Bereavement due to suicide
Adjusting to life without the person who died
After months or years most people seemed to have adjusted to life without the person who had died. They still felt a great sense of loss, particularly when looking at old photographs, or on birthdays or anniversaries (see ‘Anniversaries and other special occasions’) but feelings had become less intense. Over time memories had become a little less painful, though Barbara said that music could still trigger powerful emotions, and Colin said that his son was always “on his shoulder” in certain contexts, like playing golf. Marion described the 11 years since her husband’s death as ‘all the time in the world and no time at all’.
People came to accept that life had to go on: Kate, though still devastated by the loss of her daughters, had accepted this for the sake of her other children, particularly her young son.
About five months after Anna died and seven months after Izzy died Kate went back to her work as...
I went back to work at the right time. I went back … its five months after Anna died, seven months after Izzy died … and it’s only less than nine months that Izzy died and seven for Anna so it still early days.
It’s still very early days. But I think I went back at the right time. I was sitting around the kitchen table, day after day, night after night, with the two photographs of the girls. I started smoking again which I hadn’t smoked for 25 years. And the kitchen table was becoming a shrine. And I thought, “Oh I can’t go on living this”.
And going back to work, I did it at the right time. And going back to what I do best and it’s to look after other people … being a mum you look after people. And I’ve always been a nurse and it’s, that’s just part of me that is me. Obviously I can’t talk about other people, how they cope. I can’t talk about how … I can’t tell you how to grieve. I can only talk about my experiences. And people keep saying, “You’re very strong.” But as I say before by helping others, it makes you stronger.
Some people attended or helped to run support groups, or found other ways of helping those bereaved by suicide. Many who could use their experience to offer other families support found that it helped them to make sense of what had happened.
Brenda no longer takes life for granted. She tries to help others who have been bereaved. This...
I’ve looked at life a lot differently and taken each day as it comes, whereas we used to plan quite a bit in advance, maybe a holiday for instance which was a nice thing to do. I live really now from day to day and if we do go away then it would be, ‘well we’ll go away next week or we’ll go away tomorrow’ rather than do it a year in advance because, you know, life is so short you just really don’t know. And I try not to take things for granted so much. Until something like this happens in your life, you know, you do say, “What? Why me? Why has?” But there are so many other people out there with much bigger tragedies than what us as a family, to us it’s our tragedy, but you know, we’ve been through another tragedy with friends who have lost their husband, child and another one’s maimed for life, that’s the whole family wiped out. And life is like this all the time so I don’t just think of me. I truly believe, you know, I do think of other people, do worry about other people but that is the way I deal with it personally, myself, to get other people through it. And if I can pass on any of the information that I’ve had and the experiences that I’ve had, then I would only be too pleased.
Patricia has helped to organise and run support groups for 10 years. She feels that this type of...
Jane has gradually started to live again. She enjoys travelling with her husband, particularly in...
So how have feelings and emotions changed over the last 23 years?
Well I suppose we’ve re-established our lives. The big thing is it’s certainly changed my life, and I suppose gradually you learn to live again and it’s a bit different, and, we are very lucky we’ve, we have got good friends, and that’s so vital, and luckily we’ve got good health, we enjoy traveling very much. And I suppose we’ve learnt a lot. We’ve learnt about things we might not have done.
Well… depth of things, when I think about death itself, I actually find graveyards quite a comforting place to be, which is strange to some people. I like trying to understand about other religions, other ways of living, and that’s probably why I enjoy traveling so much. Ah, I think I’ve got slightly more understanding than I might’ve done otherwise. …some places would would always be points of contact for me, Tom loved mountains, so mountains are good.
Well life has changed hasn’t it, and we’ve just moved on and so it’s only occasional now I think, you know “I wish Tom was here, Tom should’ve been here.” you know, “I wonder what it would’ve been like with him as an uncle, and to the grandchildren.” And you know I just occasionally felt, “Gosh he would have liked this.” Whatever. …Yes, just there’s that really. So, so it’s not painful day to day, I think some people probably are surprised that we’ve still got his school hat in that other room, which was a visitors room so that’s where more of his photos are, they’re probably surprised we choose to keep that sort of thing around but, I doubt if it will ever get moved.
Do you find it a comfort to see it there?
Well, yes in some way yes, you know it was part of our life and I don’t totally want, totally want to let go.
Kavita thinks about her brother all the time and sometimes experiences periods of intense grief...
You say that you feel as though you’re grieving, how have your feelings changed over the years?
Changed over the years, there’s been lot of changes in a sense, some of it remains so, so static that you know, some of the feelings, they’re repetitive and they’re, they have remained more or less the same. But what’s changed is and it, it is now a feeling of acceptance that’s he’s actually, wants me to live … wants to see the world through my eyes. And that feeling is, is strong. It’s comforting. And whilst I’ll have periods, it’ll come in waves, where the grief will become intense again.
And I’ll really feel it within, raw again. It’s, that, that doesn’t happen frequently, it doesn’t happen all the time you know.
He’s there at the back of my mind every single minute of the day. I can’t really think of a time he’s not, actually. But what changes is this kind of an acceptance to live without him and to live.
To go on living your life?
Yes. But knowing, rather than fighting the fact that he’s not here, living my life as though, knowing he’s not around, but is around.
In a different way.
Because he’s around as a spiritual person …?
Yes which is … and I feel probably even closer to him than maybe in life actually.
Amanda will always think about Lori. She knows his death has changed her but she does not want to...
I also think for, for my husband and I joining Compassionate Friends is really good, that’s a worldwide organisation, there we’ve met parents who’ve lost children, in lots of ways, from murder, suicide, cot death, virus, whatever, and just discovering that grief for your child is similar for all of us that has been really important, not just focusing on the suicide, but at that group I met this woman who said something which really hit me, as being really important, she said, “I am not going to be defined by my son’s suicide”. And I thought ‘yeah his suicide has changed me but it, I am still me, I’m not going to be the mother of a suicide’ and I also, worked out very early on that the sun would shine and it would still feel nice, that the hobbies I had could be good hobbies it didn’t mean I loved Lori any less [sighs], they could still be good things. You had to work at it, it didn’t feel naturally good to go off and make jewelry, or naturally good to just feel the sun shine, but the two aren’t joined together, my son being dead and having nice things, they’re not connected and so it’s okay to enjoy things. That is really important, I mean looking after yourself is really important, eating a good diet, trying to go to bed, all of those, learning to look after yourself because actually part of you wants to punish yourself for it, so that is a big lesson and that’s something like what therapy might help you to do, that’s where it would be in. I have read through Parents of Suicide where they will actually just sit in it and say, “I will never get over it”. But it’s almost, “I will never get over it, like don’t you ever try and help me”, and I, I don’t think we’d get over it when, are right words anyway, we’re not ill, we’re always going to have a sadness, but we also have life, for me I have two other sons who are lovely, fantastic guys.
I also have an adoring husband who’s really special, so life will go on and there will be special things but there’ll always be a little bit, of us, that’ll always feel sad whatever and obviously there’s, I don’t think there ever will be a day, or even an hour sometimes where you haven’t thought about the person who’s died.
After Charlotte died 3 years ago Helen lost her sense of security and felt anxious about...
Rachel learned that you can experience tragedy and yet move forward. She says she could have let...
I think in hindsight, you know, initially I went, I certainly, I lost my confidence and became very introverted. But as I’ve got older I’ve actually sort of come out of myself and I feel a lot more confident. I feel very able to make friends, I think because I’m used to having to cope for myself. So maybe initially I lost my confidence. But then I realised that in not having mum, you know, to support me and my dad was away a lot, I had to be quite self-sufficient. So I, I, you know, I can, I always pride myself that you can put me in any situation and I would always, not necessarily make friends, but be able to talk to people and hopefully, you know, build a life for myself. And I think I learned from that that, you know, you can have, not disaster, but tragedy and move forward. And I think I have made the most of my life. And a number of people sort of say, you know, when my, this girl said to me, “But you’re so normal.” I mean I don’t what she thought I, how I should have been. But I think I just realised that you can’t blame how your life turns out on something that’s happened, you know, in the past. I could have, I could have let that ruin my life really. I could have gone on and over and over what had happened. And I think I just realised that mum, you know, all mum’s efforts would have been in vain if we hadn’t made the most of ourselves really. So it’s given me, you know, it’s given me the confidence to go on and, and hopefully make a happy family life.
Nina never forgets about her brother’s suicide but can put her feelings into a box and close the lid. At times she revisits those feelings but has decided not to let negative feelings consume her. She is happier than she expected to be.
Nina used to think about her brothers death all the time. She will always miss him but she is...
I, I’ll never ever. I’ll never stop missing him, I’ll, I don’t think about him or I don’t think about the death, it doesn’t consume me as much as it initially did, and I can remember when I first started having hours, maybe even, no, never days, but hours where I wouldn’t think about him, yeah, possibly days, and I’d, and I’d be, I’d get really annoyed with myself and really angry with myself because you know I kind of thought well that means I’m forgetting about him but you know I was, he will always be a part of me as I said, and you know he, he has made suicide a part of, a part of me as well. I’ll never be the same person, I tend to get, I tend to get, they say that anger can be a, can be a part of suicide and I’ve never been angry at him, I’ve never been angry at anybody involved in his death, but I do tend to get angry with other people who just, ah, just get upset and over trivial things, and I just, but I that, that’s where I think I kind of you know, which is unfair, and which I know is unfair. I think it’s made me a shorter person; I have less time for things. …Yeah. But you know I’m happier that I ever thought would be possible when it first happened; I never thought that I would reach where I am now.
Colin couldn't listen to New Orleans piano jazz for years. It reminded him of Matt. This year, 15...
Over the years how have things changed? Your feelings and recollections?
Well, I have missed, for years I couldn’t listen to, I particularly like New Orleans piano jazz, and I couldn’t listen to New Orleans piano jazz from 1992 until this year, because it had always been associated with playing in the background when we, as we played snooker, and we played to solo piano jazz by Jimmy Yancey who was one of the New Orleans or, no Delta and Chicago piano jazz black piano musicians of the 1930’s and 40’s, and we’d always played snooker to that background. And I just couldn’t listen to this sort of music for 15 years, I’ve been able to listen to it again this year, so there you are that’s time, they say time heals all things. It doesn’t heal all things but something’s get very slightly better. That particular element of pain washed over.
Stephen was devastated when his wife died but now, almost two years later, he feels happier than...
So how would you sum up how your feelings have changed over the last two years, year and a half?
Yeah, year and a half. June 2006. …Mm…. It’s very difficult really, I mean it’s been a..., I mean so much has happened. …I mean everything’s different, you know. The world is different, and it probably sounds strange to say, in many ways I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I resolved when, when it happened that I was going find the good. I was going to find the good in this, and I had no idea where that was going be. The next, just the next day I was due to get up at; I go running and I go running in the morning because that’s, well I’m just useless if I wait any longer, after I’ve got up I’m just lazy, and I’d arranged with a friend of mine and we just run, you know we run every morning so, you know, he rang me that evening and said, “Are you going out tomorrow?” And I said, “Of course I’m going out tomorrow, what do you expect?” What’s the point in just lying in bed and I know nothing’s going to happen by doing that.
Some people who had felt guilty after the suicide were glad to say that they no longer felt guilty for what had happened.
Lucreta can now live without feeling guilty, without blaming herself for something that happened...
I remember my neighbour saying to me that, “You’re a Christian, but why, why did our Father do this to you? Why did he do this to you?” And when I questioned this and followed it up with a question to another person, they said, perhaps he chose me because he knew I could cope. But then that bothered me for a while, I thought, “Why choose me?” But, you know in the end I just had to let go of it, and I’m glad to say that I’m back running, and I can sleep now with the light off at night. I can live on my own. I can cook for myself. I can dress myself. I can make decisions, surrounding my life and life is good and I can now live without feeling guilt, without blaming myself for some thing that’s happened beyond my control.
That’s good to know that life, you can live life again.
Yeah, yeah. And I’m really, I really, I’m really doing this because I just feel that it’s nice for people to know, it’s nice to help other people to help themselves because we’re in this world and God made each of us lacking, he didn’t make us with every skill and every tool, and so we’re supposed to live in harmony and really help each other to live their life to the full.
Gillian's father was in pain and distressed towards the end of his life. His death, by assisted...
I want to ask you a little bit about yourself and perhaps your mother and brother, and how the bereavement process has been.
Well, we were mourning him when he was in the home. And since then my mother and I, and my brother when I see him, talk about him. But we don’t mourn him as such. We’re pleased. I wouldn’t actually call that mourning.
We’re pleased about it. I mean there’s no other way of putting it. We’re pleased he’s dead, we’re pleased he’s no longer in pain. So we don’t really mourn him.
Susans only sadness is that her father did not have the option of an easier way to die.
I think the only sadness I have about his death is that I think that there should’ve been an easier way for him to go, and you, you just hope that if you are, you know, we, or I ever reach that stage in life where you’ve got a terminal illness and you don’t want to suffer long painful undignified death that, that I really pray that things change in the future, and that we do have, this country become more civilised about people having a choice.
Of assisted dying?
Yes, have assisted suicide. I really do strongly feel that. Because how much easier would it have been. He made a very rational, reasonable, decision which we completely understood and appreciated, and how much better would it have been for him to be able to do that at that stage? Having lived his life so fully, so well, to have made a, an easier decision, yeah, it’d have been much better.
And how do you feel about it all now, looking back?
Comfortable. I found somewhere; you know my behaviour on that morning, not trying to stop him, strange. But I can, I can reason that out really as to what I, cos I, I think that that, it would’ve just been, he would’ve done it sometime anyway, and it would’ve been, the repercussions for trying to stop him wouldn’t have been very pleasant.
I mean much more unpleasant for all of us.
Was there anything that could’ve prevented his death do you think?
No, I don’t think so. No.
Is there anything else that you want to add that we haven’t covered, do you think?
No, just a, a plea for further work into assisted suicide really, giving people dignified choices when, when it comes to dying.
Marion finds the idea of the future without her husband quite frightening.
I’m frightened basically, very frightened of what the future holds. When I, when I was well it was difficult enough. Now that I’m not so well always, it’s very, very hard. I never planned going into a nursing home or a residential care home for that matter because we were always going to look after each other. Well that’s out of the window, out of the question now. When I’m ill I find it very hard to be on my own. Not because I want somebody waiting on me hand, foot and finger but because it’s nice to have somebody around. And again my children would be there but they’re not, they’re not Graham, they’re not their dad. And they have their own lives to lead. So the future is quite frightening. I’m quite apprehensive about it. …I’m looking forward to the wedding and seeing the younger two settling down. You know there are, there are positives in it. But they all seem to be tinged with ‘but if Graham were here it would be easier’ you know.
It’s quite irrational because he isn’t and he isn’t going to be but it doesn’t stop you hoping [laugh]. It doesn’t stop you longing for it does it.
Last reviewed July 2017.
Last updated October 2010.