A-Z

Brenda - Interview 12

Age at interview: 59
Brief Outline: In 2005 Brenda's 21-year-old son sadly died in ICU. He had been depressed for some time and had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Now Brenda focuses as much as she can on remembering the good memories they all shared as a family.
Background: Brenda is a housewife and is married. She had 1 son who died. Ethnic background/nationality: White British.

More about me...

Brenda’s 21-year-old son had bipolar disorder, which used to be called manic-depression. In 2005, when he was severely depressed, he took an overdose of tablets. Brenda does not believe that her son really meant to take his own life. She thinks that he just wanted some respite. She and her husband waited in Accident and Emergency for almost nine hours, not knowing anything about their son’s condition while the medical staff treated him. This was an extremely difficult time, waiting and not knowing what was going on. Her son was admitted to ICU later that night. While he was in ICU Brenda and her husband stayed overnight at the hospital almost all of the time. Friends and neighbours were very supportive. At times there were almost too many friends at the hospital. The doctors and nurses did everything they could but sadly Brenda’s son died ten days later.
 
This was a terrible time for Brenda and her husband. There were many tears and much emotion. The next day Brenda had to tell friends and relatives what had happened, which was a difficult task. She had a neighbour to help her break this awful news. Brenda and her husband both went to see their son lying at rest, which Brenda’s says was a really important thing to do. Their son looked very peaceful and “absolutely lovely”.
 
Brenda’s son’s funeral took place about three weeks after his death, following a coroner’s inquest. Friends and family wore colours to the funeral as she and her husband did not want a traditional funeral. Her son was buried and she finds great comfort in having a place to visit him.
 
Brenda still misses her son dreadfully and sometimes cries inconsolably. However, she knows that her son would not want her to cry and so she says she keeps strong for him. She and her husband were offered professional counselling but they felt they had enough support from friends and family. Brenda’s husband has had a little informal counselling, which he found helpful. Brenda has had to support her parents, because they have also lost a dearly loved grand-son.
 
Brenda focuses as much as she can on the good memories they all shared. She has also found it helpful to focus on helping other people rather than concentrating solely on her own feelings. She likes to talk to other people about what happened, but she finds it helpful to keep occupied with other interests. She thinks it is important to get involved in other people’s lives and other projects. This helps her to cope with her grief. Brenda thinks that it is important to try to “move on” and that people should not feel guilty if they want to enjoy themselves, in spite of having lost someone they love.

Brenda was interviewed in 2006

 

Brenda’s son was very depressed at times and said he felt suicidal. She was told he had bipolar...

Brenda’s son was very depressed at times and said he felt suicidal. She was told he had bipolar...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

He then got a job in an old people’s home and he was there for two years, caring for old people, looking after them, doing all the things one has to do. But unfortunately there was an awful lot of death, obviously because they were elderly, and so one day he’d come home and the next day he’d go back and somebody had passed away. And I didn’t feel this was right for my son. He became very, very depressive, very, very low, really, really down. We took him to the doctor and they prescribed some medication and he immediately went on that. He then hit rock bottom and then ended up in hospital. He was in hospital for six months. On hindsight I wish he had never have gone now because I feel that it wasn’t the right place for him but at the time, not being medical, I just thought this would be the best thing for him to do. Both my husband and I supported him, we visited him, but it used to break my heart every time I used to leave the hospital and come away leaving him behind and thinking ‘it’s almost like a punishment there, he’s just having medication and lying in a bed’.

 

He came home, leveled out again, went back to work, and then it happened again, very, very dark despair. At this time he was very suicidal and he used to say, “I can’t go on like this any more mum, I just can’t live each day like this”. And I used to say, “Why? What do you mean?” And he said, “I feel very suicidal”. And I used to ask him, “How? Why? What were you going to do? How, which way, what were your thoughts? What, you know, how were you going to do it?” I just had no idea. And he said, “I just want to just take a lot of tablets and go to sleep”.


Yes. And the day you came home when he told you he’d taken the overdose, what kind of state was he in having taken all of those tablets?

 

Very, very calm. He walked down the stairs and he sat on a chair. He sat just here in the kitchen, and he said, “Mum, sorry Mum I’ve taken an overdose”. And I suppose immediately I thought it was, probably, I don’t know, a couple of dozen tablets or just a handful of tablets. I had no idea of doing anything like that myself. I remember running upstairs and just looking at the bathroom floor and just seeing the whole of the bathroom strewn with tablet packets and wondering for a split second where on earth have they all come from. But I realised they were drugs that had been left in the drawer of myself and my husband’s which had been there. We had no worry at all at any time that this was going to, that he would do that because he used to say, “Although I have thoughts, although this is what I might do Mum I’d never do it, I’m too frightened.”

 

And he was a boy that, he wasn’t streetwise, he wasn’t tough, he would, I still don’t know. I think he just wanted a respite that day. I truly believe that it was a respite rather than anything because I don’t think he knew, because we were so close, the devastation that he’d leave behind for myself and my husband, he was a boy that would never really, when he was levelled out, would ever hurt us. Yes we would have bad days as I’ve said, but he wouldn’t remember them and wouldn’t remember that’s what he’d done or what he’d said. So I truly believe that he had no idea that he was going to die really.

 

Brenda was glad that she saw her son after he left the ICU. He looked lovely without the tubes,...

Brenda was glad that she saw her son after he left the ICU. He looked lovely without the tubes,...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

But the one thing I did, I had to, we had an inquest. I had to go and identify, and I never thought I could do that. And I did, and I’m glad I did because he didn’t have any of the tubes in him and he looked absolutely lovely, absolutely lovely, beautiful skin, face, everything. He was just asleep, just had his eyes closed. A neighbour came with me, my husband couldn’t come and, from that day, I wanted to go to see him every day. I then said to my husband, “You must go, you have got to go”. And he, “I, oh I can’t, I can’t”. And then he just went without saying anything to me, he just did it on his own and then I couldn’t keep him away. He was there every day, right up until the funeral, he just stayed with him the whole time.


…visiting our son every day was something that I think everybody should do it’s, I think it’s really important, really important, because once the funeral’s here it’s just far too late and you can’t look back and say, “I wish I’d done it, I wish”. It’s not frightening, it’s not, it’s not nasty. It’s just very peaceful and very lovely.

 

Brenda and her family decorated the church with flowers. It helped that the church looked...

Text only
Read below

Brenda and her family decorated the church with flowers. It helped that the church looked...

HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

He [my husband] chose the clothes. He chose the jewelry. He chose the sentimental bits that our son had. I did nothing of that, I left it completely to my husband. It was his way of doing it and he never regrets that. And it’s so important, so important.


Yes. And how long was the funeral after, how many days after…


Because it was an inquest, because of it happening at home, and because of the severity of it, it was nearly three weeks. But the funeral directors were the most wonderful people. We didn’t want a grand affair, we didn’t want any cars. We didn’t want anybody in black. We didn’t want the people, the mourners in dark clothes. We wanted them all to come in ordinary clothes and that was one thing that got my husband through it because there was a lot of planning to do. Whatever he wanted to do I let him do and let him, there was certain things he couldn’t do so I would take over with the help of friends again. My parents just couldn’t cope with any of it, they were really bad but being so busy, and I made myself so busy for those three weeks.


The funeral was just beautiful, it was again so important that the way we’d done it, the way we didn’t have to have all this, what I call very rigid rules and harshness, it was so lovely to do it and everybody came in bright clothes. There was yellows and oranges and greens and it was beautiful. The church was just, no expense was spared on the flowers and again it is so important, it’s important to us and I hope that anybody else listening to this could really be inspired by the beauty of the flowers. It really does help.

 

Friends were a great support to Brenda after her son died in intensive care. A friend also helped...

Friends were a great support to Brenda after her son died in intensive care. A friend also helped...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

And in the hospital or afterwards, would you have, you or your husband, would you have liked to talk to family members who had been through something similar or a counsellor or someone from the hospital, or not from the hospital?


No, me personally not, no I think my husband, he’s more of a private person and would talk to somebody that he really knew rather than a complete stranger he’s not so good on sort of complete strangers. We were offered every single bit of help and to come back and talk to anybody that we need. The offer was there, there was an awful lot of support if we needed it. But I didn’t feel the need to talk to a complete stranger. I knew that I had my friends.

 

Has your husband been able to cope as well, like in the ways you’ve been thinking?


No, because he doesn’t open up and talk. I make him sometimes. We sit down at the table and have a meal, and I try to remember the things that we’ve done with our son and I look across the table and there’s just tears streaming down his face. As I say, we are all different but he does give much more concern so I can’t, by being stronger, it’s the way I’ve got through it because I’ve got a purpose. I’ve got a purpose for looking out for him and trying to take care of him. And I know I can call on anybody, any of my friends and family, I can have a real good moan to a girl friend and they’ll listen to me and then we can go out and have a cup of coffee and talk about you know other things. But my husband hasn’t really got that soulmate and that’s what I think is very important, really important that you’ve got somebody to talk to. He has spoken to a friend of ours who does a little bit of counselling. She’s not terribly qualified but she’s just one of these natural people that has a flair for situations like this. And he finds comfort in her and he will start talking but not for very long, not for very long.

 

Brenda no longer takes life for granted. She tries to help others who have been bereaved. This...

Brenda no longer takes life for granted. She tries to help others who have been bereaved. This...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

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.

 

Brenda’s son died just before Christmas, so the first Christmas and New Year were very difficult....

Brenda’s son died just before Christmas, so the first Christmas and New Year were very difficult....

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

Because it happened just before Christmas it was a very, very, very difficult time, but for the rest of the family we tried to be as strong as we could. The worst possible time, and I would never hide that from anybody, was sitting at the table and having that empty space. That was really bad, it was a really, a really bad time. And I just don’t know what to say to anybody to better that because it happened just before Christmas. We actually didn’t do any cards, we didn’t do any presents to one another, we just couldn’t do it. It was a day that we knew we had to get through whereas it had always been a lovely time. We’d always had lots of friends over, Christmas Day was a big dinner time and listened to the Queen’s speech but we didn’t even do any of that. We tried to do so many different things. We actually didn’t have the traditional Christmas Dinner. We all had our favourite food, which in a strange sort of way quite helped. So there was seven of us round the table and everybody had different food. And one of the things I must say about that was, instead of it being a traditional Christmas Dinner which is just one, probably the turkey and all the roast bits that go with it, because there was seven different meals, it’s rather like being in a restaurant kitchen. So everybody’s dinner was prepared and so you were busy, that’s the way I thought would be good, so whereas my husband had a steak and I think I had a lamb chop, and so on through the family, it was cooked at different times, it was prepared at different times and actually we tried to make quite fun of it. We were trying to say, “Oh this is what they do in the restaurant”.

 

So Christmas came and went. New Year was a very hard time too, but the thing we did, we were with some very close friends and we actually didn’t have the television on or the radio on. It was just another day, we didn’t celebrate at midnight and I truly believe that’s how we got through it, with these friends. It was a lovely evening but we didn’t have the necessity, I felt only in my heart that I was leaving that year that I’d lost my son behind and I was going into a fresh year. I wanted it to be a continuation so that I still now feel that he hasn’t gone in a different year, he’s still with us somewhere. And that really helped my husband, it actually helped our friends who were very close to my son. They were the godparents, and they thought it was really nice so that’s just a tip for somebody.

 

Mothers Day and Fathers Day is another big hurdle and I think that will probably, will be with you. There’s not a lot we can do about that. I’m not a very keen person on that I don’t like, because it happens to be Mothers Day the whole world does it, why not have Mothers Day any day. Just because they say it out there and just because there’s a lot of cards in the shop, I’m not very keen on that. So if you can try and get over that one, that’s only how I dealt with that situation. Of course as yet I haven’t had the anniversary so that’s another hurdle to go but try and make it as a nice, remembering as rather than it being sad. Again try and take the selfishness out of it again. So there are hurdles, there are massive hurdles and there’s no right or wrong from it at all. You have to just do whatever it, everybody again is different, but these are just some of the little tips that I could try and pass on to somebody.


And again, you know, we have Easter, everybody has Easter again, the Easter eggs, the cards, don’t make a big thing about it. Just it’s another day really, just another day, and if you can look on it like that and be thankful that you’re just here for yet another day in your life.

 

It helps to keep busy and have a purpose in life. Brenda does not talk about her son’s death too...

It helps to keep busy and have a purpose in life. Brenda does not talk about her son’s death too...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

I do feel to keep occupied, to have a purpose in life, you know, whatever it is. A hobby is very, very, it can be anything, you know, I mean it doesn’t have to be golf or tennis or swimming, I don’t mean anything like that, but just have an interest in life because it’s not doing anybody, yourself, or the person that you’ve lost any good by just sitting down and crying. And also you have to be careful when you’re talking to other people that you make the same mistake by keep bringing the subject up because in the end you can lose friends by keep repeating yourself all the time about the person you love. They know that you’ve lost somebody. They know how close you were. They know that.

 

You don’t want to be in this situation but you are, so to keep permanently reminding that person all the time that , you know, “I’ve lost somebody and what am I going to do? And how am I going to get through this? And how am I going to cope?” Is just no good, they don’t want to hear this, the average person. And I do truly believe you’ll get on in life better, you’ll meet more people if you can be more positive because, even though you do meet different people through your life that don’t know your tragedy, if you can just sort of skirt it and just tell them that’s what’s happened, they have a picture in their mind that you’ve had this person, you’ve loved them, you’ve lost them and by making another conversation with them you’ll have a better relationship with the people.

Previous Page
Next Page