Bereavement due to suicide
Changing emotions-sadness, guilt & anger
Stephen suggests that grieving is not a linear process but is more like a spiral.
…And in terms of, going back to the day I mean I, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, me telling the children that, you know, and I’m sort of proud of myself in the sense of, of that, and really of they way I’ve dealt with you know what’s happened since, it’s been all very much sort of seat of the pants, it’s always been gut feeling because there is no rule book you know, there isn’t a, “Well, you know do this next, and then that, and then do this and…” You know the process of grieving is not a linear process, and you hear people coming out with these, you know, “There’s bereavement, there’s various stages of grief and you go through this, and then you go through that”, and it’s a load of rubbish, I mean it’s like you know, it’s much more like a spiral and you’re constantly going through it, you go through some, you think you’ve been there before actually you are in somewhere different but you, you, you’re re-visiting these phases the whole time.
Some of the people we talked to had been bereaved quite recently. Kate lost a second daughter through suicide in 2007, only months before we talked to her. She said that the tears had not stopped since Anna died, and that at times she feels like dying. Jenny lost her husband David in 2007. She felt desolate after he died and still needs plenty of time to cry. She has a baby daughter and says that without her, and the happiness she brings, it’s too painful to imagine how she would be feeling.
Jenny explains why she prefers to cry alone. Other people expect her to feel better after she has...
Those who had been bereaved some time ago had experienced a wide range of emotions during the following weeks, months and years. Emotions included sadness, anguish, pain, anger, fear, despair, guilt, rejection, relief, panic, isolation, loneliness, depression, anxiety and concern about loss of memory and concentration.
Mike lost his father over 30 years ago but it still feels very recent in his mind. He does not...
Extremely hard I mean yes, it is a personal holocaust I mean I think that’s the best way of summing it up it’s, you, your whole world just disintegrates around you, the impact of it is, it’s inconceivable to express, I can’t put it into, into words what it does to you, it really wrings you in, inside out, just a sort of whole, a kaleidoscope of emotions and feelings all swirling around together, which, are just really hard to deal with, you know, confusing.
How long do those feelings go on for, are they still going on?
A long, long time. I mean I, I don’t think you ever adjust, you know some people talk about adjustment to bereavement and, I don’t know whether we ever really adjust fully to, to losing someone who’s close to us that we love, a friend or a relative. But certainly with bereavement through suicide I don’t think you ever do really, you don’t adjust, at best you reach an accommodation with yourself and that’s different to an, that’s different to an adjustment. To use a comparison, my mother died of cancer when I was fifteen and that was like horrendous, we nursed her at home, it was horrendous, and in many ways you could say it was worse, the experience of that, but I’ve come to terms with my mother’s death, you know, in that that was a natural death, natural, natural causes, it was terribly sad it was awful experience to, to see her suffer, but my father’s death through suicide I’ve never, that, that hasn’t healed. Somebody wrote a book called ‘A Special Scar’, it’s a really good way of putting it because it doesn’t heal in the same way, it’s still there, it’s still, it’s still like it was, I’m not saying like yesterday ‘cause it’s been a long time now it’s been over thirty years but it still feels very recent in my mind and it still impacts on me very centrally in a way that my mother’s death doesn’t.
Four years on Dave no longer thinks about his son every second but every hour. The 'weight' of...
Have things changed at all over time or is it just the same?
Yes, things change. Yes, when it first happened, it’s there all the time, every second and, but that, gradually, I don’t know whether it will continue to diminish, but it does, it’s not there all the time now. It’s there every day, it’s there every hour, but it’s not there every second. So things at times, are easier. You can do things and it not be hanging over you all the time.
But, if you’ve got the scales there, you’ve always got this weight of losing Ben.
That, that, at any time, can hit you.
And, and it’s always as bad. When it’s there, it’s as bad as it ever was.
Dolores lost her husband in 2005. She still feels desperately sad, mainly because her young son...
…but I think it’s too painful for my family, to deal with their grief because they’re too angry at Steve, because they see the impact it’s had on me, they see the changes it has caused for me and I think they have a great deal of anger which I don’t have any of, that I have absolutely no anger for my husband, I put a lot of that down to the fact I was so angry at him when he was missing, that I don’t carry any anger, I don’t carry any anger, I carry grief, I carry guilt and I carry a great deal of sadness for my son because he’s missed out on a really, really good guy, a big part of his life [crying].
It took Amanda a long time to accept that her sons death was not her fault.
Steve often feels guilty. He thinks he could have done more to prevent his sisters suicide. Now...
The guilt probably is the biggest emotion out of, out of the three for me anyway because there are unanswered questions that I think that maybe I should have done more to prevent this. And I suppose it’s beating myself up. I should have done this. I should have done that. But the guilt is much more intense at happy occasions really and it’s hard to deal with. But fortunately my family have gone through the same bereavement and I can discuss it with them and they know what I mean. And with the SOBS [Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide] group as well, they understand completely when I say, actually I laughed the other day and I felt guilty for laughing. And they know how I’m feeling and they know why. It’s difficult for, for people who aren’t members of the family or people who haven’t gone through this bereavement with us. At work when people are larking about and having a laugh and a joke and I can’t imagine them understanding me saying, ‘Actually I can’t laugh with you because I feel guilty about it because my sister’s dead’. It, it’s difficult.
Other people have said that.
I’m not surprised. I went on holiday. Well we’ve been on several holidays this year and I’m excited because we’re going on an aeroplane and then we get on the aeroplane and my mood just sinks. And it’s because I’m quietly thinking about my sister who had never been on an aeroplane. She never went on holiday with me and I’m going on holiday again and having a good time and I’m looking forward to it and I feel guilty because of that. And it, it’s hard, it’s hard to explain to people who haven’t gone through the experience of suicide really.
Jane felt guilty for years. She only started to feel better when she decided to carry a bit of...
I think it’s probably in the early days like maybe the first seven years, the biggest problem for me was the feeling of guilt and so I related to it if it cropped up in anything else. I realised that it was a totally negative destructive road to go down, but couldn’t get rid of it. And some friends used to say, “Oh you were wonderful parents”, you were this and that and it just didn’t sit comfortably at all, how could I have been a wonderful parent if total failure.
I think it was probably the most dominant response, feeling in me for probably the first seven years. And I knew that it was a totally negative response and it was a bad road to go down, because it was destructive, but I couldn’t, I always came back to that, it is how I felt. And I responded to everything else that was brought up on the subject of guilt, but friends used to say to me, “Of course you were wonderful parents,” trying to make me feel better if I brought the subject up, and it sat uncomfortably, it didn’t fit, until one day I thought, try the other, opposite response, which is of course you are guilty, you were part of his life, if I can accept that I, I have some responsibility for his life I can understand chemical responses in him, but, I was part of his life, and when I took that step of accepting some responsibility and therefore guilt, it was alright, it just seemed to make sense suddenly, stop trying to push it away, just carry a bit and that made it much better.
Stuart kept wondering if he could have done things differently He also feels guilty because he...
Why would you be cross with yourself?
Just because maybe thinking of things that I should’ve done, or, I could’ve done this differently, or I could’ve done that differently, or, if she’d have, you know, did I really love her enough, did I care for her enough, was I a good enough partner.
That that must’ve been hard?
Yeah that’s the sort of things and you never sort of really get an answer and that was one of the other things after Anne’s death actually was, it wasn’t a feeling but it was just a desire to know that she was okay.
Have you ever felt that other people have expected you to grieve or react in a particular way?
I think after I initially I went to identify her I found it really difficult to cry, and I felt really guilty at not crying so much, and I think that’s one of the things that I have felt guilty at is not being so, not crying so much, but there have been times when I’ve found it really difficult and I’ve found it difficult on my own, and I think people expect a time continuity to it, as though there’s, well after so many months or you should be over it and things will be okay now, but it, it’s not that straight line.
Susan felt depressed and suicidal after another son died by suicide. She felt she was going mad...
When you said you had a break down, what form did that take?
As I said, I felt quite suicidal, I couldn’t cope, didn’t want to do anything, couldn’t understand really how I was feeling, thought I was going mad at times, and I knew I needed help; I had to get help to get through it. It wasn’t something I was going be able to do on my own. And you may just think, “Oh you know, brush it under the carpet it’ll go away”. It wasn’t going to work like that.
Was that when you went to your GP?
I did yes. I didn’t like the feelings I was having, I was frightened. And I told my GP that, I told him everything, how I felt, but also the guilt side of things that I felt guilty because of what I was thinking, of what I was feeling.
Ann became very depressed after her friend died. She took antidepressants for 18 months which...
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.
Michael was depressed and cried a great deal after his friend died. Eventually he started to feel...
After a year of intense grief Ted only felt anger with his father for what his father had done.
And I was numb and I, for a year I suppose. I think it, in my mind it’s a year that the intense grief lasted and I’ve had many other things happen to me in my life, I’ve had divorce, I’ve had other losses, you know, I’ve had various other traumatic experiences, but I’ve never experienced anything like that. It’s as though all the other deeply emotional experiences I have are nothing when set, set beside that period of that day it happened and that year afterwards. I would doubt I’d even truly grieved since then because I tend to dismiss grief, that period was so painful to me it, it, it, it, it was so painful that it was a place that I, that I, that I never want to go again.
After a year, of feeling terrible as I remember it, outwardly I know, that I was behaving like I always did and I think this is the thing about children, I think you can underestimate just how emotional, because I think in terms of emotion as I say that children, certainly of 12, are just as sophisticated in their emotions as adults, so when you feel emotional pain it’s the same as an adult feeling emotional pain, but as far as the adults around me were concerned, you know I didn’t show them that emotional pain, I never cried, only on the time I heard it, I, that was the only time I cried. In fact I got really fed up with my mother sitting on the stairs weeping. And then after a year it seems to me like a year, I suddenly realised one day that I didn’t feel anything anymore, except anger with my father for what he’d done.
At times Lynne feels sad and angry that her mother has not been there to share the important...
Yes, I’m, what I was trying to explain was there’s, there’s a lot of sadness and anger that that she has not been part of all the big things that have happened to me since , but that at the time, that it’s almost as if it’s an anger about her making a decision not to be there, that she chose not to be part of our lives anymore, but it’s also I guess an understanding that at the time she made that choice she was a very poorly lady.
And that throughout those last few months of her life she wasn’t, a lot of her thinking was revolving around her, she was at a place where she was very unhappy, she was very ill, and she wasn’t thinking in a logical way.
Last reviewed July 2017.