Dealing with a suicide
March 28, 2012 2:02 AM   Subscribe

My brother shot himself to death last night. I feel numb. My therapist is out of pocket for a week. Things need to happen. Suggestions?

I got the worst phone call in the world four hours ago. My youngest brother killed himself. He had threatened suicide 20 years ago when he broke up with a girlfriend, and had been on anti-depressants since.

I'm not sure what lead to his action. Apparently, there are notes. As I said, I feel numb -- a few tears, but just numb. My husband (the subject of this previous AskMe) is here and offering his support. He was fond of my brother as well.

My therapist is on a well-deserved holiday and out of town until next Tuesday. I am not contemplating anything rash. I'm not interested in talking to a new therapist in the interim.

Forgive me if these questions seem cold or unfeeling -- as I said, I'm not feeling much of anything at the moment, just thinking about practical matters:

1. My brother shot himself in his apartment. This is a crime scene which will need to cleaned up. How much will it cost and who do we call? (It's in Southern California).

2. My husband (soon-to-be-ex, it seems, but we're still married and live together) owed my brother $27000. There was no proxy note or anything paperwork stating such -- it was a "gentlemen's agreement." What happens now? My brother has no heirs.

3. Given the strained relationship between my family and my husband (they know about his infidelity), would it be wise for him to be with me and the family at this time? He did love my brother.

I am 400 miles away from family at the moment.

Again, I apologize for the chilly tone. I wish this was a nightmare I could wake up from, truly.

What else should I need to think about or deal with, near-term and long-term?
posted by book 'em, danno to Human Relations (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I am so deeply, deeply sorry.

I just read your previous question about your husband and, whilst he loved your brother and undoubtedly loves you, the latter seems to be in a somewhat dysfunctional way. You need pure, clean love and support right now.

Do you have friends locally who can provide this for you? Believe me when I say that any one of my friends could ring me at 3am on a weeknight and tell me this and I would be in a taxi and headed over to theirs before you could snap your fingers. Don't hesitate for a single second to call on anyone you feel you can lean on - moments like this are where your friends have the honour of standing with you in your time of need.

If you don't have anyone who can easily get to you, stay with us here on MeFi. We'll look after you the best we can for as long as you need.
posted by greenish at 2:36 AM on March 28, 2012 [15 favorites]

There are no words. I am so sorry. Memail me anytime.
I know you don't want to talk to another therapist, but does your guy have a sub for emergencies? Cause this counts. Does your therapist prescribe meds? If not, you may need a referral to an MD, in which case, it might be good to work on this prior to your therapist getting back.
posted by angrycat at 3:43 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

As for his apartment -- does it need to be dealt with immediately? It doesn't, does it?
posted by angrycat at 3:46 AM on March 28, 2012

I too am so, so sorry. I have been reading MeFi for a while and signed up to tell you so. I agree that calling in friend support is a really good next step. I don't have experience with this particular tragedy but I do with sudden loss. The numbness and detail fixation are normal.

You are dealing with a lot at once. This is a really bad time in your life. You do not deserve these things nor did you cause them. Hang in there.

1. I don't know, but the police, morgue, or funeral home likely will be able to help. Where I am there is a part of the police called victim services that would help your family through all this. Your brother's estate may cover it.

2. I would try to agree with yourself and your husband that you will discuss in a few weeks.

3. What do you want? If you want your soon-to-be ex's support, then let him and just ask him to be as unobtrusive with your family as possible. You are your family too and deserve whatever support you want at this time. If you feel you will be babysitting/running interference for him, ask him to stay home. If you just can't stand him right now, the same. I don't know how the drinking will factor into your decision.
posted by Zen_warrior at 3:50 AM on March 28, 2012

Perhaps your husband would agree to pay the costs of the funeral and a specialized cleaning firm?
That, perhaps, morally discharges his monetary debt to your brother.

I have great compassion for you. There was a suicide in my family a few years ago, and it is a truly awful thing to live through.
posted by thelonius at 3:56 AM on March 28, 2012 [8 favorites]

I'm very sorry to hear about this. Please accept some love via the internets.

Can you get a friend to make the calls to 'trauma cleaners' or 'forensic cleaners' and get the prices and info you need? There are listings for California on google but I'm not in your neck of the woods. Some offered 24 hour service if you want to deal with it sooner rather than later.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 3:57 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know about the first one, but I have a bit more experience on the second two, coming out of the passing of several family members on the side of my family that tends to be contentious at the best of times:

0. Are your parents still living? Or any older relatives? It doesn't matter how old you are, or how far away they are, this situation is a totally legit space to have older relatives with more stable family situations handle things. In any case, cut your current to-do list to only things which must be dealt with *urgently*. Allow for meltdown. Pick pieces up later. I know you mentioned a lack of social life in the last post, but if you do have any close friends in the surrounding area, do not feel like it's an excessive thing to call up and make demands upon them that sound to you like they're totally unreasonable. Hell, in this situation, make unreasonable demands of neighbors, acquaintances, soon-to-be-exes, whoever you have available, if not close friends.

Pieces to pick up later:

2. Do people know about this who aren't you or your husband? Your brother might not have kids, but he does have someone who will inherit one way or another, since he has living family. If there's anything left out of the estate after your brother's debts are paid. IANAL, TINLA, this is just something where I might start personally thinking about cost/benefit of worrying about this if nobody else expects this money to be paid to the estate and it all goes to paying off credit cards anyway. This is not to say you should obstruct anything, but it's not really your responsibility. This is my big takeaway from my experiences: Don't get overinvolved. Your memories don't need to be muddied by jumping into any fighting over inheritance. And if nobody fights over the inheritance if it isn't brought up... oh, believe me, I don't think there's any amount of money I wouldn't have paid to make that not happen.

3. Loving someone does not mean you need to be around the family when they pass. I think it'd be a bit harsh not to invite him to any funeral/memorial service which has a wider audience; at the same time, even without what happened with you and your soon-to-be-ex, mere impending divorce is more than enough reason not to bring someone alone to family gatherings associated with a death. My parents were mid-divorce around the time we lost my paternal grandmother; my mother and her parents both came to the funeral, but did not sit with my father's family. Everybody was polite, nobody was asked to be more than that. The one thing we really handled well, and I'm glad for that.
posted by gracedissolved at 3:59 AM on March 28, 2012

For your own support, call the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness,

I am so sorry.
posted by jgirl at 4:50 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I wish I had something concrete to tell you to help you, but others are better suited due to proximity. I'm just chiming in with some love and support, and to tell you that people want to help you. Most people have deep wells of compassion, and will reach out to you in your grief if you will let them know what you need. And sometimes when people don't say anything, it's because they don't know what to say.

If you don't have an in-person social group to give you the support you need right now, remember that we're here for you. You're in shock and processing right now... please continue to reach out. I'm very sorry you're going through this. Remember that we're here for you. (((HUGS)))
posted by theplotchickens at 4:58 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry you're dealing with this. I want to encourage you to lean on your friends as much as possible here. Are there parts of this that you could hand off to a close friend, like figuring out the cleaning issue and being there to let them in? I know that feels like a big ask, but I think that people will step up in a situation like this.
posted by mercredi at 4:59 AM on March 28, 2012

Call your therapist. He or she must have an emergency protocol, and I'm sure this is a situation in which s/he would at least give you a call and set you up with whatever the proper resources for the person he knows you to be.

And I'm very, very sorry this happened.
posted by xingcat at 5:09 AM on March 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

I'm sorry you are going through this terrible thing. Practical things:

I believe you get the apartment cleaned after the coroner has finished their investigation. There are cleaners who specialize in crime scene and suicide locations, because the blood is a biohazard and special techniques are needed. If your brother had homeowners or renters insurance, you might contact them to see if this is covered. The police or coroners office may be able to recommend a cleaner to you.

I'm not a lawyer, but I believe your husband now owes your brother's estate. The estate pays off your brothers debts, and the remaining money is divided among family members if he didn't leave a will stipulating something different. If you are divorcing, you'll want to mention this to your divorce attorney, along with any paperwork that supports the fact that you had an agreement and treated the money as a loan (like, bank statements that show receipt of your brother's check, and checks written out to your brother to pay down the debt).

You didn't ask, but if you are helping with estate matters you will want lots (20 or so, maybe) of copies of your brother's death certificate. Every person you contact (the bank, etc.) will need a copy.
posted by Houstonian at 5:26 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, I am so sorry. I agree with with calling your therapist. They should be able to give you a number you can call if you start feeling like it's an emergency. With your husband, see if if makes you feel better or worse to have him around, and go with that. If he had a positive relationship with your brother, it may make you feel good in the long run.
posted by BibiRose at 5:35 AM on March 28, 2012

I just wanted to say that that numb, detached feeling doesn't mean that you are cold or unfeeling at all. I think it's a very common reaction to death -- I felt the same way when my sister died. There's no "right" way to grieve.
posted by cider at 5:38 AM on March 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Others will speak to your immediate concerns better than I probably can but just wanted to show some support.
posted by Currer Belfry at 5:40 AM on March 28, 2012

I am so sorry for your loss. Truly sorry.

There will be a lot of information coming at your family in the next weeks. It might be best to designate someone to be the note taker. Maybe that could be your husband's job (unless your family utterly objects)? It might feel a little strange to be taking notes about your brother's death but believe me when I say that those notes will help you all so much in dealing with the minutiae of the estate, funeral, etc.

Again, I am so very sorry for your loss.
posted by cooker girl at 6:03 AM on March 28, 2012

Just lost a dear friend to suicide.

Get an antidepressant/antianxiety prescription from your doctor. Explain why over the phone; he may well write it without needing you to come in (assuming he has seen you before). It will help you sleep, hold down food, and get through your daily needs, but modern meds won't numb you or make you a zombie.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:12 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also showing support and wish I had some good advice. I am glad your husband is there to help you during this terrible time.
posted by getawaysticks at 7:23 AM on March 28, 2012

I am so sorry for your tragic loss.

1. Emergency Response Cleaners serve SoCal from Kern County to San Diego. Their phone number is 1-866-305-9001.
posted by OsoMeaty at 8:52 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's very normal to feel numb right now. You may feel numb for a couple hours, or a couple days - or perhaps even longer. It often takes a while for reality to sink in.

Please reach out to your local friends - if there's someone who can come be with you, either now, or once it starts to hit you, that would be good. Perhaps one of your family members can come stay with you for a couple days, or you could go stay with them.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:07 AM on March 28, 2012

I am so terribly sorry for your loss.

I know you don't want to start with another therapist in your therapist's absence, but perhaps a single meeting with someone trained specifically in grief counseling might help? Local funeral homes should be able to give you names of people who work in that field.

If your brother died intestate, whatever nuclear family members (parents, siblings) who survive him are his heirs (in
California, parents take precedence; if no parents survive the deceased, the estate is distributed equally among all surviving siblings). Later, when feelings have become more serene, a lawyer can formalize arrangements about the debt.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:22 AM on March 28, 2012

I am so sorry for your loss.

Others above have provided good information -- I'm just checking in to offer support. You may find the resources of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention ( to be helpful.

Remember to take care of yourself, and accept the help of friends. Hugs.
posted by Boogiechild at 1:21 PM on March 28, 2012

Just seein this. I don't have any advice to add but wanted to say how sorry I am that this happened. Take care of yourself.
posted by dawkins_7 at 5:54 PM on March 28, 2012

I'm really sorry.
posted by wurly at 7:49 PM on March 28, 2012

This is sad. I'm sorry. You should know that sometimes the so-called "cleaners" will convince a grieving family that all the furniture, etc. in the room is unsalvageable, and that you should let them "discard" it, when in reality they clean it up, sell it, keep it, or whatever. FWIW.
posted by univac at 8:51 PM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Please call your therapist if you can! This is an emergency, and he or she will be glad to help you or have a session over the phone. I can't imagine something so terrible happening to one of my clients when I couldn't be there for them; I'd be saddened if I knew they waited a week to tell me something important and traumatic, even if I were on vacation. I'd be glad to take an hour a day out of my vacation to get a client through an awful period.
posted by pineappleheart at 6:59 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

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