After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools | 27 Spontaneous Memorials It is not unusual for students to create a spontaneous memorial by leaving flowers, cards, poems, pictures, stuffed animals, or other items in a place closely associated with the student, such as his or her locker or classroom seat, or at the site where the student died. Students may even come to school wearing T-shirts or buttons bearing photographs of the deceased student. The school’s goal should be to balance the students’ need to grieve with the goal of limiting the risk of inadvertently glamorizing the death. If spontaneous memorials are created on school grounds, school staff should monitor them for messages that may be inappropriate (hostile or inflammatory) or that indicate students who may themselves be at risk. A combination of time limits and straightforward communication regarding the memorials can help to restore equilibrium. Although it may be necessary in some cases to set limits for students, it is important to do so with compassion and sensitivity, offering creative suggestions whenever possible. For example, schools may wish to make poster boards and markers available so that students can gather and write messages. It is advisable to set up the posters in an area that may be avoided by those who don’t wish to participate (i.e., not in the cafeteria or at the front entrance) and have them monitored by school staff. Memorials may be left in place until after the funeral (or for up to approximately five days), after which the tribute objects may be offered to the family. Find a way to let the school community know that the posters are going to the family so that people do not think they were disrespectfully removed. For example, post a statement near the memorial on the day it will be taken down. Vignette C: Adapting a Memorial for Dia de Los Muertos A large comprehensive high school was trying to find a way to honor the cultural heritage of its Latino students on Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead).* The students requested that they be allowed to memorialize their loved ones who had died (including some who had died by suicide) by setting up an altar with images of their friends on a public section of campus. The school psychologist (who is also Latina) struggled with how to follow the known guidelines regarding memorialization, while also respecting the students’ wishes, so she consulted with experts in suicide prevention. The school decided to have a couple of adult advisors meet with the students and hear their points of view in order to connect with what their underlying motivations were: to celebrate their cultural heritage in the face of tragedy. It was proposed that an altar be set up with favorite foods and imagery (sports, activities, music, other hobbies), rather than using pictures of their deceased loved ones. The altar was permitted for three days, October 31 to November 2, which coincided with the Mexican holiday. According to their feedback, the students felt validated and respected, and they also felt connected to the larger campus community. * The celebration of the Day of the Dead is an integral part of embracing death that is particular to Mexican national identity but is also celebrated by other Latino cultures in the United States. During this event, the popular belief is that the deceased have divine permission to visit friends and relatives on earth and to again enjoy the pleasures of life.