Bereavement due to suicide
Help and information through the internet
Mike suggests that the internet has great potential for helping people, but is a mixed blessing...
Is there anything else you want to say about the internet?
Yes, just that it’s a mixed blessing, I think it’s got some, some real good potential for helping people, some good information on the websites, collections of stories that people can give, which can be really helpful, but of course there’s some very bad stuff on there as well, stuff that encourages people to take their lives. So, that’s the internet, it’s like a microcosm of life isn’t it? All of life is reflected there, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Yes, so you have to be careful. One of the things that does concern me as well, is, this issue that’s been in news recently like “You Tube” and some of the other, social networking sites; people being photographed, humiliated, and the impact that that could have on them in terms of their self-esteem particularly young people. So I think that’s very concerning that we’ve got these things, these images going out, you know, people being photographed sort of interviewed in a maybe a compromising, embarrassing situation or what have you and then their, their private life being paraded across the internet for anyone to see.
Without their permission?
Without their permission necessarily yeah.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And they were very supportive in that. And it was through them that I began to promote my own book.
And to set up the website. So our website and our self-help group; in the last eighteen months all that has come about.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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. 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.
They just want reassurance.
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.
Reading about other experiences of bereavement by suicide on a website comforted Nina and her father. Posting messages can also help to clarify one’s own thoughts.
What did you find there?
If you need support and you post something, you will get a response, its, its good you know. As I said, I mean I just tended to, to, to look rather than, and I found comfort just in reading, not reading other people’s stories but just kind of just the interactions and you know how you just kind of feel less alone I guess when you’re, when you’re reading other people’s similar experiences. Dad sought great support in them, and was absorbed by them for a while, by “A thousand deaths.”
How did he find support?
I think that he just, the act of writing down your feelings, writing down what is going on in your head, and you tend to be able to work through your thoughts that way and I think that’s another kind of benefit of the support groups that are online.
You know there’s, you know you kind of clarify to yourself what’s going on as you are explaining to other people.
And then sometimes people respond to you?
Always, oh always. Yeah, they’re very active, particularly this one, it’s very active.
And your father found that helpful? To get responses?
And I think that he found it helpful to provide support to other people as well. I think as, you know as the years went on, I think that he sought comfort being able to tell other people who were in the early days, “look it does get better, it does get easier.” Yeah I think that he sought support from that as well, you know benefit from that.
Some of the younger people had found help via the WAY Foundation, and, an organisation for the ‘Widowed and Young’, which supports men and women widowed (not necessarily by suicide) under the age of 50 (also see ‘Self-help groups, conferences and helplines’). The Way Foundation website also has links to other sites.
The WAY group has been Melanie's 'lifeline'. She looks at messages every day. She has also met...
I joined the Widowed and Young group fairly quickly after Simon died and they have got a website and they’ve also got something called Easyboard which is where people can log on and post messages and that’s all a closed and protected message board so no one else other than a member of Widowed and Young can go on it. And there’s a poetry and prose section and there’s a passage called ‘What you can do for me’. And it’s just a piece of prose and one of the sentences is, ‘When you say I’m strong I feel you don’t see me’.
That’s how it feels like when people tell me how good I am and how brave I am.
Have you found the website helpful?
WAY has been my lifeline.
Can you explain a bit more how it’s been helpful?
To be able to go on there and to post messages about how terrible I feel. How I feel as if I’m going crazy and to get the response from other people that actually I’m not going mad. That this is grief, to be met only with love and comfort and support from people who are suffering in the same way is truly amazing.
And also I’ve joined the local WAY group in our area which is very active. So I’ve not only met people through the chatroom I’ve; you know we meet for coffee mornings and.
I didn’t know they actually have a physical group.
Oh Absolute. Yes, yes.
Does each area have a physical group?
Well it depends whether there is a volunteer to set up a group but there’s one in this area and the adjoining county and they’re, they are counted as one group.
So would they advertise on the website that they’ve got a meeting coming up?
Or you get sent the literature to your house because we join our own group as well. Sometimes it’s posted on the website. Sometimes, certainly in our area, you get a list of events and you can choose which ones you want to go to.
So what sort of events would they organize?
Meals out in the evening, drinks. We recently did a banger car racing thing so the children could go too. We’ve done walks in forests, picnics.
And this is for anybody who’s widowed under 50 isn’t it?
Yeah absolutely with or without children. Not necessarily widowed, you can be, it can be your partner, you can have been separated from them. It tends to be people who were married and have been widowed but it, it’s not exclusively. So it wouldn’t be someone whose lost a parent.
It sounds good. I didn’t know they had physical groups.
Absolutely yes. And in October there’s a big thing at Centre Parks and Sherwood Forest that everyone, well not everyone is going to but you know it’s open for people. We went to, did a group in Longleat in February. And our own local group had a weekend away in Arundel in June.
When Jenny joined the WAY Foundation support group she found a link to an email support group...
Bereavement due to suicide may be harder to bear than other forms of bereavement because it challenges some deeply held beliefs. Survivors of suicide may see themselves as sharing an identity with others similarly bereaved, and so want to find others like themselves. For this reason, Dolores also liked using the email group which she found on a website called Widowed by suicide. This group aims to lessen the isolation of people who have lost their life partner through suicide. The site provides emotional support and informal advice for men and for women. Dolores found a circle of friends through widowed-by-suicide, yet still has some anonymity'
Dolores knows that all the members of her internet support group have been widowed by suicide but...
There’s a website for widowed by suicide which is a much more appropriate site for me because the WAY website had people that had lost partners or husbands through accidents, various things, whereas the widowed by suicide site specifically, as it says, it is for people widowed by suicide and you get, true reflection of how you’re feeling, and you get advice, you get information from people who are maybe four years down the road of being widowed, six years down the road being widowed and they’re giving you fact that they can understand if you put on the, you’d put a posting up saying, ‘I’m really struggling today because it’s the first day of October and October’s a really special month’ they can relate to that…
…and they will send you back something that will truly make a difference to how you’re coping, and it’s just a sense of, it’s like a, it’s like a circle of friends but you have a certain amount of anonymity because you don’t really need to know what the person looks like, whether they’re short, tall, round, whatever, because it, they’ve all walked that same journey that you’ve walked and that journey is a bit like a marathon, you might have all these people cheering you on and supporting you on the sidelines, but you have to run the run, you have to do the marathon and you have to find out where the potholes are for yourself, and you have to find the signposts for yourself. And it doesn’t matter how much support’s on the sidelines you have to do it, and no-one can carry you, but the online websites and Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide, gives you the support, they’re like the energy bars, they’re the energy bars that give you that little bit more strength to go that next hour of the day, or through that next day of the week and carry you through to a point where you may be going two days without getting upset to three days without getting upset and they’re a great source, and they give you great information on books, on other support groups and they do make a big difference.
Jacqui was desperate to find others bereaved by suicide but the nearest support group was far...
So you decided not to go to a SOBS meeting or get in touch with them?
I did get information from them, but I decided not to join. There wasn’t a support group in the town, where I live, so the, the closest group for me would’ve been in the next big city.
Yes quite a way.
So yeah, and I don’t drive, so, you know, it would’ve been journey into town, then catch a train and things like that so I decided not to.
And is that when you decided to start your email support group to other people in the same situation?
Not straight away, not straight away but, I mean I was desperate to try and find somebody in the same situation as me but it was, “how do I find these people?”
And then did you use the internet for looking for any other support for yourself?
Well there was SOBS. As I say I decided I couldn’t, that wasn’t useful to me and I did find, there was also the WAY Foundation…
…which I, and I know there’s the National Association of Widows. I did join the WAY Foundation but not till a lot later, but there was another site that I used that’s an open discussion board which is open to everyone, so anybody can access this and I used that.
What’s that site called?
Merry Widow, which is not a very good term really but it’s for men and women, and that’s done by, I think she’s actually a journalist and she’s written books on it following the death of her husband. So it’s for anybody who’s been widowed.
Did you find that helpful?
It was helpful, it was helpful, but a lots of people were talking, I mean I still look at it but there’s lots, lots of people talk about, how their husband’s have died and, you know, and things like that. And there’s a lot, there’s a lot there but there’s a distinct lack of anybody who talked about mental illness and suicide, and I knew that this wasn’t right, I knew I wasn’t the only person in the United Kingdom who had, suffered, and I wanted to try and get hold of people so in the end, about October 06, I plucked up the courage to put a post, on, that site under a pseudonym at the time. And, I just explained a bit about, you know, mental illness and suicide, and different, you know, how I’d said although being widowed, it’s awful for anybody but this additional…
…there are additional issues as in, you know, children, when d’you tell the children? What do you tell the children?
And, and, stigma, nobody else suffers stigma if, you know, if somebody’s husband dies a heart failure or…
…you know there’s no stigma there’s no, you know it’s just, “Oh what a shame.” And you know? I mean all I can say is thankfully I haven’t, but I do know that people do, you know and just, from people that I’ve spoken to, and yeah I suppose I was frightened of stigma originally because I was worried about how my kids would be treated.
And did you have a response to that posting?
I got quite a lot of responses and I did put it at the end, you know I says, ”Please”, I mean I’m not very eloquent [laughs] I’m not very good with words [laughs] but I did sorta say, “can you please understand that this
Lucy looks at Widowed-by-suicide every day, where she can share experiences without being...
But speaking to other people since, then I discovered this Widowed by Suicide support group, that’s online. And on there again, you’re able to share your experiences with others that have been bereaved by suicide. And you can share those experiences without being judged because there’s still the, the stigma about suicide. You can’t actually speak out and say, this has happened to me, has it happened to anyone, or this is my experience, or I’m going through this at the moment is this normal? Because there’s … it’s very difficult to find someone else who’s already been through it.
How often would you go online and look for those emails?
And have you found that useful?
Yeah. I mean there’s a lot of people on there who are reading the emails, rather than posting.
You’ll get some, so many people that will post and so many people that will read.
But providing we’re able to help by showing our experiences are normal and that it is ok to feel angry. It is ok to feel upset.
And to hit bumps in the road of, of recovery because everyone assumes that as soon as it’s over you’re going to be back to normal. And it’s a complete shock to people when they realise that they’ll hit a bump in the road for no apparent reason and go to pieces.
Or if crying, sobbing and loneliness, to go online and say and type in, this is how I’m feeling, and to have like five or six people reply and say, “Yep that’s normal, don’t worry, you’re ok.”
And having people who have gone through the two year mark, the three year mark, the four year mark, we’re able to then help those who are newer bereaved…
…in maybe only six, seven, eight weeks in who’ve got a hell of lot of recovery to come, …
… who may need that support.
Hm. Is it all, all women or do you have men as well?
No we have men as well.
Yeah because they, their worries are the same.
If you’ve lost a life partner, it makes no difference in the long run whether you’re male or female.
Losing that, that, that person who’s been so solid in your life.
Will hit you whether you’re male or female. And it … they’ll have the same concerns. Darrell used to do all the cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, everything in the house. I, I was the money earner and he was the househusband if you like.
So to suddenly be faced with learning to or relearning the skill of cooking, ironing and washing, in effect some of the queries that the men are putting on …
… and saying how do I do this? And I’ve got this to do. And how do I, how does a washing machine work and stuff like normal everyday stuff.
The support via Parents of Suicide (POS) helps Kate more than family psychotherapy. The people...
I don’t feel, until you’re actually involved in suicide, you don’t realise how frequent it is. And I don’t feel that there is enough support given to the families. It’s still a taboo subject. While I was on this site, I found a group that’s based in America called ‘Parents of Suicide’. And it was founded in 1998 by a mum who’d lost her daughter two years previously. And at the moment there’s over 700 members. When I joined I was 696 and I think there’s about 730 members now. And I’ve known other people who’ve lost their loved ones to suicide and I’ve mentioned about this suicide site, ‘Parents of Suicide’. And I joined, I joined this group. You pay a very, very high price to join, not financial but … And I receive about 80 – 100 emails a day. And from all different mums, all over the world' Australia, Africa, France, quite a few in England [um] America, lots and, most of them are in America. And a lot of their children; it’s gunshot (…), or hanging. And we can talk, by email. I haven’t yet, yet got into the chat room, because of the time difference. But I’m just very basic on the, on the computer, so, I can do emails, just.
Do they support you?
Very much so. And it’s therapy. It’s, it’s my therapy of reading other people’s emails. There’s lots that you delete, lots of them you don’t read. But every now and again you just get one little snippet, one little ‘Ah’, that, that’s so true, by other people’s experiences. They write about their experiences and what they do. And I’ve actually found that more beneficial than going to therapy, going to the family psychotherapy, because I’m talking to other mums, I’m talking to other families. Because they know what I’m feeling, they know the feelings. The therapists, they’re just going by the textbook, ask this question, ask that question, what’s the response? But I’ve found that this ‘Parents of Suicide’ has been, has saved me. Has kept me on this earth. And in, the one remark that was said to me, quite a few months ago when I was feeling very, very, very low, and I was in a very, very dark place, very dark place, was that I can’t, can’t look after the dead I can only look after the living. And it, that was a kick up the backside for me, that sort of, yeah, I can’t look after Izzy and Anna anymore.
Was that somebody on the website?
Yes. Yeah, it was, it was the mum in the east of England who lost her son a few years ago.
Amanda has made friends world wide via POS. She has found a few people on the internet site who...
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.
Bob finds POS very comforting. Support is there 24/7 and if he is feeling down he knows that he...
Parents of Suicide are, basically it’s an internet e-mail support group, but we have a website as well which gives all the different support things, there’s a page or pages which have loved ones' names, photos, and a message about them. Then we’ve got one called “Suicide Memorial Wall” where they have all the photos up on this website and every month they have a list of their names, a list of the names of the people who died in that month scrolling across the website so, they, so you can read people’s names from that month, and we have information pages on there, different things that can help you.
How often would you look at it for example?
I go on it every night.
Oh do you?
And most people do it one, they go on it once a day. If, but again it’s, it’s like anything, it’s, it’s, if you feel you, it’s too much for you, you don’t, you come off it for a while. And you use it when you want to, it’s, I, I do it every night ‘cos it’s something I, I, I find helpful and I send out messages to, on anniversaries of birthdates and, I’ve been on there now since 1999 I think, I joined that website, so I’m now one of the older members and I can offer help to others if, if I can find the words to put down. We share poems, and inspirational quotes; people find, they send us, so it’s all different sorts of things, and we just release our feelings on this website, on the e-mail support group site.
Bob describes what happens when he and his wife Lynda go to a Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide retreat in America. They go every year.
So the “Parents of Suicide” website is developing and changing all the time.
Yes, yes it’s updated all the time, it’s an active site, and it’s also linked with another site called “Family and Friends of Suicide.” It’s run by the same couple, for people who’ve lost members of family and friends.
Do you look at that one as well sometimes?
I don’t go on that one myself.
One’s enough I guess.
One’s enough to keep me busy, and she’s, there’s some of these e-mail support groups who; “Grieving Parents” and other links, link, other ones that are linked in various forms so it’s all different types there for different people, and once a year, no, once a year we, Lynda and I go over to America to join up with a gathering of “Parents of Suicide.” They hold four retreats a year now in this lady’s house, in Tennessee, near Nashville, and we go over once a year and meet up, sometimes there’s been about 70 people staying at this person’s house, but she’s decided it’s too much, she’s reducing it down to about 30 a gathering now. But we go and we share with other people there. We share, we live with them and we go and visit other people and stay with other families that have lost children to suicide and Darren’s name gets mentioned in other places and he, he’s on this, he’s in this, where we go in Tennessee she’s got a butterfly pavilion where she, where we get together to have meals and that sort of thing, and she’s got a memorial wall up in the, in the back section of that and Darren’s photo, pictures on that.
Oh that’s nice.
His name is on a brick in Evansville in Indiana for another couple we met, he’s on a wall in British Columbia in Canada, it’s to keep Darren’s name going. We, what we do we do in memory of Darren. Because Darren, we weren’t ashamed of Darren when he was alive, and we’re not ashamed of him now and we want to talk about him, we want to share him and…
It’s very comforting all that?
Yes, and, and that’s what we do.
Margaret found an article about post-traumatic stress. It gave her permission for wanting to be...
Then I did go to see a doctor, one of the female doctors at the practice and she was quite good in that I said, “I think, at some point but not now because I can’t cope with it, I’d like to see a counsellor.”
And it was about 18 months after my daughter had died, I had about four appointments [with a counsellor] and she, I mean she knew I also had been a counsellor as well and she said, “Well, you know, do you think you need another visit?” And I said, “I think I can get by but I would like to come for a visit before the inquest.” And now the practice doesn’t have counsellors, you have to see somebody in the mental health team, or an occupational therapist, so I thought I don’t want to go down that road. But there is a website on the computer which is; and it’s a wonderful paper, post-traumatic stress, which a health authority on Tyneside have produced. And it actually was very good. I read it once, I read it twice actually, because it had in what I would expect it to have in but it was almost like, what was helpful to me was the permission given if you like, the permission given for having this feeling of wanting to be isolated because it’s just too painful to sometimes get in, into conversations where inevitably things will come up where you almost like have to pretend that you haven’t lost a child or you haven’t had a death or...
…It’s just, it’s just you don’t want to send your energy sideways doing that.
Hmm. So you, you really prefer to be on your own for a while? Quite, quite isolated?
Only because of the options that weren’t available. I would have preferred to have seen a, a psychotherapist or a counsellor where I was paying but I didn’t have the money to do that.
For the first two years after her husband died Paula was in the WAY chat room most nights. Now...
I found the WAY Foundation and they have a chatroom and I, once I discovered that I was in there every night talking to people. There weren’t many people at that time. It was a quiet. I mean it’s much, much livelier now. Or it has been or it was when I kind of stopped going in. There were a few people and I found it very therapeutic, a lot of help from people there in the beginning. And one of the others that was there. I mean as you know WAY is not I mean it’s any kind of young widowhood. But I was luckily in that of the three people that were going one was a suicide survivor whose wife had committed suicide maybe three years earlier than my husband. So I was in there and the relationships developed in there and I think I must have been using it for a. It’s funny actually just about up to the second anniversary. And then I started to thinking, I’m in this thing every night. This has taken over my life, you know. And I thought, right I’m going to do it twice a week instead or something like that. And very quickly it just started dropping off then after that.
Today people may also find counselling over the Internet. One programme, ‘Beating the Blues’, was developed by the Institute of Psychiatry and is a computer based programme approved by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). In some areas counselling over the Internet is paid for by the NHS.
Last reviewed July 2017.
Last updated January 2015