happen next. While loss like this is never easy, there are many professionals who have years of experience helping people in similar situations that you can rely on during this devastating time.
Many resources that help with the aftermath of a suicide launch right into how to cope with grief, but if you are still in the phase of trying to manage the logistics, you may need more direct information.
This section will deal directly with things pertaining to your loved one’s remains, belongings, and the physical scene of their suicide. If these details have already been taken care of or if the specifics are too difficult for you to think about right now, please skip to the next section.
What Will Happen Next
- Transport to a Medical Facility
Once the police, coroner, and/or medical examiner have released the scene, your loved one’s remains will be removed from the location of the incident and transported to a medical facility.
- Confirm the Identity of the Person
If you are the immediate next of kin but were not the person who discovered and identified the body at the scene, you may be asked to identify the body in person or through photographs. If the prospect is too traumatic for you, you can decline and ask someone else to do the identification.
- Funeral Home Arrangements
If the cause of death is clear, the coroner’s office or medical examiner’s office will usually release the victim’s body to the family within 1 to 3 days, at which point arrangements can be made for the chosen funeral home to transport the body and make preparations for their funeral.
- Potential Scene Cleanup
After the investigation is concluded, it is up to the property owner or the victim’s friends and family to take care of any cleanup that may need to happen at the scene.
Do not try to clean up the scene yourself. Any blood or fluids left behind after a death are a biohazard, and attempting to do the cleanup yourself can be dangerous and deeply traumatic.
Homeowners insurance will usually cover cleanup costs, which can relieve one potential burden. Bio-One will take care of the insurance claim process for you in addition to handling the cleaning. We have all the equipment and expertise needed for the job, and we will treat the scene, the situation, and any belongings with respect and care.
What is involved in a suicide scene clean up?
At Bio-One we recognize that it can be an important part of the grieving process for some people to know exactly what is involved in cleaning up the scene.
Any unattended death (as opposed to an attended death that happens in a medical facility or under hospice care) generally requires some level of cleanup. The intensity of the cleaning required depends on how the person died and how soon after death their body was discovered.
The nature of death and decomposition makes it so that cleaning up after a suicide is rarely an easy job. Blood and body fluids can quickly seep into furniture, carpet, and floorboards, causing massive damage as they putrefy.
It’s also important to know that the bio-matter involved in death cleanup can be dangerous for anyone without personal protective equipment. These situations require specialized deep cleaning and disinfection to remove all traces of fluids, soiled fabrics, bloodborne pathogens, and odors to make the area safe for habitation again.
At the same time, we are acutely aware that this cleanup is coming in the wake of incredible personal tragedy. While it’s important that the job be thorough, it must also be handled with as much care as possible toward the scene and any of the victim’s affected belongings. It is our goal to complete the job without inflicting further trauma on grieving loved ones.
The cleaning itself begins with a thorough inspection of the scene to assess what supplies will be needed, how much bio-hazardous material will need to be removed, and the extent of any damage that could be caused by decomposition.
Bio-matter Disinfection and Disposal
The next step is to clean and dispose of any visible blood, body fluids, and compromised porous items. We carefully follow OSHA guidelines to contain, disinfect, and dispose of all bio-matter properly in accordance with state laws to ensure the safety of everyone involved.
This stage can sometimes involve removing sections of soiled carpeting, floorboards, baseboards, and other household items to ensure that no hazardous material is left behind.
We will take care at this time to preserve any personal items that can be safely cleaned. Porous materials like clothing and stuffed animals can’t be truly disinfected, but upon request we will clean them to the best of our ability and return them to the family.
Once everything has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, we take care to get everything to a point where we can hand it off to contractors for restoration work. We will handle filing the claims with your insurance company to make sure the remediation process is underway.
We are there with our clients through every step of the process to make sure they are not left in the dark about anything that is happening to their loved one’s property or belongings.
While this may not help to ease the pain of losing a loved one, hopefully knowing you can leave the cleanup in the hands of seasoned professionals will ease some of the stress burden during this difficult time.
One of the most difficult moments in the aftermath of a suicide is having to inform the rest of the victim’s inner circle of the news. As painful as it was to discover the scene or to be told the news by someone else, if it is your responsibility to let others know, it can feel like experiencing the horror of those first moments over and over again.
Be sure to delegate. It’s an unpleasant task but a necessary one, and you will get through it more quickly if you have your immediate support system help you with delivering the news.
You can be direct, and if it’s too difficult for you to handle bearing the emotional fallout of each call, it can be a short one. The only people who need to be told directly are immediate family and the person’s closest friends.
Everyone else can be informed with a social media post. This will help mitigate some of the emotional drain of telling loved ones about the news. This post can be succinct. Whatever you have the capacity to say is fine for now, as long as you get the news out to the people who need to know about it.
You are then perfectly justified in muting all notifications on the post. People will have condolences and questions, but those can wait. Focus on what’s immediately important and return later when you have more emotional capacity.
How to Tell Children
There may be young children in the immediate or extended family who will need to be told. If this falls to your responsibility, wait until you have taken care of your own emotional needs enough to be at a point where you can be calm enough to tell them in an appropriate way.
Children are capable of understanding a lot more than we give them credit for, death included, so you can be honest with them about what happened. Be sure to explain it in a way that is appropriate to their age, avoiding focus on the act itself, and prepare to answer any questions they have in a similar manner.
Assure them that they are not at fault in any way for the loved one’s suicide, especially if the victim was a parent or caretaker, and then encourage them to express how they are feeling with you.
Let them know that it is okay if they need to cry or be angry, and that you are there for them in whatever they need.
Memorial & Burial
With the logistics of the direct aftermath out of the way, the last truly important thing to do is make sure there is some sort of memorial for the victim. Even if they would not want a full funeral, it’s extremely important for anyone experiencing grief to have the opportunity to honor and say goodbye to their loved one.
Most funeral homes will be able to help coordinate a memorial service appropriate for the culture and wishes of the deceased, though some families prefer to do the preparation and memorial themselves.
Whatever you choose to do, especially if you are spearheading the planning, remember to pace yourself and ask for help if needed. This is not the time to shoulder everything on your own.
The time leading up to the memorial and burial can be hectic, so it’s difficult to allow yourself time to process. As soon as your loved one is laid to rest, you will need to give yourself the time and space to grieve in whatever way you need to.