Bereavement due to suicide
After someone dies many practical matters must be sorted out - friends and family can be a great help. After Stephen’s wife died he found it very helpful to have his brother in the house, who told others what had happened and who, with the help of friends, managed ‘everything’.
Stephen appreciated help with practical matters. His brother acted as his secretary, and friends...
Well, one of the biggest helps was having someone around, who, as I say, I had someone here for the first four weeks and they just did everything. I don’t think I cooked for the first ten days, I mean this food would just turn up on the doorstep.
I mean literally people would just drop food round. I know people sometimes wonder what to do or what to say, well there’s nothing to say and there’s nothing to do as such, but just do what feels right and if it comes from the right place it’ll be right, you know. So there’s a whole load of things to be done, I mean there’s all the accounts to be closed, and there’s all the insurances and there’s, you know you’ve got joint accounts which need to then become single accounts, you’ve obviously, you get the interim, I mean this is only a particular issue with the police, you get an interim death certificate, which is fine for pretty much everything, yeah I mean it was even fine for the insurance, the interim death certificate. It was just a lot to do, it was just tedious and boring and having someone who could just do that and phone people and find out about you know, you know speak to the authorities about it.
I’m just trying to think, there are various grants available. I know we spoke to the local authorities about various things and, there’s lists that you can get of all the sort of things that you need to think about when someone dies, and you know I have to be honest, I can’t remember because I didn’t do any of it, you know, people were, it was just, yes and my brother, and my brother was here for two and a half weeks and he was just like my secretary.
And it was just like you know, I’d go to do something, and he’d say, “No, you just get on and read, go out and have a coffee, go and do whatever you know, my job is here to sort of like to sort, you know, to sort,” and that’s just fantastic you know just having someone who you can,…. another friend just came in, just started clearing things out.
Gill was a great hoarder, and some of the time he threw away way too much stuff you know, but, do I notice it now? No. You know at the time it was like, “Oh that’s a bit sort of …” you know, but so, yeah I mean, there were endless things to do, but as I say having someone, having someone, having someone there to just to allow you to do whatever you want to do, and not have to worry about sort of phoning people and getting hold of things and filling in forms and you know, people were filling in forms for me, and just getting me to sign, you know, “Sign this,” you know, “I’ll sign that.”
It was just, just great. You know and you could just, of course the other thing at the time was that, well my voice would go hoarse because you know there were no five minute conversations.
After his father died Mike resented the fact that his step-mother would benefit from his fathers...
Was that difficult?
Well it was because the thing that was very upsetting to us was my mother and father had worked for thirty odd years themselves and, to accumulate what they’d got materially, and the Will was about to be changed to leaving everything to my stepmother. Her half, she was going get half of everything anyway, and as it turned out she ended up getting half of everything that both my mother and father had worked for all those years and the other fifty percent was split between me and my sister. So we resented that very much, I mean if she’d been a good wife to him then that would’ve been different, we wouldn’t have minded. We didn’t have any objection to him getting married again we could see how upset and lonely he was that wasn’t a problem to us, but it was just very unfortunate that he ended up marrying the wrong woman, basically.
So that was quite a difficult time?
Very difficult time, having to deal with solicitors, to sort of ensure that our legal interests were being represented, and we were going get our share of what we should be getting entitled to under the Will, so that was a difficult time yes, very difficult.
When someone has died due to suicide, passing on this information to the officials may be particularly distressing. Other people may not know what to say, or they may make insensitive comments.
Jenny found that officials reacted best when she opened the conversation by acknowledging that...
The broadband provider refused to speak to Melanie. The person concerned insisted on talking to...
I didn’t have to register the death because obviously there was an inquest and all I had to do was write off for the Death Certificate and it was sent to me after the inquest.
Where do you have to write for that?
It was the Coroner’s Court. There was no problem about that.
So they fill in the Death Certificate?
Yes, yes. I wrote and told all of the utilities because my husband always paid the bills and everything was in, well it might be in joint names, everything came under his account. Most people were fine, but I had terrible problems with the broadband and telephone provider who was [name] who was completely outrageous, and refused to speak to me. They said thing to me like, “How do we know the account holder is dead? We insist on speaking to the account holder.”
Well if you’re able to tell me how you do it because I’d like to speak to the account holder. And in fact I have referred my correspondence to my MP because I was so outraged. British Telecom was brilliant, but [name] were disgusting, absolutely outrageous. People demanding that I finish paying the contract yet they’d cut my Internet service off, not giving me the migration code to be with another Internet Provider which all seems small beer now but.
At the time.
At the time, you know, sobbing on the phone for them for two hours because I was moved from pillar to post and not getting any joy.
So that’s a real message to those sort of people to provide a better, kinder service?
Well they insisted I sent my husband’s Death Certificate to them which I wasn’t prepared to do because of the attitude they adopted. Whereas another firm.
You didn’t even have it at that stage?
Oh I had an interim one that I could have sent but another firm who were very sympathetic, who sent a nice letter offering their condolences blah, blah, blah. I sent them the Death Certificate too, a copy because they were so nice. It’s just the aggressive attitude.
So who provides you with the Interim Death Certificate?
Would you have to write for that or were you sent one automatically?
I was just provided with one automatically.
It’s these sort of practical details that people might not know about.
Yes, and they sent copies as well so I could go to the banks, and…, because you need Interim Death Certificates for various things. I obviously had to take legal advice to sort out things. I mean Simon had a will so we were ok on that but you know that’s worrying. Touch wood the house had been paid for but there is that fear that if someone takes their own life whether insurance companies will pay out. I’m still waiting for various moneys to come through and that’s 18 months.
Jacqui found the insurance companies very frustrating. Some officials asked to speak to the...
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.
Alex found that almost all organisations were efficient and sensitive, but one company failed to...
Utility companies had to be informed. Steve made a copy of his sisters interim death certificate...
The reason that we knew she was missing; there was something odd going on was that my mum found a huge amount of cash in their carport the day that my sister went missing. And so that’s why we knew something was wrong. So financially she’d even sorted that out. There were envelopes for each of the family members containing various amounts of cash. And there were other things to sort out as well though such as the electricity, the water, the television licence. All the utilities had to be sorted out. And I just did a standard letter and copied the Interim Death Certificate and sent it with a standard letter to all of them. Came across a bit of difficulty with, with some of them because I’m not the official next of kin, my parents are but they [parents] couldn’t have done it. They were too… I don’t know, I think it kept me going having a purpose really. It felt like I was doing something for her. And in the end I gave up. Some, some of them still owe, owe us money but it doesn’t really matter. I’m not, certainly not going to pressurise my parents to write a letter to say that their daughter’s died. You know it doesn’t matter but there’s; I found bureaucracy is a bit of a pain. Having to write to the council to scatter her ashes in the local park, it may sound odd and it may sound you’d be expected to have to do it but for it to take such a long time it’s all bureaucratic stuff really that seemed to be barriers. Some of the utility companies as well wanting, wanting letters from next of kin it’s all bureaucratic nonsense really. You don’t need it at the time because you’re feeling so dreadful anyway.
Especially as you sent a copy of the [interim] Death Certificate.
Yeah it’s almost like saying, well we don’t believe you, and it hurt.
Were there any insurance companies to try and sort out as well?
After Bob's son died the insurance company refused to pay to bring him home or to bring his car...
To go back to insurance you said that on your son’s AA insurance when he took his car to France, it excluded suicide.
Yeah, that excluded suicide. It was the first clause, death by suicide.
They wouldn’t bring the car back.
Wouldn’t bring the car back wouldn’t pay out any hospital, any fees we might’ve had to pay. Well we have, so yeah we had to pay for, we had to pay to bring him home, if the insurance cover had been there, they would’ve, that insurance would’ve paid for him to come home. Now we had to pay that out, we were fortunate that Darren, Darren’s firm had in-service insurance, and they did pay up, and so.
Otherwise it would’ve been very difficult.
Otherwise it would’ve been very financially difficult yes.
Financially things were difficult. Marion had financial support from the church and did not know...
Would you mind just saying a little bit about practical matters?
Yes the bank thing was a nightmare. I went to the bank shortly after he died and to make an appointment, well to arrange for our account to become my account. And I ended up with the bank manager for two hours because of various transactions that Graham had made; two of them in my name while I’d been in hospital, that I knew nothing at all about. And which took me the best part of eight and a half years to repay.
Telephone bills, we were with British Telecom and it took them four years to stop addressing letters to him and send them to me. The communications people of the world couldn’t get it right, but there you go.
You just wrote to them about it or did you have to send certificates, the death certificate?
Everybody wants the original death certificate. And of course you, when it’s a suicide you don’t get a death certificate until the Coroner has told you or has pronounced that it is a suicide. But you can get an Interim Death Certificate, but some firms won’t accept that.
Who gave you the Interim Death Certificate, the Coroner’s Officer?
Yeah I think that was the Coroner’s Officer. I think so, must have been. I don’t think I dealt with anybody else.
And you say some people wouldn’t accept that?
No. The insurance company wouldn’t accept it. And of course when push came to shove as a suicide he wasn’t covered anyway.
So financially things were very, very difficult, very difficult. Again I had financial support from the church for a while which was heaven sent [laugh], I have to say. It was, it was. Well I had minus 4p in my account when, when he died. Paying for his funeral was a nightmare. Organising the payment for that was a nightmare because you then fall onto the Social Fund and you have to go to the DSS office and sit there for four and a half hours while they decide whether they’ll see you or not. And my father came with me for that and he was getting more and more and more angry.
Do people get any help from the state for funerals?
There is help available.
Is that if you ask for it or?
Yes, yes. And the crazy thing is, once you have your death certificate and you go to register a death, a normal death or you know whatever, one that doesn’t involve the Coroner shall we say, at that point and having done this several times, you register the death and you get a booklet from DSS which says ‘What to do When Somebody Dies’. That’s what it’s called. [But after a death by suicide] you actually get that at the inquest, by which time hopefully you’ve done most of it.
Again the most helpful people in that situation are the undertakers because they know the situation and they know how to deal with it. But I hadn’t got a clue.
So for somebody who was in, who might be in your situation at the time without any money to pay for a funeral how do they get money from the State to help?
You have to go to the DSS and plead your case basically. I went to our local office. As I say my father took me because I still wasn’t allowed to drive. I was ill. And my dad took me and we were there four and a half hours waiting to be seen. And eventually I spoke with a really, really helpful lady actually. I was glad I got her and not the guy in the room next door. But she, she was really, really helpful. She was lovely. And did I want this? And would I need this? She couldn’t have been more helpful but nobody told me that’s what I had to do.
I just didn’t know what to do and somebody said well try the DSS office.
So can you then send the bills to them or do they give you a grant?
No they, they give you an allowance, I think it’s called a Death Allowance or something. It pays basically for a basic funeral. Wouldn’t give you any treats or anything. And sometimes I think it has to be repaid if there’s an estate as such. Certainly in my case there was no estate [laugh] so, but I think it has to be repaid. But there is help available but it’s very, very, it’s difficult to access that if you haven’t got the information and I didn’t have the information. I got the booklet at the Inquest and that was in February.
And you needed help.
Three months after Graham died.
If you’re going to have a funeral quickly, you need the help.
Exactly. Yeah you can’t say to the undertakers, well you know in a few months time we might [have a funeral]. It’s got to be done.
And did the money come fairly quickly to pay for the expenses?
As I remember the church paid for Graham’s funeral. I repaid them from the money that came but I think it did come quite quickly. I don’t really remember. I do remember thinking I, I can’t even bury him. I can’t do anything.
Two years after Rose died Susan started to clear up her room and sort out her things. She found...
I have the most terrible … it took me. I know that I can’t mention it. I didn’t touch her room until this summer. It was in complete and utter chaos because one of the worst things that happened while she was ill is that her stuff was brought back. She thought she was only coming home for a few weeks and then she’d be back in London. So her room in London was full of her stuff. And her friends, well meaning but it was terrible, packed her stuff into boxes, drove up, came through the front door, put them in the hall and said, “Here’s your stuff”. And Rose just howled and said, “That is my life, just piled back.”
So I couldn’t bear to do any of it. And then because I thought we were moving I realised I’d got to do the attic. I hadn’t been into the attic for a year because I couldn’t bear to go there.
So I got some … I got a carpet firm to come and re-carpet the room where she died because obviously they’d taken everything. And I cleared the attic which is big; it’s three enormous rooms and her room. And I knew I would find stuff that absolutely tore me apart and I did, a lot of it.
Diaries, journals, the, the complete, gaps there were between her and I that I hadn’t realised. A lot of what she felt about me which was just awful, but, and yet at the same time I thought, “No she’s writing this when depressed”. They weren’t when she came home, they were the year before.
Dealing with the aftermath of the death reminded some people of the importance of having an up to date will. Soon after Simon died, Melanie decided to make a new will because her children were worried about what might happen to them if she died too. She found friends who would be guardians for the children in the event of her death.
Melanie made a new will soon after her husband died. She was worried about what might happen to...
I’ve made a fresh will since Simon died. I’ve named guardians, but that was something in the very early days that they [the children] were very worried about; the little one said to me, “What happens if you die Mummy? What happens if Grandma dies? What happens if all the grown-ups in the world die?”
You could really, you reassured him.
Well I was able to reassure them that they would go and live with some friends of the family. My parents are late 60s now and that they’re, you know three small boys and late 60s don’t really go together. But I worry what will happen if they die.
So you found guardians who would be prepared to look after them?
But they’ll never love them the way I love them.
And particularly because our eldest child has special needs.
What will happen to him?
Last reviewed July 2017.
Last updated July 2017.