After someone you know dies by suicide, you may feel shocked, overwhelmed and confused.
Understanding what can happen after the death may help you cope.
Letting other people know
Letting others know what has happened can be difficult. If you can, ask someone to help you. For example, by being with you or telling other people on your behalf.
Identify who needs to know first. These may be family members, friends, colleagues or neighbours who are important to you or the person who died.
It's OK to wait until you're ready to tell people. Say what you are comfortable with about how the person died. It can be helpful to plan what to say.
If you're not ready to talk about how the person died, you could say:
- I’ll tell you more when I feel able to
- it's too soon for us to talk about how they died
- I don’t want to say any more at the moment
- I'm not sure what exactly has happened
You do not have to answer any questions if you do not feel ready or if you feel the questions are inappropriate.
People may be shocked when you tell them. They may not know what to say to you. They may say or do thoughtless things.
Telling children what happened
Give children honest, age-appropriate information about the death. Use words they understand. It's good to keep reassuring your child to help them feel loved and safe.
If you cannot tell them yourself, you could ask someone who knows your child well to tell them. It's better for children to hear the truth from people who love them rather than overhearing it in a conversation.
How children experience grief often depends on their personality, age and understanding of death.
Taking care of yourself
You might spend a lot of time thinking about the person and what happened before they died. Thoughts, feelings and physical symptoms can appear suddenly and can be overwhelming.
During this time, your memory and concentration might not be working as well as usual. Accept any help you are offered from people you trust. Talk to them about your concerns and the things you need to do.
Try to look after yourself by eating well, limiting alcohol, and getting enough sleep and physical activity.
You may feel hurt and struggle to understand why when someone dies by suicide. The causes of suicide are usually complicated. You are not responsible for the person's decision to end their life.
It may have been hard to know what the person was feeling and thinking before they died. Many people who feel suicidal withdraw from others around them or show no sign that anything is wrong.
It may never be clear to family and friends why the person who died felt it was impossible to live.
Talking to other people bereaved by suicide can help.
What happens after a death by suicide
There are many things to do after someone dies. When someone dies by suicide, there are more people and steps involved. Knowing what to expect can help you cope.
When a person dies by suicide, the death is reported to the coroner. A coroner is a doctor or a solicitor who investigates the causes of sudden deaths.
The coroner will ask for a post-mortem and an inquest to help decide the cause of death. This process can take many months.
You can get practical information and emotional support from:
- the suicide bereavement liaison (SBL) service - pieta.ie
- a Garda liaison officer
Early in the investigation, the body of the person who died usually rests in a hospital mortuary or morgue. If you choose to, you can ask to see the body.
How the Gardaí are involved
The Gardaí collect information about the person's identity and their death for the coroner. This does not mean that they consider the death as suspicious.
The Gardaí may visit the family to ask questions about what happened. They will also offer support and advice.
A post-mortem is an internal and external examination of the body of the person who has died. The coroner asks for a post-mortem to find the medical cause of death.
Before the post-mortem, the Gardaí may ask a family member to identify the body. They may need to go to the mortuary to do this.
A pathologist does the post-mortem in a hospital or morgue. A pathologist is a doctor trained to identify disease in organs and tissues.
They do the post-mortem in a professional and sensitive way.
The body is usually released to the family soon after the post-mortem. This means the undertaker can collect the body. They will prepare the body and there are usually no obvious signs that a post-mortem was done.
It may be several weeks before the post-mortem report is ready.
An inquest is a public inquiry into the cause of a death.
The coroner will not hold an inquest until at least 6 weeks after the death. But it can take much longer than this, sometimes up to 2 years.
Witnesses may have to give evidence. The coroner will ask them to give the facts about the death.
Family members may attend the inquest but they do not have to.
The coroner will try to make sure that the proceedings are not too intrusive and painful. But you can have a legal representative, a Garda liaison officer or suicide bereavement liaison officer (SBLO) with you. They can guide you through the process, give you advice and ask questions on your behalf.
The coroner will give a verdict that includes:
- the identity of the person who has died
- how, when and where the death happened
- natural causes
- unlawful killing
- an open verdict - where no other verdicts match the death
Inquests are often held in public where anyone can attend. They may be reported in local or national newspapers.
You can request a copy of an inquest report from the coroner’s office after the inquest.