A-Z

Paula - Interview 28

Age at interview: 45
Brief Outline: Paula's husband had been depressed for a number of years. In 2005 he took his own life by hanging. This was a huge shock to Paula. She had weekly counselling for 6 months. Since then she has also found the WAY foundation very helpful and supportive.
Background: Paula is an interpreter/translator. She is a widow and has 2 children. Ethnic background/nationality: White British

More about me...

Paula’s husband had been depressed for a number of years, perhaps partly due to difficulties had had experienced as a Turkish journalist. Paula thinks that just before his death he may have also been suffering from paranoid delusions.
 
In August 2004 a man fell from an upstairs window, from a floor above their upper floor, into their garden, and broke his back. This was a huge shock for everyone. Two hours later, while Paula’s husband was smoking a cigarette in the garden, their car spontaneously combusted, which was another unexpected shocking event.  
 
Paula’s husband resigned his job and in January 2005 one of his ex-colleagues was so worried about his mental ill health that he traveled from abroad to see them. This colleague tried to persuade Paula’s husband to seek medical help. Up until now he had not seen a doctor. The next day Paula returned to the house and found her husband hanging in the stair well. Paula felt a sense of horror, devastation and lack of control.
 
Paula had two small children at the time, one aged five years and the other 10 months. The GP arranged emergency counselling for Paula and gave her the numbers of people who could advise her about what to tell the children. Paula told her eldest daughter that her husband had died and that he had taken his own life because he was ill. She tried to answer questions as honestly as possible.
 
Many men came to the house to mourn, in keeping with her husband’s culture.  Paula’s husband was also washed as required in the Muslim faith, and then there was a humanist funeral. There was no fatal accident inquiry, which is the Scottish equivalent of an English inquest. The coroner was satisfied that Paula’s husband took his own life. The death certificate recorded “death by hanging”.
 
After the initial emergency counselling, Paula had weekly counselling paid for by the NHS for six months. She found this helpful. She also went to some meetings organised by Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS), but did not find these helped. However, she found the WAY foundation, a self-help social and support network for men and women widowed up to the age of 50, and their children, hugely supportive. She liked using the chat room and has been on holiday with other members of WAY. When Paula’s daughter was seven years old she was able to have counselling especially designed for bereaved children.

Paula was interviewed in November 2007.

 

Paula thinks her husband was depressed and that that he experienced paranoid delusions at the...

Paula thinks her husband was depressed and that that he experienced paranoid delusions at the...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

Anyway I mean, what went on I don’t really know. I think I suspected he was depressed. I know I suspected he was depressed. Myself, do you know, during our various fights. But I think it came up probably fairly inevitably as a result of that kind of thing. I used to say, “Look you’ve got to get help for this. I’m sure you’re depressed. You’ve got to get help.” And this is about seven years ago. And I mean it’s seven years ago that we moved out of London.

 

But there was one thing you see, he suffered from what I believe to be paranoid delusions. He was locking up the window shutters in the middle of the day to stop people looking in the window. And we live in a very lonely, quiet street and nobody looks in the window. And if they do it’s a neighbour. But he, he had in his mind threatening kind of people looking in the window and he also had in his mind that if he went back to work in Europe again that the secret police would come from his country to take him back.

 

Had he ever sought any outside help from anybody, medical?

 

He wouldn’t take an aspirin if he had a headache.

 

So he’d never been for any sort of psychiatric help or counselling.

 

No.

 

With his GP?

 

No. Absolutely not. No, no, I mean I, he sprained an ankle once and went to a doctor for that when he was in Europe. And it also, it turned out. I mean I obviously I got back to my health visitors because I’d spoken to them that morning and they told me that he’d never actually registered [with a GP] although we’d been here by then four years. Yes because it was the beginning of 2005, four years.

 

Nobody would have known about him feeling depressed then if he hadn’t been to see anybody?

 

No.

 

Paula told her five-year-old daughter that her father had died through illness. Sometime later...

Paula told her five-year-old daughter that her father had died through illness. Sometime later...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

That day I phoned, the day it happened I phoned a friend. She had a good friend at school and I phoned the mum and said, “Look this has happened. Can you take her because I can’t cope with that as well.” Do you know so she came back the following day and obviously the house was full of strange people and I just told her. I mean what do you do? You have to. I told her he died and she said, “How?” And I said he was ill and he died. And I remember. I don’t know the sequence of things anymore. I remember sometime afterwards, she quite quickly got out of me that he’d killed himself and I was at pains to keep stressing that this was as the result of an illness and it wasn’t; he wouldn’t have kind of done that in the normal way of things.

 

So if other mothers are wondering what to tell their children would you recommend being as honest as possible?

 

Oh yes, yes... But there’s no point in being honest about things they can’t understand yet.


No.


I think it would be far worse for children to find out from someone else, or to hear from other people, which could happen and to have lingering suspicions that their one remaining parent is not telling the truth. It’s not being honest with them. They can’t trust them.

 

Paula has felt no stigma at all since her husband’s death. People have reacted with shock,...

Paula has felt no stigma at all since her husband’s death. People have reacted with shock,...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

People here have been very supportive. I mean I said that one friend kind of disappeared. But there’s one in particular who appeared from nowhere and just kind of helped and helped and helped. And, and people really do, here. They’re lovely and I haven’t as I said I think before we turned the tape on we had, we haven’t had any, I haven’t felt any stigma at all. And I’ve heard other people talking about it on, in, in the WAY chat-room and so on about them, those kinds of problems, and I’ve not had anything like that at all.


So on the whole when you tell people how your husband died what sort of reactions do you have from them?


Shock, surprise, concern.


…sympathy


Good.


Touch wood so far.

 

Paula’s GP arranged counselling for her, paid for by the NHS. She preferred to be asked questions...

Paula’s GP arranged counselling for her, paid for by the NHS. She preferred to be asked questions...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

What about you? You said the GP arranged counselling for you? Was that all paid for by the National Health Service?


I had three emergency sessions with somebody who was very helpful. And that was National Health paid. Then she said I had to go on a waiting list and that the emergency sessions there was limited to three. And I had to go on a waiting list [um] because there weren’t enough people basically. So I went onto her waiting list and I had the option of being with her or being with anyone from that particular clinic, the NHS clinic, and I put down to be with her, which meant that I would have to wait a bit longer. And in the meantime I tried to find others, outside. There are various charities around the place. I phoned Cruse whose waiting list was full and they were not taking anyone onto a waiting list.


When you went to her for counselling was it mainly her letting you talk about what you wanted to talk about or did she encourage you to talk about certain things?


…Probably a bit of both really.


Mm.


I mean I did have one who earlier among these charities that I tried, who just listened and I found that [laugh] very, very difficult you know. And there was one session I sat there and didn’t say a single thing and thought well come on say something [laugh]. It was very odd and I didn’t find that terribly helpful. I needed a bit of tweaking here and there at least. You know. But no the NHS one she did ask questions, not searching questions but I suppose to kind of kick start things.


Mmm.


…Anyway that finished and that was when I found the WAY Foundation.

 

Paula went to a few Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide meetings, and used their aromatherapy services, but she found the meetings very depressing.

Paula went to a few Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide meetings, and used their aromatherapy services, but she found the meetings very depressing.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

We do have a local SOBS group which I’ve been to a few times, and particularly taken advantage of their aromatherapy services [laughs]. But I find SOBS, I found it quite difficult. I remember phoning them in the beginning in the very beginning, and speaking to them and then think I didn’t really want to go to that. The thought of going into a room full of people kind of made me think of some kind of Alcoholics Anonymous.

My main difficulty with SOBS I have to say was that… there were people there who’d lost children to suicide and for me just the one thing that could possibly be worse than losing your partner is to lose a child. And I just found it very, very depressing and I wasn’t really able, I mean… wasn’t really, I don’t know if I was able to offer support simply by being there but I didn’t feel that I was able to do much to help them and it wasn’t helping me really.

But other people, possibly people you’ve spoken to as well that I know have had very, very positive experiences from SOBS. So I wouldn’t put it down as just my; I mean I don’t know whether it’s a local thing or it’s just, just what is happening here at this time. And they were all, you know they were lovely people, and sad people, but I, it was almost worse do you know to go there and get that.

And raise anxieties?

Yeah. No, no, no I’m not worried about my children doing that. …But it was just a big room full of depression, of sadness you know. It may be that it was the wrong time of my, the wrong phase in the grieving process that I went. Maybe that I should have gone a bit earlier or. There were people then who go much later but everybody is different I suppose.

 

For the first two years after her husband died Paula was in the WAY ‘chat room’ most nights. Now...

For the first two years after her husband died Paula was in the WAY ‘chat room’ most nights. Now...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

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.

 

After Paula's husband died, the special bereavement unit at the local hospital gave her useful...

Text only
Read below

After Paula's husband died, the special bereavement unit at the local hospital gave her useful...

HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

Did you ever seek any specialist sort of counselling for your daughter?


Yeah, yeah. Well I, I got in touch with; my doctor was very good actually. He came over the day it happened, which kind of surprised me a bit. And he made a referral for emergency counselling for me and he gave me a phone number of the bereavement unit at the local hospital, which is apparently ground breaking, very, very good childhood bereavement. And I phoned them and asked them about breaking the news to her [my daughter] and about the funeral and obviously lots of other things. And their advice was for her to choose. So I showed her a clip from, I showed her the speech from ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’, the funeral speech and I showed her a clip from Inspector Morse of all things because I couldn’t find clips of burials and there was one. So that she had just a general idea of what happens at funerals and burials. But she didn’t want to go so that was that. And then do you know, at least in the future I could, she always knows that she was given the choice and it was her choice.


That was an imaginative way of trying to explain what was going to happen.


I couldn’t think how to explain it otherwise. You know and we live in the age of the image don’t we so.


So did the hospital, this special bereavement unit arrange individual counselling for her?


They had, they did but it’s been a bit unfortunate that the counsellor’s father died not long ago so that it’s been a bit sporadic. And they couldn’t, they didn’t have funding to see people below the age of seven. Basically they had to have a cut-off point. They obviously don’t start at zero. Wouldn’t start, couldn’t. But the, the reasoning for choosing seven as the cut-off point is that children apparently don’t really understand death before that age (…).


They didn’t see her when she was five then?


No. They, they spoke to me and they gave me lots of very, very helpful advice but no they didn’t, they couldn’t. They didn’t have the funding for it. However when she was about seven and a half, which is obviously not that long ago, she started having bad dreams and crying in the night and stuff. So I phoned them up again and said, ‘Look this has happened’. They said, “Well, we’ll see her now”. And that was it.

 

And they arranged it quite quickly and we had about monthly sessions with a very nice lady who did memory boxes and there were various other things that they do. I mean I don’t, I wasn’t in on the sessions at all. So I don’t know exactly but [my daughter] appreciated, certainly appreciated it. She always wanted to go. And then as I say, the therapist’s father died and there was a big gap and then she came back and saw my daughter for one session and said after that she was leaving.


That’s a shame.


And so they’re looking for a replacement and I suppose a replacement will contact us.
You said that they gave you useful advice. Can you remember any of that useful advice?
I must be honest with them [the children], straight with them. Don’t hide things. Show your emotions… and let them cry and don’t be surprised if they don’t cry. Apparently they, they kind of pick up and drop grieving in a way that adults can’t. They did say a little bit about, you know you can read books sometimes with the children that will help. There’s one ‘The Sad Book’ by Michael Rosen which is supposed to be particularly good. Personally I didn’t really. I mean I offered [my daughter] to read them. She didn’t really want to so I was

Previous Page
Next Page