There is a false belief that church commemoration of suicides is allowed on Saturday before the feast of the Holy Trinity, dedicated to Remembrance of the Departed Parents. This belief has no substance, but there is no reason to despair.
Family members of people committing suicides are often influenced by the turbulence of this grave sin and find themselves in a daze of despondency. They blame themselves and grieve for the deceased, while their souls are horrified by the terrible deed of their relative.
However, we as Orthodox Christians need to find the strength to shake off this deadening numbness of despair and continue on our way towards God together with our deceased relative. Despite the absence of Church commemoration, there is a fairly large arsenal of prayers for suicides.
First, there is a rite of prayerful consolation for relatives of those wilfully ending their lives. It is approved by the decision of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church of July 27, 2011. This is a kind of a prayer service that can be served in an Orthodox church or at home. It serves to console the relatives of a suicide and helps them correctly understand their grief, believing that the merciful Lord will help them. This rite can be served as many times as needed by the relatives.
Second, there is the prayer for a suicide by the Venerable Leo of Optina, read privately with the blessing of a priest. “Seek, O Lord, the lost soul of Thy servant (name) and have mercy on it if it may be possible. Your ways are inscrutable. Do not lay this prayer as a sin, but Thy holy will be done.”
Third, there is a prayer written by Metropolitan Benjamin (Fedchenkov) and titled Canon about Those Who Died Wilfully. It is also read at home with the blessing of a priest.
Besides there is charity and good deeds in memory of the deceased. It is also important that the relatives of a suicide pray for him using these prayers, rather than asking others to do it.
The personal life of the suicide’s relatives and the changes taking place in it are also important. These changes include repentance, humility and participation in church services and Sacraments (it is especially important to confess and partake of the Body and Blood of Christ).
It seems to me that a suicide will also rejoice seeing such changes, while the Lord will give him His grace seeing that his act did not move his relatives away from Him, but, on the contrary, led them to faith.
Let us recall the definition of Divine Providence from the catechism:
“Divine providence is the constant energy of the almighty power, wisdom, and goodness of God, by which he preserves the being and faculties of his creatures, directs them to good ends, and assists all that is good; but the evil that springs by departure from good he either cuts off, or corrects it, and turns it to good results”. We see that the merciful and loving Lord suppresses evil, corrects it and turns it to good consequences. In a similar way, we must suppress the evil of despondency in ourselves, correcting it with prayer, deeds of mercy and turning it to good consequences, namely, beginning to live the life of the Church, approaching God and uniting with Him day by day. This will be useful for us, and also good for our deceased relatives.
Archpriest Andrey Chizhenko
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds