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Linda - Interview 35

Age at interview: 39
Brief Outline: In 2005 Linda's 13 year old daughter took her own life. Linda and her family were shocked. Linda still feels devastated, but more in control, and is back at work. She has found help through a psychologist and has attended a SOBS conference.
Background: Linda is a customer service officer. She is married and has a daughter. She had another daughter who died. Ethnic background/nationality: White British.

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Linda and her husband had no idea that their 13 year old daughter, Chloe, was unhappy. Chloe stayed at home one day because she had been feeling ill. The next day Linda suggested that Chloe should have another day resting at home because she was tired. Chloe asked Linda and her husband not to phone her during the day because she did not want to be disturbed.  At about 11.00am Linda did phone and was worried when she did not get an answer. At 3.00pm Linda rushed home and found Chloe. Linda rang for the emergency services and tried to resuscitate her daughter but was not successful.
 
Linda’s other daughter was 10 years old at the time. She came home and saw Chloe lying on the floor and thought that she was ill. She went next door to be with one of the neighbours.
 
The police told Linda’s husband what had happened over the telephone, and he drove home, but Chloe’s body had already been taken to the hospital when he arrived.  
 
Linda and her husband were completely shocked and devastated by what had happened. Linda felt confused and bewildered and wondered if she had done something that had led to the terrible event. She felt that she must be guilty in some way for what had happened. She wanted to know why Chloe had taken her own life in this shocking manner. Linda couldn’t think of any reason for Chloe’s death and eventually decided that Chloe must have been feeling depressed.
 
At first Linda and her husband found it hard to eat or sleep. Linda rang her GP one Sunday, who told them to go to the hospital, where they spoke to someone from the crisis team, who was really helpful. A member of the crisis team gave them some tablets to help them to sleep and also some useful advice about how to get though each day and the importance of making meals even if they did not feel like eating them. They both took some time off work.
 
At first Chloe’s sister did not realise that Chloe had taken her own life. She thought that her sister had died due to an illness. However, she soon found out exactly what had happened via someone else, and she felt angry that she had not been told what had happened by her parents. Linda promised that in future she would tell her daughter anything she wanted to know about Chloe’s death.
 
Chloe’s sister asked for some counselling and was referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).   The service provided counselling which was available for 8 weeks and was very helpful. Chloe’s sister used this counselling service soon after Chloe died, and then again in subsequent years. Linda sometimes went with her daughter to talk to the counsellor.
 
Linda wanted some counselling herself. She felt she wanted to talk to someone else about what had happened so she contacted Cruse. The woman who she met from Cruse was much older than Linda and so Linda found it hard to talk to her. Linda found a local support group, called Solice, but the members all seemed older than her so she decided not to join that group. She also contacted Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS), but she found that the nearest group was some distance away, so she did not attend a meeting. However, Linda did attend a national conference run by SOBS, which she found very helpful.
 
Linda points out that Chloe’s death has affected the wider family, including Chloe’s grand-parents. She also says that everyone grieves differently and that her husband did not want to have counselling, even though it was provided.
 
About 18 months after Chloe’s death Linda felt desperate for help. She went to her GP who referred her to Mental Health Services, who managed to get her an appointment with a psychologist. Since then she has been seeing the psychologist regularly, who has helped her to relax, to express her feelings and to come to terms with what has happened. The psychologist also encouraged Linda to take care of herself, as well as worrying about other people. Recently Linda started a new job. She does not tell people at work how Chloe died because she still gets upset by other people’s reaction to the news that her daughter died by suicide. 
 
After an autopsy Chloe’s body was taken to the chapel of rest at the funeral directors. Linda and her husband went to see her there. They went a few times. At first Linda felt distressed because Chloe did not look as she had done when she was alive, but Linda thinks it was the right thing to visit her there. Linda said that she wanted to make sure that Chloe was OK.
 
The family planned the funeral. The school helped by bringing Chloe’s art work to the church. Linda wanted the service to be a celebration of Chloe’s life and she was glad the funeral went well. After the funeral Linda and her husband went to the crematorium where they were able to say goodbye to their daughter privately. Linda, her husband and their other daughter were together when Chloe’s ashes were interred. They also made a joint decision about the type of grave stone they wanted.
 
The inquest was some time after the funeral. Linda decided not to attend. Her husband told her what happened. The coroner concluded that Chloe had taken her own life and had intended to do it. After the inquest some journalists wrote some inaccurate and insensitive articles about what had happened.
 
Linda has found it very hard coping with the intense grief she has felt since Chloe died. She feels more in control than she did initially and thinks that it is important that she and other members of the family look at life in a positive manner because she does not believe that Chloe would have wanted them to give up on everything. She feels that coping with grief has drawn her closer to her husband than she was previously. Linda is convinced that she will see Chloe again one day. Certain times of year, such as Christmas are particularly difficult times to be without her. After Chloe died the family moved house, but they kept all Chloe’s things.

Linda was interviewed in December 2007.

 

Linda can think of no reason for her daughter's suicide. Chloe's death shocked the family...

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My daughter, Chloe, was 13. She was off school sick for a couple of days, just with stomach ache, so we’d, we’d left her at home. And on the Tuesday, me and my husband, we kept phoning home to make sure she was OK, and I finished early, I finished work at 12 and came home to check her. And she was getting better. She was very tired because she’d been up most of the night being ill …

 

OK.

 

But we’d said, “You can stay at home again tomorrow, because you’re tired.” And she said, “Yeah, but will you not phone me,” because like me and my husband kept phoning her, to make sure, she was OK. And she said that she couldn’t sleep because we kept phoning. So, the next day we went to work, and we didn’t phone her. Didn’t phone until, I phoned her about 11 o’clock thinking that she would have had a good sleep and there was no answer so I just started to think, oh, you know, she’s asleep. Or she’s, she’ on the computer or something like that, she just can’t get to the phone. But then I started to ring sort of every hour and then every half an hour.

 

Hmm.

 

… until about half three. And I came home, rushed home, just thinking like, “Oh, she must be ill.” And when I got home, walked in the door and [found her].


Did she leave any notes or anything?

 

No, nothing at all. But then I used to do things like check the computer to see if she’d left anything on there or if there were any clues and then I remember when the phone bill came I rang up to see if there’d been any phone calls made sort of …

 

Hmm.

 

… in the day when we weren’t there. But, I don’t know, after a while I think I just sort of accepted that there wasn’t any reason that I can think of, just, I think that she was just, must have been really depressed and just alone in herself and she couldn’t see any other way really.

 

Had she ever told you that she was feeling depressed or …

 

No.

 

Hmm. So she’s never been to the doctor for that sort of thing?

 

No. So it was a complete shock.

 

At first Linda thought it was horrible that her daughter looked so pale and lifeless. However,...

At first Linda thought it was horrible that her daughter looked so pale and lifeless. However,...

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And when I went to see her at the chapel, we went in, me and my husband went in together the first time (…). I just walked back out again. I was quite surprised. And my husband, I went and sat outside and he went back in and then he came out and said to the funeral director, “Oh, she looks really nice. Thanks, thank you.” I just couldn’t believe it. I was just amazed because I thought, “No, she doesn’t. She doesn’t look nice. It’s horrible.”

 

When you say you walked in and out again, did you not want to stay for a minute? Or what happened?

 

I looked, I went in and looked at her and I just thought, I don’t know, I didn’t like it, so I came back out. And when we came, when we got out of the funeral director’s, I said to my husband, “How could you say she looked nice? She looked awful. Didn’t, didn’t look like her at all.” And he said, “Well, what was you expecting her to look like?” And I said, “Well, I was expecting her to look pink, like pinker, and like more like when she was alive.” And he just said, “Well she’s not alive.”


Would you recommend to other people that they didn’t go and see their loved one after they’d died?

 

No, because I went after that. I kind of, when he said that it kind of sunk in that, you know, she wasn’t going to look the same.

 

Hmm.

 

But we did go and see her quite a few times after that. Yeah.

 

And was that the right thing to do?

 

Yeah, I think so. Yeah, we went in, we took some things in, took some photos and things like that for her and we’d said that, we’d told our family they could go inside if they wanted to, just close friends and people, you know, whoever wants to go and see her, and others didn’t and that’s OK. But I wanted to go and make sure that she was OK really.

 

Hmm.

 

And then we went just before the funeral as well. We went to see her but I think  perhaps people should realise that they’re not going to look the same. You know, it was still, it was still Chloe but she just, it looked like she’d died.


Hmm. And it was, you say it was very important to you because you wanted to make sure she was alright.


Yeah.

 

Linda's ten-year-old daughter was angry because she hadn't immediately been told the truth about...

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Hmm. And what did you say to your other daughter when she came home?

 

Well, …I can’t really remember. I think she came back and she just ran in and we sat on the settee, crying and hugging each other. And then my husband came in and he was the same, crying and hugging us. And then, I think they’d already told my other daughter because she said afterwards that, I think one of the police, a policewoman had been into next door and she’d said to them, “Oh, has Chloe got to go to hospital?” And I think they’d said something like, “No.” Well they just said, “No.” And she said she’d thought that meant that Chloe was OK, that she hadn’t got to go [to hospital]. And, and she said that to them and, and they said, “No, she’s …” I don’t know exactly what they said to her …

 

But you think your other daughter knew …

 

Yeah.

 

… when she came back?

 

Yeah.

 

Yeah.

 

But the difficult thing with that was, she didn’t know, because she didn’t, when she came in Chloe was just lying on the floor, so she thought that she’d just, I don’t know, had a fit or collapsed or something.

 

Hmm.

 

And we didn’t really tell her any different to start with. And then the next day I think it was, someone else told her how Chloe had died, just thinking that she knew. So then she was really angry at us for not telling her.


Hmm.


So what we did eventually, we said that we’d tell her everything that she wanted to know and went through it. And I said to her that I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t like lie to her. I didn’t lie to her, I just didn’t correct her. But I said I’d be truthful with her and if there was anything she wanted to know I’d try and find out for her if I didn’t know. And that’s what we did.


So, so for other parents who are wondering to tell other children would you recommend being as honest as possible?

 

Yes.

 

As quickly as possible?

 

Yes. I think it depends on the children’s age …

 

Hmm.

 

… how you explain it, but I think it’s best to tell them …

 

Hmm.

 

… straight away.

 

Because you say your other daughter was a little bit angry to start with because she hadn’t heard it from you?

 

Yes. Well, she actually, when she found out she, she was angry. (…)

 

Hmm.

 

So, that’s why we decided to be like really honest with her. And, plus, I mean it was in the paper, and, you know, there was going to be an inquest, so she was going to find out anyway.

 

After Chloe died the newspaper reports didn’t bother Linda, but after the inquest some reports...

After Chloe died the newspaper reports didn’t bother Linda, but after the inquest some reports...

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… you know, and, so I didn’t go [to the inquest] but my husband went and he said that he’d tell me everything that they said, so I felt quite happy about that. And he said it was really quick. So, that was OK. But the only thing was, we did have news reporters.


Hmm.


I mean only local ones, they knocked the door a couple of times, like just after Chloe had died, trying to find out things. And then after the inquest my husband thought that one had like followed him. They, they were asking, trying to get him to say something at the inquest and he didn’t want to talk to them but he said when he walked home they, one of them was following him.


Oh no.

I know. And you know, it was in the papers. That, that was, I don’t know why, when she died it didn’t seem, I don’t know whether it was because I wasn’t really concentrating very much but it didn’t really seem to bother me that it was in the papers and the, the headmaster had been in there but he’d said all these nice things about her, but when it was in about the inquest it was just horrible really. And one newspaper put some things in that were just, we felt that just not true and quite insensitive and that.


Oh. Where did that get the information from?


Well, they just like guessed it I think.


Hmm.


[sighs] And you know, they did phone, trying to get me …


Phoned here?


Yeah.


Oh dear.


And I think it was about a year after she died they phoned then.


They phoned.


Yeah, they must have had it still on their records. They phoned up and said, “It’s been a year since she died do you want to make any comment or …” [sighs]


What did you say?


I said, “No, thank you.”


Of course. Hmm.


[laughs]


Oh dear.


Yeah. I mean, some, I think some people find it helpful, don’t they? But I just…


I don’t know.


I can’t see. I think once, once they’ve been and you’ve said no, then I think that, you know, they shouldn’t. If we wanted to say anything to them we’d get in touch with them.

 

The funeral director helped Linda and her family to find a stonemason, who showed them a booklet...

The funeral director helped Linda and her family to find a stonemason, who showed them a booklet...

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And has she got any memorial stone or anything there?

 

Yeah, she’s got a gravestone. Yeah. And we take flowers up.

 

Hmm. And was it quite easy to get that made?

 

I think it took about a year for the headstone to come. It was quite a long time really. But we wanted it, because it came and they hadn’t done it exactly how we wanted it and we decided that, it was only a little thing that I think one of the flowers wasn’t engraved properly. But we decided that it had to be what we wanted really. So we had to send it away again [laughs].

 

How did you know where to go to have the headstone made?

 

The funeral director.

 

So they’d suggested somebody?

 

Yeah.

 

Because some people don’t know about these sorts of things.

 

Oh no, I mean even thinking about where her ashes were going to be buried …

 

Hmm.

 

… it just, you know, it’s just something you don’t think about.

 

No. Of course not.

 

And look, I mean the man came, the stonemason came and left us a, a booklet of gravestones …

 

Hmm.

 

And it’s just like, you just don’t’ think about things like that.

 

No.

 

But that was, you know, and we tried, and we did get my other daughter involved with that as well.

 

Hmm.

 

You know, and when the stonemason came she sat and listened and he said that was, said that was quite nice because some people don’t want their children to have anything to do with it. They try and keep them out of it. But, you know, we were always like tried to involve her as well. And we all decided, you know, what headstone she was going to have. I think that was important.

 

Did the stonemason explain how they’re made? Are they made by hand? Did he say anything about it?

 

Yeah, he did, he sort of, he brought all the different kinds of stone that we could, and  they actually, I think they send away to another country, that’s why it took a long time.

 

Oh.

 

For the stone to come back. And then they engrave it for you. And he, he actually like drew the picture of how it was going to be. You know, we told him what we wanted and then he’d draw it so …

 

And then they send you the drawing to approve?

 

Yeah, he came round with it and asked if that was OK.

 

Hmm.

 

Yeah. That was quite good.

 

A woman from the crisis management team gave Linda useful advice. Linda was also referred to a...

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Well I think the next [sighs] I don’t know how long it’d be, definitely the first few months were just hard to explain, just really difficult to get through. I had some tablets off the doctor, probably the first week because every time I went to bed I couldn’t sleep.


No.


And I’d get like these images in my head of her, that when I found her.

Hmm.


And we didn’t eat at all, me and my husband just weren’t eating. And I’d get up about 3 o’clock in the morning; I just couldn’t sleep at all. And I knew that the funeral was coming up and I wanted it to be the way we wanted it to be.


Hmm.


But I thought if I carry on with no sleep I won’t be able to get through it, so we phoned, I think we phoned the doctor and it was on the Sunday so we went up to the hospital and they said there was an, I think she was a crisis manager or something like that. And the man asked us if we’d like to speak to her and she was really good.


Did the doctor suggest that? Or, your GP. or did you just go over?


No, the, at the hospital.


You just went up there looking for help?


Well the doctor told us to go up there and they might be able to help. I think it was, must have been an emergency number…

 

Hmm.

 

… and …


They sometimes have a crisis management team, I think they’re called.


Yeah. I think it was something like that. So we went up and we were talking to the man up there and explained to him and he said he could give me some tablets just for a few days because they didn’t want you to get dependent on them. 


Were they to help you sleep?


Yeah.


Hmm.


And then there was this other lady, said would we like to go and talk to her. So we did. And she was really good because she said, “You’ve got to get into a routine, you’ve got to go through the process of making breakfast and dinner and your evening meal and to sit down.” And she said, “Even if you can’t eat it, you know, it’s just giving you some kind of pattern.” And then, you know, go to bed at the right time and things. And that really helped because all the days just seemed to blend into one another. And my other daughter was still at school …


And then he [the doctor at the hospital] talked to me and he said he thought that a psychologist might be able to help. And they referred me to somebody and that’s when I started going to the psychologist. And she was very good because she sort of did an assessment and then she said, “Oh there’s a waiting list of about six months”. And I just started to cry because I was really desperate then. So I thought I’ve tried all these other things and it’s not working and she must of obviously realised and she said, “Oh, I’ll find out, you know if we can see you any quicker.” And then she got back to me and said, “Because you’ve been waiting so long to talk to somebody then we can see you straight away.” So I’ve been going to see a psychologist. That was once a week until probably about three months ago and now I go every other week.


So when did that start? How long after your daughter’s death did that start?


Oh, probably about 18 months, something like that.


And then you say you saw a psychologist every week for how many weeks roughly?


Oh, since about, well, over a year now.


 

Linda attended a Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide conference in Birmingham. She said that it was wonderful and reassuring to...

Linda attended a Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide conference in Birmingham. She said that it was wonderful and reassuring to...

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Well one thing that I haven’t said is that I did actually go to a conference, the SOBS conference.


Oh yes.


In Birmingham and I found that really useful. That was really good. I’ve got a family that live in Birmingham anyway so that was, you know, I could go up and stop with them. And it seemed like the bigger areas like Birmingham itself had got a lot of help there, a lot of groups and things. But just to go and like meet other people, you know, having a sort of similar thing happen was really, really helpful for me. And there were people there that had been like, you know, coming back every few years and that had said, you know, each time it feels different and it’s always useful and helpful and that. And I’m going to, I think it was in April, I should try and go again.


Hmm.


To the next one. Because it was, it just like, just makes a lot of difference hearing people talk about their situations and that you’re not, you’re not the only one. You know sometimes I like used to think that I was going mad and why I’d have all these feelings and thoughts. And when I went there and, and other people were, you know, not even me asking them, they’d just say things and I’d think, “Oh God, I used to think like that as well.” Or …


Yeah.


… you know. When an ambulance goes past it, because I remember them coming to the house, and like this person said that, oh “Every time I hear that it, it, you know, makes me think back.” And I used to think, “Oh yeah, that’s me as well.”


Hmm.


And just like it seems comforting to know that there, there are people, you know, and it’s not just you that’s going mad.

 

When Chloe died, Linda's other daughter was only ten. The school counsellor referred her to CAHMS...

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Did she [the school counsellor] help your other daughter?


She’d helped her at school. I think that she’d made some sort of connection with her but they referred her on to CAMHS [Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service].


Hmm.


And that’s based at the hospital. And there’s a lady there that she goes to see who’s been really, really helpful, really good.


For individual counselling?


Yeah. And she went up just after Chloe died and then she went last year and she’s been this year as well.


Is that every week or every month?


She goes every week but it’s, it normally runs for about 8 weeks I think. But she’s …


And then she has a break and then goes again?


Well, she went the first time and the, the counsellor there said, you know, that she’s done really well, don’t worry if she needs to come again, she might feel that she needs to. And that’s what happened last year. But she’s been quite good because, like my daughter normally tells us, or you can tell when she’s getting to feel a bit down.


Hmm.

 

And like we’ll say, you know, “Do you need to speak to anybody?” And, but she always asks for the same lady because she really, you know, must find her helpful.


So that was counselling provided by the National Health Service?


Yeah. And that was, that’s very good.


Hmm.


She’s really good for her. And I mean, sometimes, because when she, the, the first couple of times she went, she, sometimes she asks us to go in as well. So normally I take her and she’ll ask me to go in and talk about something. Or, if I’ve got any problems relating to my daughter I phone, I can phone her up and she’ll talk to me over the phone.


This lady?


Yeah.


Oh, that’s good.


And that’s really good, yeah.

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