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Bereavement due to suicide

Help from Cruse Bereavement Care

People bereaved by suicide face many problems and may experience feelings such as guilt and anger (see ‘First reactions’ and ‘Changing emotions’), so it is likely that they will need help. Most people find help and support from family and friends. Informal help is provided by various groups and organisations (see ‘Self-help groups, conferences and helplines’).Many also seek support from their GP, and some seek more specialised help from professional counsellors or psychotherapists (see ‘Help and support from professionals’). Others turn to members of the church, or organisations such as Cruse Bereavement Care, for help and support.
 

A priest helped Patricia when Andrew was missing. He offered friendship and informal counselling....

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A priest helped Patricia when Andrew was missing. He offered friendship and informal counselling....

Age at interview: 58
Sex: Female
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During the week Andrew was missing, on one of the mornings, and it could have been the Wednesday, or maybe it was the Thursday, I don’t remember, I’d got into work, I managed to get an earlier bus and it got me into the [town] just after eight, quarter past, maybe. And I wasn’t due to be at the office till nine and I thought, “I bet the eight o’clock service is still on. I’ll go and sit at the back.” And I, when I walked into the cathedral I could hear, so I followed the noise. And I just got, it was in one of the side chapels, and I just got to the, the blessing, the very last prayers and the blessing and I was standing outside the chapel and, it was something about, something that was said in the blessing that just tipped me over and the tears started flowing. And I thought, “Oh Lord, I don’t want anybody to see me like this.” So I walked away from the chapel that way. Of course they all came out and walked the way I was walking [laughs] “Oh no”. So I stopped. I can remember stopping as these people were coming past me and turning so my face was to the wall to go back the other way so they wouldn’t see me. By which time I couldn’t, I really couldn’t see where I was going. And then suddenly there was this arm on my shoulder, down my, onto my shoulder and, “I think we ought to go in here and maybe sit down and just have a little word.” And it was the officiating priest. Must have seen me over the heads of the congregation…
 
Hmm.
 
And he sat me down and he said, “You’re obviously in some distress, do you feel the need to talk about it? Can I help you?” And I just fell apart. And he took me over to his place and made me a cup of tea and gave me a box of Kleenex and I just said, you know, “I’m sorry I’m wasting your time, you’re busy and …”. “No, no, no I’m not. No I’m not.” And I just told him that Andrew was missing and he’d been missing before and that I knew it was different and he was very supportive and got me to a stage when I could pull myself together sufficiently to face the world and go into work. And then, as I say, when Andrew died, and we had the funeral and it was a week or two after Andrew died that I, I can’t, do you know, I can’t remember now if I rang him up or went and banged on the door.
 
Hmm.
 
I think I rang him up. Anyway, to thank him. And to, you know, to say, “I’m sorry I didn’t let you know, I don’t know if you saw the paper but…” “Oh you poor soul. Well, if I can be of any help. Would you like to come and have a cup of tea and a chat?” And it wasn’t a formal counselling …
 
No.
 
… but it was a friendship offered and I used to go and see him, again maybe fortnightly.
 
Hmm.
 
Just to have a cup of tea and a chat and he was, he was a nice man. 
 
Cruse Bereavement Care is the UK’s leading bereavement charity and exists to promote the well-being of bereaved people and to enable anyone bereaved by death to understand their grief and cope with their loss. The organisation provides support and offers information, advice, education and training services.

Cruse Bereavement Support Volunteers, who see bereaved people individually, have undergone a 48 hour training course over a number of weeks, which can include nationally recognised certification. Most of the people who work for Cruse call themselves ‘volunteers’, even if they have worked for Cruse for a long time, though GPs and others often call them ‘counsellors’. (People who have had a different training elsewhere, but who work for Cruse, may call themselves ‘Counsellors’ in their own right, rather than volunteers).
 
In some areas Cruse run ‘groups’ , such as friendship groups and support groups for people bereaved by suicide. Stephen said that the person he talked to from Cruse was excellent. He said it was good to be able to talk about himself and to know that he was not going mad and that his feelings were perfectly normal. Jacqui also sought help from Cruse.
 

The first thing the person from Cruse said to Helen was, “You can get over this, but only if you...

The first thing the person from Cruse said to Helen was, “You can get over this, but only if you...

Age at interview: 53
Sex: Female
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Would you mind saying a little bit about your experience of seeing a Cruse counsellor?


They saw me quite quickly, because sometimes you have to wait a while. And they saw me quite quickly, and it was a very nice man that I used to see. And he was, he was just brilliant but he used to make me, not make me, but ask me to tell him everything about what had happened, and even down to when I went to see Charlotte after she’d died at the hospital. And of course that was extremely painful and I think I cried nearly through every session, most of the time, but I think you need to get it out, I think I learnt as well with my daughter, because she suffered with depression for so long, if you have feelings that you don’t let out and you don’t speak about, I think it’s much more of a chance that you will become depressed also. And I haven’t taken anti-depressants at all since, after losing Charlotte. I think I’ve just found ways to, to speak about it, but I‘ve only spoken to people that I’ve wanted to speak to, about these things.


And seeing someone from Cruse was helpful?

Very helpful, he was, he was, I can’t remember exactly the things he said to me now but I think that one of the first things he said, one of the first things he said to me was, “You can get over this, but only if you want to.” And at the time I thought it was slightly harsh, but actually it wasn’t, it was very good advice I think. And I think, I needed to get over it because I have four grandchildren, one of which was Charlotte’s. And you can’t live a very unhappy life and be miserable all the time around four children and they were, except for Charlotte’s baby, the other three were all old enough to understand what had happened, and they talked about it constantly.
 

The Cruse counsellor was a great source of support. Felicity saw her regularly for about a year...

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The Cruse counsellor was a great source of support. Felicity saw her regularly for about a year...

Age at interview: 61
Sex: Female
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My GP said, “I’m not going to give you any medication because that’ll only delay what’s got to happen anyway, because, it’s a stage that will go on and you’ve got to live with it.” But he said he could put me in touch with a bereavement counsellor and he recommended Cruse, which is a bereavement counselling organisation. And so I rang up Cruse, left a message, then they rang me back and they said they had a waiting list, but they would be able to see me within the month. I was really sort of horrified because I wanted to see somebody now. And they said they could put me in touch with SOBS, and that’s an acronym for something for people bereaved by suicide. You sit round in a group and talk. I was absolutely appalled by the idea of sitting around in a group with other people who had been bereaved by suicide. I just couldn’t imagine doing that, so I said no thank you, I don’t want to do that, that I would wait. But luckily I got called back, within ten days by somebody.
 
It turned out she [the counsellor] had been a dancer with the Ballet Rambert and I’m passionate about ballet, and so that gave us a lovely link and I remember for her 70th birthday I gave her the Fontaine biography. And when finally after a year we stopped I took her as a thank you to Convent Garden with my sister. The nice thing about a relationship with a bereavement counsellor is that you can ring them up again afterwards. She really became a friend. And she had a memory like an elephant; it was extraordinary, she would always remember. I don’t know whether she took notes after our meetings or not, but she would remember exactly what we’d talked about the week before. And if you think about how many people she was seeing, I thought she was magic, and I was really really lucky, to have her. I still call her occasionally.
 
Your friends are wonderful but you can’t go on and on to them, and in fact I used to find that if I was seeing my friends I wanted to be cheerful with them. Seeing my friends perked me up, I didn’t want to unload on them. And yet it was terribly important for me to unload.
 
So you’d recommend to anybody in your situation to contact Cruse?
 
Yes, or, or a bereavement counsellor. There are other organisations I’m sure, but she, she was really wonderful…
 

Had she had any particular training do you think?

 

Oh yes, I know they do, they give you a training, Cruse. She had retired early and done this training, and said she found it the most satisfactory of all the work she’d done, because she really felt that she could help people. And she clearly had a great talent for it.
Some people said that they did not want counselling or said that they did not find it useful. Bob, for example, said that he did not think he would find a male counsellor who had also lost a son to suicide and could help him. Linda was put in touch with someone from Cruse but the person was much older than her and she did not feel comfortable talking to her about what had happened. However, looking back, one man thinks he might have benefited from talking to volunteers earlier than he did.

Last reviewed July 2017.
Last updated January 2015.
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