Suicide is a traumatic experience and cleaning up after a loved one adds to the trauma. If you’re in this situation now, please leave the task for a professional who is more technically and psychologically equipped to take on the task.
If you’re here because you are curious on what will happen to your body after taking your own life, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255 right away. There is never a good reason to take your own life. Sorting out the details in lieu of a suicide is traumatizing and exhausting. Your close friends and family will grieve that trauma daily.
All of us at some point in our lives are curious about life after death and wondering what happens to the body scientifically is perfectly natural. The biological response is greatly influenced by the method. Below, we’ve broken down the topic into several common methods:
Did you know that firearms are the most common method of all suicides annually? Even more disturbing is that, according to the CDC, there are more than 12 unsuccessful gunshot attempts to every successful death.
The location influences the result and likelihood of surviving the wound, and the location is thought to be difficult to control because one’s will to survive is strong. An exit wound is often, but not always, present.
A bullet wound causes the most damage of all methods, leaving the body vulnerable to:
Additionally, ballistic projectiles, such as shotgun pellets and bullets, create force that can send human body fluids and tissue far beyond the actual suicide site.
High-velocity impact between bullets and human tissue often causes blood to mist, and can drive solid tissues into drywall, ceiling textures, and furniture. Pooled blood and decomposition fluid can leak into sub-flooring and even pool within areas in rooms below the suicide scene.
Roxanne Roberts is quoted on the traumatizing experience covering the cleaning of her father’s gunshot suicide in The Washington Post:
I got on my knees, slid the pan against the linoleum and lifted chunks to the bucket. It took hours to clean it all up, and even after that we found pools I had missed under the stove and sink.
She writes later, “I am still cleaning [my mental trauma] up [to this day].”
Unfortunately, we hear this from families too often. After the difficulty of effectively cleaning the area, comes the trauma of cleaning up the aftermath of someone you love and lost. We’re here to make a difference and provide services so you never have to be in this position yourself.
Suicides as a result of blunt force trauma usually includes those that fall from great heights or when pedestrians intentionally collide with moving vehicles. The impact typically results in:
Blunt force injuries aren’t limited to impact with solid surfaces; suicide attempts and completions involving San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge cause the same injuries. Roadway overpasses, high bridges, and building roofs all result in the same injuries.
There’s a 93% chance of a pedestrian surviving a collision with a car at any less than 20 mph, which means the body is more likely to incur potentially fatal injuries.
Common bodily harm includes mostly head and leg injuries, such as:
Outdoor areas where a person dies from a fall or other collision are often subject to local or national health and safety standards. Special compounds soak up blood spills and neutralize pathogens, thereby reducing the chance of bodily fluids being “pushed” beyond the suicide scene by hoses and pressure washers. After body tissue and blood is removed, death cleanup teams apply disinfecting solutions to safely remove all residue.
An overdose can be done by taking too many illicit or prescription pills, or by intentionally consuming fatal poisons. Opioids are the most common drug abused, which means that most of the time a drug overdose results in trauma to the Central Nervous System (CNS).
The CNS sends blood and oxygen along the spine and veins to the heart and brain. Under the influence of drugs, the lungs begin to slow down or even stop. When this happens, the heart beats erratically, leaving the likelihood of cardiac arrest.
Because of the flood of opioid neurotransmitter, the brain stops receiving enough oxygen and stops communicating properly with the rest of the nervous system. This can mean paralysis or seizures. When a seizure happens, the mouth can foam and the individual can choke. Even worse, the brain no longer receives or sends signals for the gag reflex to prevent the saliva from dripping into the lungs. When saliva drips into the lungs, irreparable damage can happen.
Generally, an overdose is intervened or reversed with Narcan. Narcan disinhibits opioid neurotransmitters flooding the brain. Recovery is likely when Narcan is administered early.
When the method is a hanging, most of the harm to the body is to the neck. Here’s some interesting forensic facts about the science of hanging:
Because of the lack of oxygen, the eyes can bulge out after, but not during, a hanging. This happens after the cells in the surrounding eyes and neck lose oxygen and shrink, causing fluid changes in tissue and cells that hinge the eyeballs. The congestion pushes the eyeballs from the socket, and when the body hangs at a lower elevation, the bulging is extended and appears more prominent.
Some suicide methods involve enclosed spaces exposed to carbon monoxide or other toxic gases. These spaces may be as large as a garage, or as small as a plastic bag around the neck and head.
When the lungs take in high levels of CO2, the arteries dilate to send blood to places needed the most, such as the heart. Blood flow is constricted to lesser important areas, like extremities. When there’s too much CO2 and not enough oxygen, the system becomes severely overwhelmed and shuts down.
In all methods, when successful, decomposition begins in several stages.
A coroner or medical examiner will identify, remove, and transport the body. They will also classify and determine the cause of death. Suicides are generally classified as unattended deaths. This determination is generally conducted at the scene or at a medical facility. After the body is released to loved ones, they can consult with a funeral director to discuss options for viewing and final disposal of the remains according to their budget, customs, and the condition of the body.
Law enforcement may treat the death site as a crime scene until the coroner and medical examiner are satisfied the death was suicide, not homicide. After they are finished with their investigations, it’s up to the property owner or the deceased’s friends and family to deal with the rest. Fortunately, insurance usually covers the clean up, and SuicideCleanUp.com is here 24/7, nationwide to help.