The first few days
This section has more information about what happens and what may be needed in the first few days in terms of some of the practicalities. If you are the senior next-of-kin, you will be involved with the coronial process and have other tasks and responsibilities.
The NSW Government provides a general guide and checklist for what to do after someone passes away. Learn More
The Police and ambulance are usually the first called when someone dies by suicide.
They will make sure the body of the person who has died is taken care of; police will contact the Coroner to report the death.
Some personal belongings may be collected by the police for further examination in case they have relevant information, for example, their mobile phone. These will be returned to the next-of-kin at a later stage.
The Coroner investigates and determines the cause of any sudden and unexplained death, which includes how it occurred and the details needed to register the death.
The Coroner investigates and determines the cause of any sudden and unexplained death, which includes how it occurred and the details needed to register the death. The Coroner also has legal responsibility for the body of the person who has died from unnatural causes, which includes suicide.
In Sydney, your loved one will be taken into the care of the forensic medicine service at Lidcombe. In regional areas, your loved one will be taken into the care of the local hospital pending a decision by the Coroner about a post-mortem examination (also known as an autopsy). If a post-mortem examination is required, your loved one will be taken into the care of either the forensic medicine service at Newcastle or Wollongong.
It may be possible to view your loved one while in the care of the Coroner. Your funeral director will organise to take your loved one’s body to the funeral home to prepare for the service when the Coroner indicates that their body can be released.
If you are the senior next-of-kin, a social worker will usually contact you within 24 hours to let you know what is happening. You may be asked to formally identify your loved one and provide further information about the circumstances surrounding their death.
A final report may take up to 12 months to be completed and it is recommended that you seek the help of a GP to help you understand the medical terms that may be in the report.
More information can be found on the NSW Coroner’s website. LegalAid NSW also provides free legal advice and assistance in coronial matters, as well as other legal issues.
A funeral director will assist in making arrangements for the funeral or memorial service and work with you to create the funeral in the way you would like it.
A funeral director will assist in making arrangements for the funeral or memorial service and work with you to create the funeral in the way you would like it. If you contact a funeral director and don’t feel confident that they will listen to your needs, we suggest you contact others until you find one that will be suitable for you and within your budget.
It is possible to obtain this information by phoning or enquiring online to compare services and costs. If you are making comparisons, the funeral directors should clearly communicate what is included in their services, and if there are any other associated costs.
In NSW, you may find a funeral director at the Funeral Directors’ Association of NSW website.
Arranging the funeral can often be a difficult experience. However, it may be a part of your grieving process, a time when your loved one is remembered and honoured. It is possible to arrange a funeral that is an expression of their life and unique personality. It may be an opportunity to grieve with others who also loved them; it can be a time of connection and sharing of memories and feelings, which can be comforting.
The funeral service is usually held between one and four weeks after the death (depending on cultural customs). You can contact the funeral director at any time to start planning the funeral. However, it’s best not to set a date until you receive confirmation that your loved one is able to be released from the Coroner’s care.
A question that can arise as the funeral is being planned is whether to acknowledge that they died by suicide. There are helpful guidelines which it is best to follow when talking about suicide to ensure that the communication is safe, reduces stigma, and encourages help-seeking. The Mindframe Guidelines and Conversations Matter website can be provided to those speaking at the funeral.
In some circumstances, government support can cover the cost of a basic funeral.
Some tips that may be useful:
- Choose a funeral director who listens to you and who you feel confident will assist you to create the service you would like.
- Should you decide to have a celebrant or minister, choose who you think will set the tone you want and be able to acknowledge your loved one’s life well.
- Tell the funeral director and staff what you want (and what you don’t want). If you don’t know, they can guide you and offer options. Ask as many questions as you want.
- There are decisions to make about how best to honour the person and their life. What do you and others close to the person want to do to honour them? What music, activities, symbols and items with special meaning would you like?
- What clothes or special items would you like your loved one to be dressed in?
- How can others, including children, be involved in the funeral?
- If some family members or friends are unable to attend, consider live streaming the service so they can participate. You may also be able to obtain a recording.
Some people want to spend time with the person before the service. This is often called a ‘viewing’. It may be that you want to see them or that you want to place something in the coffin or simply to be with them. This is usually arranged with the funeral director, however viewing can be done at one of the specialist forensic medicine facilities at Sydney (Lidcombe), Newcastle or Wollongong.
Death certificates are issued by the NSW Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages.
Whenever a person dies, the death needs to be registered with the NSW Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages. If you are in other states please enquire with that state's Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages. The death certificate may take some time to be issued. However, an interim certificate is usually made available, even if the coronial process is not yet finalised. Your funeral director completes all the paperwork and registers their death on your behalf.
In some circumstances, organisations such as banks, real estate agents, or Centrelink will accept a confirmation of death letter issued by coronial support staff. If you require this document, please email your request to the Coroner’s Court where the death was reported.
If there was a note left by your loved one, the police may have collected it and passed it to the Coroner. Less than 30% of people who take their own lives leave a note, so it is not as common as widely believed.
There is often an idea that a note will explain why the person took their own life. Occasionally, a note provides some information about the state of mind of the person at the time of writing, but very often, notes don’t tend to offer the comfort or the answers that you might have hoped for.
Financial and legal matters
Sometimes private health, life, sickness or accident insurance will provide assistance in paying for the funeral of the person who has died. If the deceased had insurance, call their insurance company to ask if assistance is available. If you have lost a child and have insurance, your insurance company can advise you. Again, if any of these tasks seem too difficult, ask a trusted person to assist you.