Victim Support | After a suicide
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After a suicide

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For professionals and community who are seeking information about the service, please see our Postvention page.

For those bereaved by suicide, these frequently asked questions may help:

When can we see the body of our loved one?

It can be difficult to accept, but the body may have to remain at the scene for some time until a full forensic investigation takes place. It’s important that all relevant evidence is collected to confirm the cause of death as a suicide. When all the forensic evidence has been gathered, the body will be taken by a funeral director to the mortuary (located at the hospital). This is organised by the police and there is no cost to you. When the body is released, the family / whānau may ask to view it. This can be organised through the funeral director. You decide on the funeral director you want to arrange the funeral, it does not have to be the funeral director who moved the body for the police.
You need to be prepared for the fact that:

  • the deceased will look different
  • facial features are likely to have changed due to the loss of muscle tone after death
  • skin colour is likely to have changed, particularly in younger people
  • the body will be cold to the touch.

 

Can we stay with the body of our loved one?

Yes. Some mortuaries have whānau rooms that allow you to stay close to your loved one until their body is released. However, the family may not be able to touch the body or remove items from the body.  This is because the body remains the property of the coroner until it is released.

The Victim Support worker will be able to help you find out if this is possible. When the body has been released by the coroner you may have your loved one taken to a location of your choice where you can be with them if you wish.

Can we see the place where our loved one was found?

Yes, but only after the police have completed gathering forensic evidence.

What is a post-mortem?

A post-mortem (also known as an autopsy) is the examination of a body after death. Post-mortems are carried out by pathologists. These are doctors who specialise in the diagnosis and identification of the cause of death. Forensic evidence may be gathered which may help the police further clarify cause of death.

Do I have a choice about whether a post-mortem takes place?

You have the right to object, however it is ultimately up to the coroner’s office to decide if a post-mortem must be carried out.

How long will the post-mortem take?

Every effort is made to conduct the post-mortem quickly, and in most cases the coroner will authorise the release of the body after one day. In some cases where a more detailed examination is required it can take up to three days.

Mortuary staff are mindful and sensitive to cultural issues arising from post-mortems, but there may be delays for practical reasons, such as the need to wait for bruising to appear which can take up to 12 hours. They will return tissue samples to you and if any body parts were removed these also would be returned to you.

Other common reasons for delays include the timing of death (for instance, if the death occurs on the weekend) or if the body needs to be moved to another hospital.

Who will keep us informed about what is happening?

The police are agents of the coroner when a suicide occurs. You can then contact the coroner’s office directly for further information. However you can also ask for support from a Victim Support worker who can help you with any questions and provide you with information and advocate on your behalf.

When can we go back to our home?

If the family home is where the suicide occurred, family members may not be allowed to enter their home immediately. This is so the police can conduct the investigation and search for forensic information that will assist them in clarifying cause of death. In these cases the officer in charge at the scene will determine when access to the house is permitted.

Can we have the scene blessed?

If you wish to, you may have the site of the suicide spiritually cleansed or blessed. There are a number of ways this can be arranged.

What will happen with items that were taken away by the police?

If police do remove items at the scene they will return these to you once all investigations are complete.

Can we get financial help?

Unfortunately, for a suicide, there is no government financial assistance however a Victim Support worker will be able to provide immediate and ongoing emotional support as well as advocacy to help you find the assistance you need from other agencies and possible support groups in your community.

Can we get counselling?

Yes. Counselling is available in most cities and towns – and a Victim Support worker can help you access what is available through your local community.

You may also like to contact the following services:

www.lifeline.org.nz

Lifeline Aotearoa – Suicide Prevention and Postvention Crisis Support Line 0508 TAUTOKO (82 88 65)

There is a LifeLine counsellor waiting for your call right now. TAUTOKO is a LifeLine telephone counselling service operating 24 / 7, every day of the year.

www.skylight.org.nz

Skylight is a not-for-profit national organisation that provides unique and specialised support to children, young people and their families / whānau through change, loss, trauma and grief – whatever the cause.

www.mentalhealth.org.nz

The Mental Health Foundation provides free information for people bereaved by suicide.

0800-victim
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