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Amanda - Interview 5

Age at interview: 53
Brief Outline: In 2005 Amanda's son, Lori, took his own life. He was 21. Amanda thinks that sexual abuse may have been a reason for his suicide. She has found support via family, friends, church, internet [POS], Compassionate Friends, Papyrus and psychotherapy.
Background: Amanda is a teacher (secondary). She is married and she has 2 grown- up sons. She also had a son who died. Ethnic background/nationality: White British

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Amanda’s son, Lori, was aged 21 when he died. In November 2005 he jumped from a bridge and died soon afterwards.
 
She suspects that a reason why Lori took his own life was that he had been sexually abused as a teenager. Lori was taking cannabis about the time he died but there were no drugs in his body at the time of his death.
 
Lori’s death was a devastating shock to all the family and to Lori’s many friends. Amanda decided to go to see Lori’s body, which she says was an important thing to do. She said she “owed” that to him and needed to see him to convince herself that he was dead.
 
Amanda and her husband Martyn arranged the church funeral, which celebrated Lori’s life. It was a long funeral, with music, readings, a talk from the vicar and funny stories about Lori. The songs had a message of hope. Lori was buried on a beautiful hill side, in a grave yard, overlooking the town, where there are rabbits and flowers.   
 
The inquest was the following May. Amanda went to the inquest with friends and family to support her. She was not aware at the time that the inquest was recorded. She has obtained a recording so that if her other sons ever want to know what happened at the inquest they can have it. The coroner decided on an “open verdict”, partly because Lori had not left a suicide note.  
 
Amanda has found psychotherapy helpful, which she has had to pay for herself. She has also had enormous support from family and friends, and via the internet and an American web site called Parents of Suicide [POS]. She has also found help from Compassionate Friends, an organisation for people who have lost children in various ways, and by joining Papyrus, an organization that works to prevent suicide among young people.
 
Amanda has also found comfort by keeping a memory book. Lori’s friends have written about Lori on many different sheets of coloured paper. They have also added photographs to their written memories.   
 
She says that it is important that she can talk about Lori and mention his name, and recall the happy times and funny things that happened when Lori was alive. She says that it is important to show people pictures of Lori with his grinning face.
 
Amanda wants to make her other sons feel special. Lori was important but she knows that her other children need to feel important too.

Amanda was interviewed in July 2007.

 

Two and a half months before he died, Amanda discovered that her son had been sexually abused....

Two and a half months before he died, Amanda discovered that her son had been sexually abused....

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Well I suppose we’ll start with the day that he actually died, that was twenty months ago and I was at work and I was asked to go to an office, to find a policeman there to inform me that my son had died, jumping, and, that’s when the horror really began. But of course the story starts much earlier than that, it starts with realising that your son isn’t happy, that things aren’t right and not being able to make sense of it. One thing, from my point of view, which other people maybe who’ve had a bereavement of a similar type maybe haven’t been able to make quite as much sense of it; I think everybody who’s lost a child will, in this manner, will have spent a long time trying to work out how much they might be at, if they’re being to blame. For Lori we had a reason, we discovered before he’d, two, two and a half months before he died, that he’d been sexually abused, so that, there is some sense, we can make sense of it, but that, just having that bit doesn’t explain it all.
 

It took Amanda a long time to accept that her son’s death was not her fault.

It took Amanda a long time to accept that her son’s death was not her fault.

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Why did you say you want to punish yourself?
 
Because you feel guilty you’ve, you want to punish yourself because you think you in some way could’ve stopped it. And as a mother, I mean mother’s, we’re there to cherish, to look after, to love our children, to make sure nasty things don’t happen to them, and we’ve, therefore we feel like we’ve failed them. So it’s kind of important working out that it was his choice though his decision.
 
Does that feeling, ease a little bit, the feeling of self blame?
 
Oh yes, yeah, I mean originally I used to go through every day of his life, every moment trying to work out where I maybe went wrong, where I could’ve changed it, how things could’ve been different, that I might have noticed something else, yes and I actually don’t think you can actually not do it, I think you’re going to do that.
 
Mmm.
 
Telling somebody to not do it is telling them not to breathe. I think you just do it until you can’t do it anymore and then you, maybe you meet other people who say they were doing it and they’ve had to stop it in the end. And all, all the parents of a similar thing will say, yes it’s not your fault.
 

Amanda had never seen a dead body before so before she saw her son she felt worried. It was a...

Amanda had never seen a dead body before so before she saw her son she felt worried. It was a...

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You said you, you thought you owed it to Lori to go and see him?
 
Yes, I’d never seen anybody dead before so though I was, I’d always worried about that so that was like a double, double thing I had to do. My sister’s a doctor so it was really helpful having her there, and she was, she was able to explain what they’d done at the autopsy and why he looked a certain way, and that really it was valuable, and I don’t know how anybody would quite arrange that because she was able to, to explain what, why he looked the way he did. I have to say he didn’t, he looked, I could tell it was Lori but he didn’t really look like Lori, and that was a bit of a shock but it was good to touch him. His hair looked very unusual, he didn’t look like it was a usual style and evidently all of us who went to see him all tried to re-arrange his, his hair [laughs] so I kind of thought, he had been really cross if he’d thought his hair looked like that. He nearly always wore a hat but we didn’t have a hat to put on him and I wasn’t sure that was going to be right anyway. I like the fact he looked like he was back in his Moses basket; that was kind of important.
 
And you said that was at the funeral parlour?
 
Yes.
 
Were there any officials there at that stage?
 
They just waited outside.
 
Was that a coroner’s official or?
 
No just a, one of the people who works there.
 
Right.
 
Yeah, oh one thing that was good; they had on his door, his name as Mr. [laughs] I think it just looked so ridiculous and when I got home I just said to my husband that I really don’t feel that anybody who goes to visits him, it just didn’t sound like who it was…
 
No.
 
…so they just changed it to Lori…
 
That’s nice.
 
…so that people, you know, it was more familiar.
 

The person who spoke at Lori’s funeral adored him. She told lots of funny stories about him and...

The person who spoke at Lori’s funeral adored him. She told lots of funny stories about him and...

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The main thing I just wanted it to be more the way he would want it. We chose the coffin that would be biodegradable as well. That was really important. The eldest, our eldest son chose it, and I felt that he would have liked that as well. And it was, it was all the time trying to think what Lori would want.
 
Mmm.
 
But also for instance arranging the funeral you’ve got to bear in mind it’s for everybody as well,it’s for my husband and I, for the others, for Lori, so getting that right was really, really important and I would of, say to people if I was advising on this don’t, don’t rush, we had the funeral on the following Friday so it’s almost two weeks to get it right because I couldn’t have done it any faster. And it was quite a long funeral, there was lots of music because he was a musician, readings, it was very personal, and in fact people said they’d never been to a funeral quite like it before and that felt good from our point of view.
 
Had you been to many other funerals before?
 
Not many, some in, some in crematoriums, this was in our own church and obviously not for somebody young.
 
No. Did you have any help planning it?
 
Yes, the vicar, the vicar was, was helpful, my sister had some input, she suggested a song we had at the end, it kind of grew. I did the front, I did the cover for the funeral service, it was two pieces of my own artwork which we used. The greatest thing was the person who was going to talk about him really loved him, it wasn’t somebody, she wasn’t talking about somebody she didn’t know, she absolutely adored him and she told lots of funny stories and I was thinking ‘my goodness how did he live as long as he did with the antics he got up to?’.
 
Mmm.
 
And we were laughing, we were laughing at his funeral because he was very unique and very funny, just adorable.
 
Did, did you have any religious faith at that point?
 
Yes we, we’ve all, we’ve always been to church the whole family, perhaps in a way my faith isn’t as strong, it’s not, there are no easy answers to it but I did have a back, the background is very help, helpful in this way. Lori seemed to be angry and a bit angry with God and that was a bit difficult to square it all up what Lori would want in terms of the service and there were, that’s where I had to bear in mind it was for everybody, and in the end I did want a bit of a message of hope, the last song was a message of hope, and it’s, it was, it was sung in, the words kind of gave you the fact that he wouldn’t leave us but neither would God leave us so it was a very important message and my sister came up with that.
 
Mmm.
 
It was also important my husband spoke about him and gave some funny stories about him, and people enjoyed that. I didn’t speak, I, a part of me really wanted to but I think I might have broken down.
 

Amanda didn’t like the headstones suggested by the funeral director. She found a letter cutter...

Amanda didn’t like the headstones suggested by the funeral director. She found a letter cutter...

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Actually choosing his headstone was really special, that was really special, his favourite colour, green, definitely, so, I got a green headstone, not bright green, it’s green riven slate. Originally when I wanted a headstone I felt really sad because I looked at what was around at the funeral directors and they were just not Lori, and I thought I do not want to spend a load of money buying something that will be horrendous and I don’t know what to do. My sister sent me some articles she found, and discovered they didn’t have to look quite like the ones I’d seen before. And I still didn’t know what to do and, and I decided well it probably just happen all right, and we happened to be looking at some special art, and saw a stonemason, a stone carver, and I suddenly realised that he could carve my son’s stone. And my eldest came along with me as well, and that was really special, having the words that expressed it, his name was Laurence George Miles, and we always called him Lori Gorgeous, so it became on his, on his stone, we had his name in the middle, and then round the outside ‘Lori a gorgeous son and brother’ and his dates, and on the back there’s a daisy because one of his guitars was called Daisy, and when both of his grandparents ashes were buried, he was only a little boy but he bent down, he picked a daisy and he put it on the box, so it seemed right to have the daisy, and it’s, rough, the stone is rough apart from where his name’s carved, and it just really stood for him. And I think he’d like it, and then when the, where we went to look at it when it was nearly done, I turned and I looked and on the wall there was this other stone being done for the Queen ‘cause she was going to open something or other and it was in the same colour slate, not quite the same obviously, and I could just hear him going off to tell all his friends, “Guess what me Mum’s found somebody who’s doing one for the Queen as well”. And he’d be laughing his head off, and that was really good.
 

Amanda and her husband felt that the coroner had dealt with them kindly. They found out...

Amanda and her husband felt that the coroner had dealt with them kindly. They found out...

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Yes, our inquest, when we actually got there it had been delayed because the cases had overrun, which actually worked in our favour because one thing I was aware of was that the Press could be there and could therefore put it,  put out stuff from that and I didn’t want sensational stuff put in because it, it was late I think all the Press had gone to lunch because they must have got very hungry, we were sent off to have some food, not that we were very hungry ourselves [laughs], but it meant there wasn’t Press there so that was, that was a great relief. I looked round, there weren’t, they weren’t there. It was a bit like being in a sort of strange courtroom but they had prepared us and told us what, what the room was going to be like. There was the lady who had done the autopsy and she was really lovely, and I remember thinking ‘what a nice lady, I’m pleased it was her’, and afterwards, I to this day I wish I’d said thank you to her for some reason. The Coroner was very, very nice. I remember at one point he stopped, and he said, “So you had three boys?” And he, he paused and it was as though he was putting us all in context, as though we weren’t just facts we were a real family. At the inquest I had my best friend, my friend who’s a doctor, my husband, Lori’s girlfriend, who I held, who somebody sat with and held her hand, her mother was there, I think that’s about all but it’s kind of important to take along people that would support you. That’s really good and people that can remember it. Also it’s worth knowing, which I didn’t realise at the time, they record it and if you want a recording of it, which I, we have requested and we have now. We haven’t listened to it, the reason I have it is so that my other two sons if they ever want to know what, what happened at the inquest can have it. They chose not to come, but it’s a piece of history.
 
I don’t think it’s a healthy thing to sit there and listen to, but it does mean it’s, it’s recorded there and I think that that might be, for some people, might be useful for them.
 
Yeah.
 
The doctor gave all the details and I, I wanted to know, the statements are read out, and that’s quite hard because you’re hearing about the last moments and for us, because he was still alive, to hear the woman’s story who was with him, that was, hard, but I had met her, what is very important for me, it was very important for her she came and met us, what a couple of days after he’d died and she really wanted to hug me, she wanted to know if I wanted the coat she’d covered him up in, which I didn’t Iit was, for some reasonbut that was very important that link. The last people to see him their, their statements were read out so it’s quite a lot of statements and I remember I was sitting on the edge of my seat listening to every word at the time ‘cause I was frightened of missing it, so I suppose knowing that you’re going have a recording could be useful because then you, you wouldn’t feel like you’re trying to listen to, so intently to absolutely everything.
 

Amanda said that she found regular meetings with a psychotherapist challenging and very helpful....

Amanda said that she found regular meetings with a psychotherapist challenging and very helpful....

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Everybody in the family has sought help except for the youngest who’s carried on, very kind of brightly and sprightly and I know maybe has shared it with other people but doesn’t with us. I would recommend people find somebody, my husband and I both found psychotherapists. I already knew mine because of some of the stuff Lori was going through I was already talking about and other matters, so I already had a relationship. I would say to people, you will not, if you find somebody like a counsellor therapist you’ve got to build a relationship with them and they will also challenge you, so it’s not somebody who’s just going be there for tea and sympathy type things that’s what your friends are for, a therapist will challenge you because you’ve got to make sense of this and carry on your life and it’s very easy just to sit there and to become the, the, the mother, the parent, the brother, whatever of a suicide rather than to be who you are.
 

Amanda has made friends world wide via POS. She has found a few people on the internet site who...

Amanda has made friends world wide via POS. She has found a few people on the internet site who...

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I very, very early on looked on the internet and found people, the group that was set up in America, that is worldwide, which meant that I could, look at stuff if I wanted to, I could open other people’s mail but choose to delete it, generally I don’t read that much, I don’t want to have stuff that makes you feel like you’ve got to sit there wallowing in it but sometimes people post really positive things, so when you find somebody who’s posting positive things, it’s their mail that you open in the site. But they enquire about it, about you so for instance, post things about what’s going on just generally in your life as well, which is really nice. And it means we’ve got friends now worldwide.

 

That’s good, what’s the group called that you said you joined by the internet?


Parents of Suicide, POS, it’s initials, so if anybody was looking for it, they’ll find it. In this country, there’s, there’s a handful of members. I always look to see if, when new members join, because unfortunately new members have to join which is really sad, but I look for anybody in this country and so I do have telephone contact with four members, no more than four members, about half a dozen members that I’ve rung and spoken to, and that’s useful, and we often just land up laughing as well which is really good as, as well through it all.

 

Amanda will always think about Lori. She knows his death has changed her but she does not want to...

Amanda will always think about Lori. She knows his death has changed her but she does not want to...

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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.


Yeah.


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.

 

On Lori’s birthday Amanda and her family and friends had a party at the cemetery. On the...

On Lori’s birthday Amanda and her family and friends had a party at the cemetery. On the...

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I find for me being able to mention his name, is really important, and talk about the funny things, and if there are people out there who are friends maybe of people who, of people who’ve lost their children and whatever, really let them talk, let them laugh, and maybe let them cry as well, but it’s really important that you can talk about them.


Mmm.


That is really important.


And do you find anniversaries or birthdays are the most difficult?


Yes, on his anniversary, or his first birthday we had a very weird party at the cemetery, we took up all his favourite food, which was croissants and different jam, and very strange things, because he ate very strange concoctions, and we sat there and we planted windmills, children’s windmills and they all had messages on them, we lit candles, but that wasn’t very successful because they all blew out, but we all planted these windmills and it looked really good and very funny and I took a photograph of it, and then on the anniversary of his death we had a party and loads of his friends came, and at the time approximately when he died, his girlfriend had come up with this idea which was to have a big firework rocket, so we launched it up into the sky and when it exploded we all cheered, and that was really something, and again Lori would’ve thought it very funny, it would’ve made him laugh and that was good.

 

Make sure your other children know they’re still really special because it could almost seem that...

Make sure your other children know they’re still really special because it could almost seem that...

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I think it is kind of important to find people in a similar situation, to find that they, they’ve survived, and do what you feel’s right. There’s no book, I mean there are books out there on suicide, I read one in the early days but it wasn’t about Lori, and I couldn’t see anybody could’ve written a book about him because he was unique, and so there isn’t going be a book that explains why they’ve done it or anything else, and it’s no good having a book that tells you how to grieve because that doesn’t help really a either. It helps to know that you’re not going mad, even if you think you’re going mad sometimes.


Have you got any other message for the, for mothers who’ve got other children, did you ever think of contacting Winston’s Wish for example, Seesaw other organizations especially for children?


No. My son’s are older…


Ah.


…so that wasn’t really appropriate…


No.


…to choose something for them, and I encouraged them to seek help. Make your other children know that they’re still really special because it could, it could almost seem that the dead child is more important than the ones you have alive, I think that’s really important.

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