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Jacqui - Interview 30

Age at interview: 45
Brief Outline: Jacqui's husband, Mike, had had mental health problems for some time. In 2006 Jacqui came home to find that Mike had died by suicide. He had hung himself. Jacqui has had counselling and has started her own email support group, Widowed by Suicide Support.
Background: Jacqui is an administrator. She is a widow with 2 teenage children. Ethnic background/nationality: White British

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Jacqui’s husband, Mike, had had mental health problems for a number of years. He had attempted suicide in 1994, when he was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
 
In January 2006 Mike went off to work. Jacqui thought he seemed a bit “flustered” and she felt a little worried, but decided that because this was not particularly unusual she would go to work herself.  
 
When Jacqui returned from work she found she could not open the front door. She returned to her place of work to get some help and returned to the house with a colleague. They managed to enter the house via the back door and there they found a suicide note. Upstairs they found that Mike had hung himself. They called the emergency services, and they also called friends, who were medically trained and who tried resuscitation, but this was not successful. The police, the GP and Mike’s boss arrived soon afterwards.
 
Jacqui was taken to her children’s school by the police. There she had the difficult job of telling her children, aged 11 and 15, that their father had died.
 
Mike’s body was taken to the hospital for a post-mortem examination. He was then taken to a chapel of rest, where Jacqui went to see him.  The funeral director contacted the procurator fiscal. He had to wait until the paper work was ready before allowing the memorial service and cremation to go ahead. There was no need for an inquest because there was no doubt that Mike had taken his own life.
 
The memorial service was an informal event. People were encouraged to talk about Mike and to share their happy memories. Jacqui chose music that Mike had liked and told people to come informally dressed. Jacqui wrote a piece about Mike which was given to everyone, so that they could have an idea of what Mike was really like, a quiet guy with a sense of humour, who wore a pony tail and shorts.
 
After Mike’s death Jacqui felt quite depressed and her self- esteem was at “rock bottom”. Her GP gave her some anti-depressants and arranged for her to have some cognitive behavioural therapy. This therapy was with a Community Psychiatric Nurse. It helped to boost her self- esteem and helped her to challenge negative thoughts.  
 
Jacqui thought of joining SOBS but decided that she only wanted contact with others who had their lost their partners. She was desperate to finds others in the same situation. She did not want group meetings with others who had lost children, parents or brothers or sisters.
 
Jacqui also joined the WAY foundation and she looked at a web site called Merry Widow but she wanted more contact with other widows bereaved by suicide.  Eventually she started her own support group, which is called Widowed by Suicide, for those bereaved by suicide. Jacqui says that she finds it helps her to feel she is helping others, and if she can help others in this manner then Mike’s death has not been in vain.
 
Jacqui’s children have been supported by friends and have not used a professional counselling service. Her son saw a counsellor from Cruse but decided it was not for him.
 
Jacqui feels sad that Mike took his own life and felt so low that he felt that he was doing others a favour by ending his life. Jacqui says that he had so much “going for him”. She does not feel angry about what happened, just a great sadness.

Jacqui was interviewed in November 2007.

 

Jacqui’s husband worried about everything; he had been diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

Jacqui’s husband worried about everything; he had been diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

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Well he had previously attempted suicide twice before in nineteen ninety-four…

Mmm.

…and that was when he was first diagnosed with depression and anxiety, so really all that, all those years it’s been a case of, watching him, making sure he’s okay ‘cause he was always, always anxious, always anxious and he worried about everything, not like the state of the world or anything like that but he worried about the kids and if something, if, you know, is, if, that, whatever little crisis there was, oh I shouldn’t really say a little crisis ‘cause it was always a big crisis to him, you know, then it would just move, he would just move on to something else to worry about.

 

Jacqui found a note on the dining room table before she found her husband’s body. Then she found...

Jacqui found a note on the dining room table before she found her husband’s body. Then she found...

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And I walked in and I looked around and, and the house is always a mess, we’re not very tidy but there was a note on the dining room table, and I can’t remember exactly what I’d said but so, “He’s left a note.” And then my manager said, “Do you want me to go upstairs?” And I said, “No.” I said, “He is my husband.”


Mmm.


Says I, “It’s me, you know, I want to find him.” And then when we got to the bottom of the stairs there was a dining room chair at the top of the stairs but that didn’t, didn’t register anything, that there was a dining room chair up the top of the stairs, it just didn’t mean anything to me at all, that didn’t you know, you, but it’s, being a bit surreal at the time, and I went up the stairs, half expecting to either find him in bed, thinking he’d maybe would’ve taken an overdose because he had tried an overdose before, or in the bathroom, maybe in the bath or something, with his wrists slashed ‘cause he had attempted, he’d attempted that before as well, so I got to the top of the stairs and I just… turned my head off to the left and he, he was just there [sighs]. But he just looked like a, he just looked as though he was standing in the corner, you know he was, obviously very, very still but, he was very, very tall so his feet were fractionally just off the ground so it didn’t look…


Mmm.


…you know when you see on TV and things like that you, you, you know, you see, you think…


What a shock.


…the sway, you know, you think it’s swaying and there’s a big gap off the floor but, there was nothing so he just looked as though he was standing in the corner.


How sad.


…and I sort of said, I just, “Oh Mike”, and I tried to feel his, you know, feel his pulse but my hands were freezing anyway ‘cause I’d been outside and I couldn’t and then I said to my boss, “He’s hung himself.” And then, then I had to say, “Come on up and have a look.” Because I couldn’t believe that, you know, I had, somebody else to see, you know? And my, am I imagining it? You know what I mean?


I’m glad you weren’t alone.

 

After Mike died Jacqui told the children that their dad had died. The next day she told them that...

After Mike died Jacqui told the children that their dad had died. The next day she told them that...

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I mean, I think we had about ten, fifteen minutes to play with or something, you know, maybe a bit longer than that, but obviously if we were going to be caught in traffic we thought ‘oh we’re not gonna make it in time’, and the headmaster had gone and got the kids, and we were in the headmaster’s room and he gave me a hug and said he was sorry and, and, and he said, “Are you ready?.” For, you know, for the kids to come out and I’d said, “Yeah.” And the kids just walked through and, the head teacher’s there, my friend was there, the policeman was there, although they were at another part of the room.


Mmm.


They gave me time to just, you know, just say to the kids and I just said, you know, I says, “Your dad’s dead,” and that was it, really, came in and we sat for a while and obviously they, you know, we hugged and things like that, and we sat for a while and then we sort of thought ‘right well we better get, try and get back home before the rush, of the schools coming out’ and because obviously there was a police car sitting outside the school, it was a case of let’s get out quick, you know, get out quick and on our way home before school actually finished ‘cause otherwise that would’ve drawn attention to the kids that, you know, why are they going in a….[police car]


How old were the children?


Then they would have been fifteen and eleven.


And how did they react to this terrible news?


Just quiet, just quiet, and I didn’t actually tell them, my daughter did ask that night if dad had committed suicide, and, I just said, “You don’t need to know that.” You know, I says, “You don’t need to know anything about that yet.” I said, “Just.” You know I said, “Your dad’s died and that’s it.” And I can’t remember whether it was the next day, or the day after, it was probably the next day when people had been in touch and, obviously the head teachers from the schools had communicated and they’d sort of said, you know, “Should they really, the kids need to be told,” obviously, because of word had escaped somehow. And so I brought them into this room, obviously ‘cause there was lots of people still coming and going and my family from the north of England had come up, that night they were staying with me and they were all in and out, I just put the kids into this room and I just said, “Right.” I said, “I think you need to know.”


Mmm.


“You know that your dad committed suicide.” And, …my daughter just nodded her head and my son sort of said, “Well I gathered that.” And I sort of say, “You don’t need to know how.”


No.


But you need to know, you know, this is what’s happened, and they said, “Yeah okay.”


For other mothers in this situation you’d recommend being as honest as possible to your children?


Yes, yes, definitely. I think obviously it depends on age, it would depends on their age…


Mmm.


…but also because, …of the length of the illness that we had had, we had all suffered as the, as a family, and, we were always quite open, very open with the kids and, as soon as they were of an age, well they were old enough to sort of understand, they were both aware that their dad had had previous attempts before…


Mmm.


…and I also used that to try and explain as to why, mum perhaps, …maybe we overreact, I overreacted or I felt as though I had to give more attention to their dad, at times and I didn’t want them to think that was anything to do with them.
 
Mmm.
 
So from, I don’t know maybe about ten, ten-ish, nine-ish, ten-ish they sort of knew that, dad was dad, but, you know, there were times that things were a bit fraught in the family and I just had to reassure them that, you know, it had nothing to do with, you know, they weren’t the cause of it or anything like that, but I so wanted them to understand that you know? I had to focus on their dad at times and that sometimes they felt as though they were maybe, weren’t getting the attention that they should be getting but it seems to have worked okay, it seems that, you know, I think they’ve come out of it okay, touch wood I’m, I’m alright.

 

Jacqui found the insurance companies very frustrating. Some officials asked to speak to the...

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Were there a lot of practical things you had to do after he’d died? I mean were there things to sort out, and legal things?

 

Yes, because you’ve got all that, you’ve got all that to do, to sort all that out, you know, even things like, the hardest is trying to, and go to people like the insurance companies and things like that. (…) You know, even changing the household insurance and it needs to get changed to into your name and, straight away they say, “Are you the policy holder?.” And you say, “No.” “Oh well we need to speak to the policy holder.” And then you say, “Well that’s why I’m phoning because the policy holder’s died now and I want me to be.” You know, and it’s just, you know you, and you can’t get past that, you know, because it’s very, I mean I know they have to do it for security, you know, for security.


It must be very hard when you’re feeling…


It is very hard and I’m sure I’ve lost my temper a few times with the people on the phone but once they understand and, and, and I’ve been in tears on the phone with people.

 

Jacqui had eight sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy to boost her confidence. She saw the...

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Did the GP say he could arrange any sort of counselling for you?

When I went off sick, the second time in the October, no, I’d sort of managed okay, just ticking along, but then really depression set in and I have been a sufferer of depression myself in the past, also those other things going on like my, my son wasn’t too great at that point in time, and I was worrying about him, and, and, you know, how we were going to get through this and, in the, yeah so I ended up, I ended up on anti-depressants again and then, then she arranged for me to have counselling, well cognitive behavioural therapy.

That was paid for by the National Health Service?

Yes, yeah.

Do you want to say a little bit about what that is? People might not know.

It’s really just [laughs], this is how much have I picked up on it, it’s really it’s just a way to challenge, challenge your thoughts and your thinking. My self-esteem had gone rock bottom, I had no confidence in myself, I had no confidence in my standing as the family, in the family because all the dynamics had changed, and I sort of even had lost, I hadn’t, I wouldn’t say I’d lost parental control but it was a case of, everything had changed and, because my son was going through his own problems, due to Mike’s suicide, it was just very-very, very-very fraught and, I’d felt very desperate, very, very desperate at times.

Mmm.

And they were able, they were able to help me look at thing, look at situations. I talked, I talked, you know, when I went, I used to go once a month and it would be, “Right what’s happened? What’s happened this month and what, what’s been going on and how did you handle that? And did you not think if, if we’d done it this way, you know, or you could look at some, look at a situation as so.” It just gave you different ways to think about how to handle a situation and also if I had handled a situation I was able to report back on it and they were able to say, “Yeah that was right, you did good there.” And, and, you know, that was, that was the right way to do it, or absolutely, or, “Well done you’ve got through this situation.” And, you know, it, so it was it was really just to help challenge the thoughts, the negative thoughts and, and, really boost, you know.

Your self-esteem.

boost my self-esteem and my, and my confidence and to be able to take my standing back in the family as that, I am the mother you know?

And did it help?

Yes, yeah it did definitely. Also I looked at my work as well what I wanted to do about my work at, ‘cause at the time I was still off sick And I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I couldn’t make decisions, and it’s a case of do you stick with the devil you know or the devil you, or do you go on the devil you don’t know, and I just didn’t know, just didn’t know what I wanted to do and eventually I got to that stage where I made the decision that I wanted to change, change what I was doing, and they supported me while I looked for other jobs and, and things like that and, you know, let them know when I had an interview and how I got support with that.

That’s good. Did you always go to the same therapist each time?

I had the same, yeah it was the CPN, Community Psychiatric Nurse, was assigned to m.

And you went to the hospital to see her or the clinic or?

It was at the, not my doctor’s surgery but it was at another doctor’s surgery in the community.

Not too far then?

Not too far, no.
 
Oh good.
 
Not too far at all.
 
That was a helpful thing to do?
 
Yeah, yeah, no it was, it was great, yeah that was very helpful.
 
How many months did that go on for?
 
I had, I had I think I had two initial sessions where it was, you know, circumstances were discussed. You know, obviously I had to be referred by my GP so oh that was just, and then we had six sessions of the actual therapy in which I was given things to do, I had to, you know you had to write a mood diary and, and that, you know, if you had situa, you know, you came across a situation you had to, it was homework really write you know, write, write down the situation, write your automatic thoughts of, of that situation and then you’re also asked to look at it objectively or, or what I was taught to do, to think about it was to say, “Well if that was your sister or your friend that that was happening to what would you say to them?.” And I know when I was put, you know, put this hypothetical other person in the same situation I was able to empathise with them and treat them in a completely different way to the way I was doing myself. I was treating myself so that was helping me understand that I was.
 
Mmm.
 
the thoughts, the way I looked at things myself was different for the, I expected, I would speak to others, does that make sense?
 
Yes it does. So that it helped you.
 
Yeah. You know, ‘cause like if, you know, if your friend was upset or something like that you would say, “But, you know, it’s not your fault.” Or you know, “Well what makes you think? Why, why d’you feel that, that’s the case?” And things like that, so you, so it was helping me challenge my thoughts, my automatic negative thoughts by just sorta, just going that little step further, as if to say well if that was your friend, or if that was your sister what would you have said to them? And of course I said, of course I would say something completely different to them.
 
Mmm.
 
so it was a case of well, well if that’s what you would say to your friend or your sister, if that’s what would you do why d’you do that to yourself?
 
Could you go back and see her again if you wanted to?
 
Yes I’ve had, I’ve had a follow-up session, I think it was maybe after three months and then I have another one in a month’s time if I want to.
 
Oh that’s good.
 
Just to re-cap, just to see how things are going.
 

Months after Mike died Jacqui decided to get in touch with Cruse. It was helpful to talk about...

Months after Mike died Jacqui decided to get in touch with Cruse. It was helpful to talk about...

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I was put in contact with Cruse, but because it was a suicide they wanted someone who had dealt with suicide to be my counsellor.


Mmm.


So they did say that that might take some time,  but I don’t think I, really got in touch with, you know; although I was given Cruse information I didn’t really follow it up until a bit later on myself, anyway.  So I really didn’t have any counselling with them until the second half of  the year, you know, coming up to the winter time.


Did they find a counsellor who could help you who had been involved in suicide eventually?


Yes, they did manage to find someone yes, I did find someone.


Did you go and visit somebody once a week or what happened?


I went to the offices yes. And I think it was once a week, yeah, it was once a week and then it maybe went on to once a fortnight.


And how did you find them?


It’s nice to be able to have somebody that you could just talk to, and just rabbit on to, and you know they’re there just to listen to you and that’s it, you know, I mean it’s nice to have friends and things that you know, I mean, the support I have had from my friends has been fantastic but, you’re also aware of the fact that they are your friend, I know, I know I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of and my friends know everything, you know, they know everything, but you are also always aware that they have their own lives, they have their own problems.


Mmm.


And, you know, they were there, and they’re at my beck and call, it was a case of you still sometimes sorta held back a bit ‘cause you sort of think ‘well’,you know, I know they’ve got, you know, and I suppose in a way I felt guilty, you know, taking a lot of their time when, they probably didn’t feel that they were, you know, that they were just so glad to support me, do you know what I’m trying to say?  It, it was nice to, it was nice to go to someone who has specifically been assigned to me…


Yeah.


…to give me that sixty minutes, or fifty minutes, or whatever where it’s just me, to talk about my feelings with that person.


Mmm.


And that’s what they’re there for and nothing else.

 

You didn’t have to pay for any of that?


It was, you could pay by donation if you wanted to, at the end, yeah if you wanted to do, yeah, but to be honest I don’t think she, I don’t think you should have to pay for something like that to be honest I think it should be offered as a matter of course.

 

Jacqui was desperate to find others bereaved by suicide but the nearest support group was far...

Jacqui was desperate to find others bereaved by suicide but the nearest support group was far...

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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…

 

Mmm.

 

…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…

 

Yes.

 

…there are additional issues as in, you know, children, when d’you tell the children? What do you tell the children?

 

Mmm.

 

And, and, stigma, nobody else suffers stigma if, you know, if somebody’s husband dies a heart failure or…

 

Mmm.

 

…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

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