A-Z

Ann - Interview 10

Age at interview: 60
Brief Outline: Ann's friend died in 2003. It appears that her friend died from an overdose and exposure. Ann has found support through her faith in God, from counselling & from her GP. She has set up a support group for others, linked to SOBS. She finds this comforting.
Background: Ann is a literacy consultant. She is single. Ethnic background/nationality: White British.

More about me...

Ann’s close friend and business colleague died in September 2003. Ann had known her friend for over 20 years. One day she disappeared. She left a note to say that she could not cope with life anymore. She was missing for a month and was found in a field by a man and his dog. It appeared that she had either died of an overdose or due to exposure.
 
While her friend was missing there was a great deal of media attention, which Ann found quite intrusive. However, the police needed to put pictures up everywhere to make the public aware that Ann’s friend was missing.
 
Ann suspected that her friend would not be found alive because she had taken a “serious overdose” 25 years previously. Her friend had had certain unresolved difficulties since childhood. She had also had to cope with chronic fatigue syndrome for many years and felt she was a burden to others.
 
Ann understood that her friend had been in great mental distress and so she understood why her friend wanted to die. However, although Ann felt glad that her friend was at peace she felt devastated by her friend’s death. She felt shocked and “let down” and “terribly frustrated”. At one stage Ann screamed and screamed until she lost her voice.
 
About three weeks after her friend’s body had been found Ann was able to arrange a church funeral. This was followed by a cremation. Ann also arranged a memorial service. Many friends and business colleagues attended that service.
 
An inquest was held sometime later. The coroner delivered an “open verdict” because although Ann thinks her friend meant to die she did not make it clear that she was going to commit suicide and it is possible that she died of exposure. However, the papers reported the death as suicide.  
 
By November, two months after her friend’s death, Ann was feeling very depressed. Her GP prescribed anti-depressants, which she took for 18 months. The medication seemed to help. Ann also talked to many friends. One friend, who was a trained counsellor, offered her counselling skills free. Ann was grateful for her support and found this counselling valuable. However, she also longed to talk to others who had also been bereaved due to suicide, so in February 2006 she set up a “self-help group”, linked to Survivors of Bereavement through Suicide [SOBS]. Ann says that she find these meetings “a comfort” because she can share her experiences with others who have been through the same type of bereavement.   Ann has a deep sense of the presence of God, which has also been a great comfort to her.  
 
Now, four years later, Ann finds it comforting to go and sit quietly in the crematorium beside the memorial plaque that she had made for her friend. She feels happy at times, but she says that the passage of time never takes away the sorrow she feels about her friend’s death. She will never forget the person she loved.

Ann was interviewed on 15th August 2007.

 

Ann's friend had chronic fatigue syndrome. Doctors said they were unable to help her and she felt...

Text only
Read below

Ann's friend had chronic fatigue syndrome. Doctors said they were unable to help her and she felt...

HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

At the time that she died was she having any contact with health professionals at that time?

 

No, no. And mainly because we had, you know, seen sort of the top people to do with chronic fatigue syndrome. And they’d said there was, you know, they were very sorry; even in a letter from the specialist saying you know he was really sorry but at the moment in time there was nothing you know that they could do to offer any help.

 

Hmm.

 

And also she had some; the antidepressants drugs are quite suitable for you know chronic fatigue syndrome. And she had tried those previously but they actually made her worse.

 

Oh.

 

So there hadn’t been any foreseeable solution to her difficulty. And she certainly felt that she was becoming a burden, and that I was having to do everything. And you know if somebody perceives it like that, you know, I just thought well, some days she’s good, some days she’s bad and we just go with it.

 

Hmm.

 

But she actually couldn’t deal with that.

 

Her friend left a note but it didn't specifically say that she was going to take her life.

Text only
Read below

Her friend left a note but it didn't specifically say that she was going to take her life.

HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

Yes certainly. My story of suicide bereavement involves a friend and business colleague. We’d known each other for over twenty years and had done a lot of … shared a lot of lifetime experiences. On the particular day that the suicide occurred my friend didn’t feel very well. And said that she wouldn’t be coming to work with me that day, as we worked … we had a business together. I went off to work and returned home in the evening to find that she’d disappeared. I found a note in which she’d indicated that she really didn’t feel that she could cope with life anymore. She didn’t actually say that she was going to take her own life in the message. But there was enough indication there for me to realise this was a serious situation.

 

Ann's friend was missing for a month before her body was found. This gave Ann time to adjust to...

Text only
Read below

Ann's friend was missing for a month before her body was found. This gave Ann time to adjust to...

HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

It turned out that in actual fact from that time onwards it was a full month before we actually found where she had gone. And she’d walked away from our home, out into the countryside. And eventually she’d just found somewhere where she obviously felt comfortable and she’d laid down, taken an overdose and just waited for death to come really. When her body was found obviously it was indistinguishable and I had anticipated that. So there was quite a lot of investigation had to be carried out to make sure that there no you know, circumstances that there anything other than her having had taken her own life. And so by that time, I had that period of a month, I’d actually adjusted to the idea that I wouldn’t see her alive again. And also I’d quite a lot of time to think through the implications of what had happened. Obviously that didn’t make it any easier.

 

Ann became very depressed after her friend died. She took antidepressants for 18 months which...

Text only
Read below

Ann became very depressed after her friend died. She took antidepressants for 18 months which...

HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

After that was my own, my own journey of coming to terms with what had happened, I did get you know become very depressed. But I went to my doctor immediately and explained how I felt. And she said, “You know you’re suffering form post traumatic stress disorder and this is quite common, and quite usual”. And she put me on antidepressants which, within four or five weeks I was really feeling much better. And she advised me to stay on those antidepressants for quite along time because she said the body needs to realign itself and get back into its normal functioning and just being on the antidepressants for a short period of time wouldn’t actually achieve that. And I took her advice on that and I think it was … it was good advice for me. And certainly after eighteen months, I gradually came off the antidepressants and I was fine. So I felt that supported me to be able to deal with the issues needed dealing with. 

 

A church funeral was followed by cremation. After the cremation Ann found it very comforting to...

Text only
Read below

A church funeral was followed by cremation. After the cremation Ann found it very comforting to...

HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

You said that there was a funeral, was she then buried locally?


She was cremated because we’d often talked about, you know, if that either of us died … whoever died first what we wanted. We’d actually made wills anyway so, you know it was in the will that she wanted to cremated, so it was a cremation. 


Did you have a headstone made for her?


Because it was a cremation I had a memorial stone, which is just a small, you know, in the form of a book, and I had it placed where I thought she would, a place that she’d have liked to be when she was alive to sit and, in a very natural setting.


Oh, that’s nice.


Yes.


Is that where her ashes are as well?


Yes.


Hmm.


Yes. And I found that very beneficial, having somewhere to go. I’d always, never ever appreciated prior to my friend’s death, the value of crematoriums or cemeteries. And it was a tremendous, tremendous help to me to go back to the crematorium, walk round, just to be there, as being like the last place, the final, where, you know, the relationship in this life has sort of finalised.


Hmm.


I’ve found that a tremendous help. Just other people around who you knew were grieving looking after their graves or their memorials, and I still go regularly. I find it just so peaceful, so comforting, just wonderful.


Is that where she is or it …


Yes. Yes.


In the … at the crematorium?


At the crematorium. Yes.


Right.


Yes.


Well that’s important. Did the staff who worked there, did you have any contact with them and were they helpful as well?


Yes very helpful. Yes at the crematorium. They were lovely.


Did they help you find someone to carve the plaque for the memorial?


Yes you could order everything there, you know, you just, you just ordered it. You know you chose what you wanted. They made the time for you. They walked round, you know look at … because it’s quite a big crematorium. It’s privately owned.


Hmm.


Well privately run. And you just look round and you know you can chose where you want to place you memorial which I think is very personal.

 

Running a support group has helped Ann to accept her own bereavement. She still finds it a...

Text only
Read below

Running a support group has helped Ann to accept her own bereavement. She still finds it a...

HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

Yes so I felt that a self-help group would be something that would be really valuable, because it was something that I had looked for. And to cut a long story short, eventually in February 2005 … no just wait a minute … February 2006, I begun a self-help group. And two or three friends supported me at the start to get it going. At the first two meetings only one person turned up. But we persisted, because we knew that it was a question of letting people know that we even existed.

And now we’re eighteen months on and we generally have eighteen to twenty people come long. And that is actually increasing the more we’re getting out in our local community and making people aware of the self-help group, more people are coming along. So we …over the summer we don’t meet because we think that encourages people to support each other rather than depending on the group. So if they’ve made friends in the group they can meet up. And then we will resume in September. And we’ve had quite a lot of inquires over the last three months of people wanting to know more about it and you know encouraged to come along. So we are anticipating that that will extend a bit further.

But I found it very rewarding because there’s always that element from I think any bereavement, but suicide bereavement has got a particular element of the trauma, and the particular things of, you know, you’re involved with the police, you’re involved with the coroner’s court, you’re involved with the press. And most of us who are bereaved through suicide haven’t been involved in that type of scenario. So therefore you … those experiences stay with you I think more strongly. And there are times when even though you’ve come to terms with what’s happened, you still find it helpful to talk through things. And what I find from running the group is that it does give me that chance to maybe revisit some things or even look at situations differently. I would say you know that I’ve dealt with my bereavement, and that I’m comfortable with it. But I don’t think the pain ever goes away and that surfaces as, as any painful experience does for anybody.

Hmm.

So therefore running the group, it’s helpful to be able to share my experience. But it’s also … it’s still a comfort being with other people.

Yes.

Who have gone through the same thing.

Does your group have any particular name?

It does yeah … it’s linked with the Survivors of Bereavement through Suicide, which is a national charity.

So would you see yourself as part of that?

Yes we are part of that. We’re linked with them.

Hmhm.

But we you know run our own group. The national group does give support to anyone who would want to set up a group. So if there’s anybody, you know, that wants to start a group, they can get in contact with the national SOBS and they will guide and support them into doing that.

Do you mind explaining what, what might happen at a typical meeting, at a typical group meeting?

I can’t speak for any other meeting because I haven’t been to anyone else’s meeting.

No, your own, your own.

But our own meeting, we come together and generally we, we always start off just explaining that what is being discussed in the group is confidential and that we respect that and that we don’t discuss it out … whatever’s mentioned in the group we don’t discuss it outside. We emphasise that we’ve come together for what we share in common and that we don’t tolerate discrimination of any sort. So therefore we really try to aim, focus on what we agree on and what we; you know our common experience of being bereaved through suicide. And that we respect that each person will maybe respond differently. And we have found people really do respect each other. We’ve got people who come who, you know, have got deep Christian belief or belief through some other religious way, and others who have no belief at all. And you sense that people do respect that between each other.
 
Hmm.
 
And you see both … the … the questions that people ask from both those perspectives, and also you’ve got different age groups. We’ve got people from their early twenties up until people into their eighties. And again we’re just united by the fact that we’ve gone through the same thing.
 
Hmm.
 
So it’s very wide, you know, what we discuss, and the people who are attending.
 
And do you leave the floor fairly open for people to talk about what they feel like talking about or would you lead the discussion in some way?
 
We always start off with leading the discussion in order to provide a platform from which to begin. But we always have a session of, you know, is there anything that’s really bugging you, you’ve come to this meeting tonight and we haven’t covered something that you really want to discuss.
 
Hmm.
 
And then we hope that that will avoid people going away and thinking well I went tonight and didn’t get a chance to say what I wanted to say. We also at the end of meeting we have a drink and nibbles and things to eat so that people intermingle and may of not been confident to speak out in the group but they will have … somebody in the group will have mentioned something that’s dear to their heart and they will, they will then go and speak to them.
Hmm.
 
And that happens a lot.
 
Hmm.
 
And we also have books for people to borrow. And we try to keep up with whatever’s happening in the world of surviving … you know supporting survivors of bereavement through suicide.
 
Hmm.
 
So it’s quite on open forum really where people can move on. And we do emphasise that it is about moving on. And it … the encouraging thing is that we find people come when they feel they need to.

 

When Ann looked at the Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide website she learnt that Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide were running self-help groups, and decided to start a local group. The group offers face to face and email support.

Text only
Read below

When Ann looked at the Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide website she learnt that Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide were running self-help groups, and decided to start a local group. The group offers face to face and email support.

HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

Did you use the internet at all to find support?


Yes I did and that is where I found … when I first was bereaved I went onto the internet and there was virtually nothing.


Hmm.


There was an American site but nothing in England. But I did pick up the SOBS site, Survivors of Bereavement through Suicide. And at that time four years ago, it was still an undeveloped resource really and they just had a website with telephone number. Now the one thing that I don’t find helpful is telephone; you know I, I would never, ever ring up a helpline. I just find it just doesn’t suit my … I like face to face.


Hmm.


So I looked at this and there were no groups, no nothing, just this help … this help telephone line that you could ring. So I didn’t follow that up. And then I just sort of plodded on in my own little way. And then I went back on the internet eighteen months later and in the meantime this SOBS had then improved their website. They showed that they had groups running. And I then contacted them to say I was thinking of setting up a group. And I’d also written a book and I wanted to promote it and could they help me.


Hmm.


And they were very supportive in that. And it was through them that I began to promote my own book.


Hmm.


And to set up the website. So our website and our self-help group; in the last eighteen months all that has come about.


Hmm.


Through contact with the SOBS national. They’re an excellent organisation.

 

And do you get the impression many people find you through the website?

 

Not particularly. Having said that about four or five people who come to the group did find us through the website, so I suppose relatively speaking.

 

Hmm.

 

And we’ve had a few people who’ve used the … we offer email support on our website, because we, we don’t run a local telephone helpline. There’s a national helpline that covers the whole country, but we don’t offer a local helpline because none of us feel that is what we want … it’s too big a commitment.

 

Hmm.

 

We can’t take that on. So we offer an email helpline and we found that is useful. Some people will just maybe just in the middle of the night suddenly think they just need to talk to somebody. And we found it’s been …you know we haven’t had such a … it being so invasive that somebody’s writing all the time. They’ve just needed to off load at that moment and it’s fulfilled a need. And we’ve also found that people have come to the group through that.


Is that a national email support or a local email support?


Just local email support. So anybody that goes on the website who happens to click in to our area, can also click onto our local area website.

 

Oh. And who actually helps to answer those emails or reads them?


Myself and my colleague … well my colleague, they mainly come to her. She deals with them. And if there’re any that she’s not sure about or she needs some confirmation, she will then send it to me and say, “Do you think this the right way to answer this?”


Hmm.


Because you do have to be very careful, both in terms of the response you give to the person who’s very vulnerable. And also in terms of responsibility.


Hmmm.


So we do you know try and give supportive but generalised responses.
 
That’s very interesting. And might you suggest other sources of support like national phone numbers or …?
 
Yes.
 
Or books?
 
Yes. Yes. If, if that was the nature it … quite often the nature of the email is just the person is feeling, you know, has reacted in a particular way and they just want to know is this normal.
 
Hmm.
 
They just want reassurance.
 
Hmm.
 
And you just say yeah … you know many people you know react in this way.
 
So that’s another useful way of using the internet?
 
Yes. Yes. I feel the internet is invaluable.

 

During the time her friend was missing Ann wrote a diary every day. It helped Ann to keep a hold...

Text only
Read below

During the time her friend was missing Ann wrote a diary every day. It helped Ann to keep a hold...

HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

And you know, you do keep yourself together at that early time.   Because, well I had to, there was no-one else.  I could only deal with a lot of the things and I just, I just made up my mind that I was going to keep a hold on reality and I kept a diary  [um]  just so that I knew what day and date it was so that every morning I wrote down what day it was, what date it was and anything significant, you know, that happened, that I felt I needed to remember or whatever ...


Hmm.


… and that helped me to keep sane, I think.

 

The media were heavily involved because Ann's friend was missing. The police tried to protect Ann...

Text only
Read below

The media were heavily involved because Ann's friend was missing. The police tried to protect Ann...

HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

I stayed at home for the first few days. And when I could see obviously she wasn’t going to be found soon and they were … they were stepping up a lot of the media, the police officer dealing with my case advised me, you know, that if I could move away for a short while and they would keep in touch. And so that was what I did. I did find that difficult because I actually wanted to be at home.


Hmm.


But as I say I went to my brother’s for a week. And just sort of ... you know, you’re just in a complete and utter daze, you just get through each day really.


Can you say a little bit about the involvement of the media.


Yes. On the whole I was fortunate that the police officer that dealt with it was very  protective of me. And so he would keep the media at bay as much as he could and such like. The only negative experience I had was at the coroner’s court and I hadn’t really anticipated how intrusive that might be. And the particular person who was you know covering that day in the coroner’s court just wouldn’t leave me alone and I just said, you know, I just didn’t want … I didn’t want to talk about it to the media. And actually I think in retrospect it would’ve been better just to say something, because they did an inside page and made a great big issue of it with … you know with massive letters, you know big lettering that you’d normally put on the front page. And in fact one or two of my friends wrote to the paper and complained that it had been sensationalised. But I do think in part it was you know it was … it had … if I had been more cooperative … but I actually felt like that it wasn’t that I didn’t want to … it was that I couldn’t cope with it.


Hmm.


And that’s.


Very intrusive.


Yes very … in that case.


You said the policeman tried to shield you, I mean did you have people from the media come into the house trying to talk to you?


Yes. There was, you know, television crews came up and fortunately on the day the police rang me … I say the police office dealing with me and he said, “Look the media have got hold of this and they’re going to make a big issue of it “,because it was obvious this person wasn’t going to be found.  And a friend of mine came to pick me up.. … well she was actually here when the policeman rang and I said I think we’d better leave now …


Hmm.


… before they come. And actually we were very fortunate, they were at the end of the our road and they were stopping people as they turned into the road asking them what they knew. And as we came out there happened to be a queue and they just let us by. So the very person they wanted to see; I was fortunate that I was able to leave my home and the, the area … and was, you know, was not troubled.


It was awful to feel you were hounded out of your home though.


[Laughs] Yes. At the time it is, you know, now it seems like four years since it seems less intrusive. I think if I’d had to really go back and think about it closely yes it would come back. But I don’t do that, you know you have to move on. 


Did the media get hold of it because the police were asking for help to find your friend?


Yes of course. And you know you have to balance that.


Hmm.


You know that aspect of it and they were very supportive in that. The other thing that I recall is there was; they put pictures up everywhere. Look, you know

Previous Page
Next Page