How Funeral Professionals Can Help Survivors of Suicide Deaths

By WebCE
Jul 24, 2023
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Suicide can leave survivors with complex feelings of grief, confusion, anger, and shame. Funeral directors can help survivors by providing better care during their time of need. WebCE's new Funeral CE course, Helping Survivors After Suicide: The Funeral Director’s Role, can help you better understand the effect suicide has on loved ones. In this preview, we'll take a look at what's included in the course.

Understand Emotions

Offering compassion to survivors means first and foremost understanding what they are feeling. The impact suicide deaths have on loved ones is different from other forms of death. Funeral directors have long held an important role consoling those grieving a loved one.

Understanding these unique emotions is essential when interacting with customers who are confronting a loved one’s suicide. Loved ones often experience confusion, anger, guilt, and even shame in the wake of a suicide death. These emotions are not only unique to suicide deaths, but the grief following a suicide often lasts longer. Rarely is the question survivors have ever adequately answered: Why?

Our course offers a deep dive into statistics, reasons, and impact suicide has on survivors. This important context helps bolster your compassion with a deeper understanding of the situation and the survivor’s reaction. Most importantly, it means you can offer a higher level of care.

Language Matters

The circumstances surrounding a suicide death may lead to a funeral director feeling uncomfortable discussing the cause of death with the survivor for fear of upsetting them. There may be uncertainties over the proper way to address the topic. Which topics are sensitive? What is the best way to speak about suicide to survivors?

Our course offers numerous suggestions on specific phrases to avoid—and what to use instead. For example, avoid “committed suicide,” which brings with it associations of a crime or sin being “committed.” Instead, consider alternatives like “died by suicide” or “took their life.” In the end, the goal here is to reduce the stigma surrounding suicide to make survivors feel more comfortable discussing death.

Our course also offers funeral directors’ frequently asked questions about suicide. Questions like:

  • Is it okay to talk about the manner of death with those closest to the deceased?
  • Is it okay to acknowledge the death as self-inflicted in the obituary?
  • How are young people affected by the suicide of a close friend of sibling?

Discomfort discussing the cause of death may mean the funeral director is unsure of the proper way to address the topic. Knowing what language to use can offer you greater control of and confidence in the quality of care you provide.

Minimizing Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue is a type of burnout unique to funeral directors. It is generally defined as mental exhaustion and loss of passion for one’s work after repeated exposures to the grief and suffering of others. Symptoms include depression and anxiety, physical and emotional exhaustion, decreased sense of purpose, and less enjoyment in things that were once enjoyable.

SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, advises funeral directors to “take good care of themselves so they can remain empathetic, supportive, and effective—even when faced with serving families affected by suicide.” If funeral directors don’t take good care of themselves, SAMHSA notes the “toll” it can take, which if left unaddressed “may lead to compassion fatigue and burnout.”

Avoiding compassion fatigue requires balance, and maintaining this balance can be difficult. Get actionable steps to minimize compassion fatigue so you can be there for yourself and for the communities you serve.

Go Beyond the Basics of Funeral Planning

Knowing all the ways funeral directors can help survivors after suicide is essential. From unique emotions to compassionately responding to them, this brand new course offers in-depth discussions and effective strategies written by industry experts with decades of experience.

WebCE’s latest funeral CE course is just one of many to help you offer the highest level of care to all who reach out. Explore our entire funeral CE course catalog or call 877-488-9308 to speak with our award-winning Support Services team.