Suicide, the funeral eulogy and breaking the silence

60s sleepover

I’m writing a funeral today and thinking about suicide, the funeral eulogy and breaking the silence.

The funeral is for a relative. She took her own life. I’ve been talking with her brother about what we say about that in the eulogy. We agreed we’d talk about her suicide. I’m glad of that. As a Humanist celebrant it’s important to me that we can be honest and open in our rites of passage – that we deal with the real human condition and not some cleaned up, sanctified version of what it is to be human. We’re messy. Life’s messy. It’s complicated.

As we talked, I discovered I didn’t know ‘what she did’. More importantly, I didn’t know who she was, what mattered to her, what her values and beliefs were, what she needed, what was going on for her. And I didn’t know she lived about 15 minutes from me.

I probably haven’t seen her for 40 years. She had stopped coming to the occasional extended-family events… those key milestones that keep families in touch with each other. And by the way, self-exclusion seems like a perfectly good choice to me. It’s one way of breaking away from the confines of family hierarchy, our hetero-normative cultural, our society’s limited construct of success… the cringing polite conversations at these events… ‘so what do you do?’… ‘are you married?’ ‘no children…?’ Blegh.

My family is a biggish one. There are scores of us across our warp and weft of family lines. My lot are all big, hearty, loud, rambunctious, we think we’re funny, we like a good time. Growing up on a farm, we were encouraged to go out and run on the rooftops of the farm buildings. We played with sharp objects. Girls and boys climbed, leapt and played with fire, welly boots flapping, snotters blinding us, hand-knits warming us, fearless – balaclavas at the ready for a cold snap. We were nurtured for the rough and tumble of this world.

My cousin was a different creature. Sweet, shy, delicate and fragile, her soft flame was challenged by the gusts of life.

She opted to live a quiet life. And she opted to end it.

Her siblings had been with her in the weeks before her death. She felt well. They’re glad of that. And they accept, with sadness, that she exercised choice.

Suicide, the funeral eulogy and breaking the silence

At the small, private funeral – the way she would prefer it – we will talk about the challenges of life and the truths in equal measure as we share her achievements and stories of what brought her happiness. The more people who break the silence around suicide, the better.

Her brother invited us to share stories and photos to remember her. So I’m glad to share the photo above – from a happier time.


This is when I’m glad of my small contribution to the world… Final Fling … and its space to post Notices & Tributes.

I’ve posted my photo in My Final Fling as a lasting tribute for Margaret.

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