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Stephen - Interview 31

Age at interview: 45
Brief Outline: In June 2006 Stephen returned home to find his wife, Gill, hanging in the hallway. She had been diagnosed with severe depression. Stephen found help from family, friends & Cruse. His daughters have been helped by the Charity, See Saw.
Background: Stephen is a company director. He was widowed and has 2 children. Ethnic background/nationality: White British.

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In 2005, Stephen’s wife, Gill, was diagnosed with severe depression. She had been feeling depressed for a while. She had been taking medication and had seen a clinical psychologist the day before she died.
 
One day in June 2006, Stephen returned from work to find Gill hanging in the hall- way of their house. Stephen was shocked, because although he had found Gill in the house with a rope before, they had discussed this event, and she had reassured him that she would not contemplate suicide, and he never dreamt that she would ever seriously consider taking her own life.
 
Stephen screamed and screamed for help. He and a neighbour tried to resuscitate Gill, but this was unsuccessful. They called the ambulance and the police. Gill had left a suicide note, but the police took it before Stephen could read it all properly, which he found distressing.
 
Stephen and Gill had two young daughters, Isabelle and Phoebe. They were aged six and four and a half at the time of Gill’s death. That afternoon the girls were at school. Stephen arranged for a friend to collect the girls and to bring them home. He did not want to lie to his children so he told them that Mummy had been extremely ill, that she had had an illness in her head, which had killed her. Telling the girls was the hardest thing Stephen has ever done. He felt both devastated and numb.
 
Stephen has had a great deal of support from family and friends. He took nine months off full time work and said that he needed this time to come to terms with what had happened. He has had individual counselling via Cruse, which he found “fantastic”. He also attended two group meetings organised by Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS), but he did not find it helpful.
 
A registered Charity called See Saw, which aims to help children who have been bereaved, has given Stephen useful advice about what to tell the children and has helped him manage their grief. He has tried to answer all the girls’ questions honestly, and when Isabelle asked about the manner of Gill’s death he explained that Gill took her own life by hanging. Friends have helped Stephen with the children and See Saw have helped by sending a female volunteer to talk to the girls and do things with them on a regular basis. Their school has also been very supportive.
 
The girls chose to go to the chapel of rest with Stephen to see Gill’s body. They took rose petals and other gifts to go in the coffin. Stephen and the children planned Gill’s funeral, which was held on a lovely summer’s day and was very well attended by family and friends. Gill was buried in the church yard. Afterwards there was a party. It was an excellent party with just one important person missing, Gill.
 
The inquest was held about six months after Gill died. There was no doubt that Gill had taken her own life.
 
After Gill died Stephen was determined to find “the good” in what had happened. He now feels more content in himself than he has ever felt before. He has started singing lessons again and is writing poetry and developing his creative side once more. He says that it was not easy living with someone with bipolar disorder and the years living with someone with mental ill health had taken their toll. Stephen has made new friends and has developed an inner strength that he did not have before.
 
Looking back Stephen is very unhappy with the medical care that Gill received. He wishes that they had sought a second opinion about the treatment she received for her mental health problems.
 
Stephen says that over time grief does get easier to bear and that he does see a future for himself and his daughters.

Stephen was interviewed in November 2007.

 

Stephen’s first reaction to his wife’s death was one of horror. He was devastated. He screamed...

Stephen’s first reaction to his wife’s death was one of horror. He was devastated. He screamed...

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What about you, we haven’t talked about your feelings at all, at that time?


About telling the children, or the whole way through?


The whole way through.


I was devastated. …I just, I couldn’t, I couldn’t believe it, I came through the door and saw her and, that was just horrific…. I still look at pictures of her and can’t believe that’s what happened, I just screamed, and screamed and screamed.


Mm.


You know it was just awful. I don’t know, I sort of, I guess I had so many other things to think about, you know I wasn’t really, you know, you become numb, it sort of, you know I had to think of the children, and it wasn’t that I wasn’t thinking of myself, but you know I was it was terrible, it was horrific, it was horrible, I couldn’t let go of her, I just wanted to hang onto her.

 

Stephen’s wife had been diagnosed with depression. He thought she probably had bipolar disorder.

Stephen’s wife had been diagnosed with depression. He thought she probably had bipolar disorder.

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Had she’d been ill for many years?

 

Well it’s a really good question actually because she had been, in this, in this particular episode of which we thought for quite a long time was just, it was just an isolated incident, we knew was from, well it goes back to November 2004, she died in June 2006, and she was actually diagnosed by the doctor I think sometime in early 2005, February March time, but a friend of hers in October 2005 reminded her of a time back when actually we’d first got together, in 1989, and she’d been sacked from a job, and she’d had a six month period where she had been, when we were told about it, very similar to the way she was in you know in, late on in , in this, this kind of bout, so, and that I mean again looking back on it I’ve sort of pieced it all together and really realised in my mind that she was actually bipolar and this wasn’t a sort of, this wasn’t post natal depression, sort of you know slightly delayed post natal depression or as a result of just you know we’d moved out from, from London, had children and she’d left her job, and we’d been in South Africa for 18 months. She was very reliant on her friends, particularly on her friends, and I think all of that had meant that yes, there were, there was much less, you know, far fewer friends in her life you know, on a day to day basis you know. She was extremely good at keeping in contact with friends, so yeah, I mean I actually found a book when I was clearing up called “Depression” that I’d given her back then, and this was dated October 31st 1989, and after she died her mother told me that three of her aunts on her fathers’ side had also suffered mental health problems which would’ve been nice to have known about beforehand really but you know, hindsight is great isn’t it, in all these things?
 

Stephen believes that many GPs lack knowledge about how to deal with depression and how to deal...

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Stephen believes that many GPs lack knowledge about how to deal with depression and how to deal...

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Did you ever go to your GP for any particular help? For help with sleeping or anything?


Given how poorly I felt, although I don’t have a very high opinion of general practice, sorry doctors, I don’t, I don’t believe that, I don’t believe you can practice as a doctor generally, it’s just way too much to know, and specifically in my wife’s case, the  failings as I see them of the particular surgery, are specifically a function of not having someone who specialises in mental health care,  really you know it’s sort of O’ level medical, O’ level medicine really what needed to be done, but because sort of GP’s have got way too much on their plate and you know it’s, it’s just, “Oh here have another drug,” you know.


She wasn’t under a specialist at the time? 


Oh no. Well, she’d been to see a specialist, and she’d done this test and, and I only found this out after, I only found the test, the doctor didn’t tell me she’d filled in the test, probably because she had, you know, had I seen the results of the test, I would have done something. Maybe I wouldn’t have done, I don’t know. But I mean this test, I can’t remember the name of it, E, EBD or something or other, anyway I found it in her papers, “Well, well what the hell’s this?” And every single answer she gave was as negative as you could possibly be, and how, you know, how the psychiatrist could use as their excuse that, they say, “Well it’s just a diagnostic test, it’s just part of…” Well which part exactly, you know why are you doing this test, what does it, well surely this test must have some purpose, diagnosing what?


Mm.

 

You know, and what, what was the, what was your diagnosis, having read this, having, having seen what she filled in? That’s basically, “I want to kill myself. And I have thought about doing it.”  (…)  I had no support from GP’s, I’d, I have heard that there are some, there are some good surgeries out there, but there’s a severe lack of knowledge within general practice about how to deal with potential suicide, with how to deal with depression. And it’s something I want to try and help change through this complaints process that I’m going through. Although the results on the, the initial feedback unfortunately has been, “Well we followed standard procedure, and we didn’t do anything wrong, there’s nothing to learn, but you know, come and meet us if you like.”


Was this from the Trust?


The Trust and the surgery. The health trust and, and the actual specific surgery, following sort of two courses of action there.

 

Stephen suggests that grieving is not a linear process but is more like a “spiral”.

Stephen suggests that grieving is not a linear process but is more like a “spiral”.

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…And in terms of, going back to the day I mean I, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, me telling the children that, you know, and I’m sort of proud of myself in the sense of, of that, and really of they way I’ve dealt with you know what’s happened since, it’s been all very much sort of seat of the pants, it’s always been gut feeling because there is no rule book you know,  there isn’t a, “Well, you know do this next, and then that, and then do this and…” You know the process of grieving is not a linear process, and you hear people coming out with these, you know, “There’s bereavement, there’s various stages of grief and you go through this, and then you go through that”, and it’s a load of rubbish, I mean it’s like you know, it’s much more like a spiral and you’re constantly going through it, you go through some, you think you’ve been there before actually you are in somewhere different  but you, you, you’re re-visiting these phases the whole time.

 

Stephen took his young daughters to see Gill after she died. He felt devastated but he says they...

Stephen took his young daughters to see Gill after she died. He felt devastated but he says they...

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Did the children want to go and see her [Gill]?

 

They did, yes, they did. Gill loved bags, and it was the time of year, there were lots of roses in the garden, and the children, they did a load of roses and I remember putting the petals in the fridge, actually, so that they wouldn’t go off. And they decided that they wanted to sprinkle her body with, with rose petals…


So was it the right thing to take the children to see your wife’s body?


Oh without a doubt, I mean when my father died I really wanted to go and see him, and I know people “um” and “ahh” about whether or not to, but I, it was, it felt like all I could was give them the choice, I mean I think you know, yeah they’re certainly old enough to be able to make that choice, and I feel also it was just important that, again looking back, that they were involved and they were making choices, and yes okay they were the choices of a seven, of a six and a half and a, a, well six and a four and half year old, but they were choices that they made. And I think it’s really, really important that they, that they did that, I mean we, it was quite a, you know, it’s the whole ritual of  death, we make a ritual of it for a reason, you know there are older societies of, you know, making a really big thing of it, and it’s for a really good reason, because it’s important that you say goodbye, in the right way and that you say everything that needed to be said, and you do everything that needed to be done, and it’s not an, it’s not an easy thing to do necessarily. But for me it was absolutely critical that, you know, I’m glad they wanted to see her, I mean if they hadn’t have wanted to see her it was fine, it was you know, “You said you didn’t want to see her,” “Why didn’t,” “Well because you said you didn’t want, okay I’m not going to force you.” But we sort of we sat down we filled a bag, one of Gill’s favourite bags with you know, well they chose what she was going to wear. They decided they wanted to put some money in her bag so that she had some money, sort of like to, to buy things with, and they wrote, they wrote cards that went in there. And, as I say we took a whole bunch of petals. I described, I told them, said it’s probably best not to touch mummy, because you know she’ll feel different, she’ll feel very cold and she won’t feel like Mummy, but if you want to touch her, you know, touch her, you know, touch her clothes but don’t touch her bare skin. And Mummy’ll look, you know she won’t quite look like Mummy, you know, she’ll look, she’ll look…. So we prepared the whole sort of thing and everything, we did a dry run for it as well, so we went to the chapel of rest before Gill was in there, and said, “Well this is where we’re going to go, this is where Mummy’s going to be and this is what it’s going to look like.” And at every single point it was like, you know, just speak to me, you don’t have to do this, but they were really at ease actually. And in fact they weren’t upset at all by seeing her.


Mm.


No, you’d have, you’d have expected, I was completely devastated but I mean, they were just, it was, it was just like, it was like their Mum you know? They were, they took it remarkably, well it was just remarkable the way they took that.

 

Stephen’s daughters were four and six when his wife died. At first he told them that their mother...

Stephen’s daughters were four and six when his wife died. At first he told them that their mother...

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And then we really spent, myself, a couple of friends, my brother had come over by this time, and the vicar, and we spent a lot of time, and the next door neighbour as well, we spent a lot of time just discussing what to say to the children, how to put it to them.

 

So how did you decide to tell the children in the end?

 

Well, we came up with what we thought we’d say, and then a friend’s husband sort of just confirmed what SeeSaw [a registered charity dedicated to providing grief and bereavement support for children] had said, to see if they sort of matched, to see if we’d got it right you know rather than sort of; and we basically, well my first thought was I wanted to tell them the truth as far as I felt that they could actually cope with it, you know four and a half and six, I didn’t feel that it was appropriate to tell them that she’d hanged herself in the hallway, and I was also conscious though that I didn’t want to have to go back on what I’d said and say “Oh actually I, you know Daddy actually knew, lied to you, it wasn’t you know he didn’t sort of, you know Mummy didn’t die in a car crash, she actually took her own life.” I felt that was the wrong way to go, I mean certainly that was all the advice is, is that you know, don’t lie to them, and even things like you know, “Mummy’s gone to heaven,” you know those things may not necessarily be lies but, to a child they don’t necessarily mean what you think you know as an adult they might mean. So we resolved, so it was to tell them that Mummy had been extremely ill, but it was an illness that you wouldn’t normally, that you can’t see, it’s an illness in her head. And that this afternoon the illness got too much for her, and the illness killed her. And because in my mind, and this has really helped me, helped me get through it, is to see it as indeed as what it is, as an illness. And just as much as a heart attack kills you or cancer kills you, depression kills you, you know. She wasn’t the sort of person; she was a very happy, very positive sort of person. Taking her own life, I can’t imagine what horrors she must’ve been feeling to do that, in front of, in the hallway, a panel of pictures of her and her family…


Do you want a break?


No it’s all right.


So how did the children take that news?

 

It was terrible. Phoebe my younger daughter just, she cried in this way that was… I mean looking back on it I was sort of, I think again happy is the wrong word completely but it was, the way she, they way they both reacted was that they got it, there were no questions left.

 

About a year after his wife’s suicide, when Stephen’s eldest daughter asked questions about her...

About a year after his wife’s suicide, when Stephen’s eldest daughter asked questions about her...

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So to go back to your children, did they bring up the subject again, or did you actually bring it up especially on that day because you had your friend coming?

 

No well, since the summer they [the children] hadn’t, they hadn’t mentioned it again, but I had been organising, you know I’d organised it specifically that I would tell them that morning, with Gill’s friend there. But as I say, we were going out the door, this was in the afternoon of having, having told them, we’re going out the door and Izzy has then put two and two together and said, “Well so, so it must have been in the house Daddy?” Because remember she’s asked how she’d died, and I said, how, how Gill died, and I’d told her how Gill died but I hadn’t said.


You specifically said she hung herself did you?


I told her that she’d hanged herself.


Mm.


By a rope, round her neck, which had suffocated her. And that she hadn’t, you know she wouldn’t have sort of, she wouldn’t have suffered any pain doing that, it would’ve happened quite quickly. Quite graphic thinking back on it, but, I don’t know, it, it, it’s, it; because then they’d asked about, they’d asked, that’s right over the summer, when they were asking these questions, that walk that we were on, Izzy had asked specifically about, you know the, what happens when you die and what is that process of dying, so it was you know, she’s quite, you know, but it seemed fine anyway, but anyway, so we go, so she then says. so now she’s asking of course, well where is it? So where did she die?


Mm.


And I looked at, I looked at Gill’s friend, and she afterwards told me she sort of, she said it was like a lifetime, she was going, “Well what the hell’s he going to say now?” You know, “Say something please?” And I just sort of, and I can’t remember exactly the course of events, but I said something like, “Oh,” I was sort of buying time really, “Well, how, how do you sort of, how did you work that one out?” And she said, she then explained, she said, “Well you said that you know, you’d come home and…, so therefore it must’ve been somewhere in the house”. I remember I took a big deep breath and of course I’m standing in the hallway, and I said, “Well Mummy hanged herself, hanged herself in the hallway, just there. She tied a rope around that banister, that’s where it happened.” “Okay. Yeah. Can we get our shoes on?” And out the door [claps] and that’s it, off, and that’s the last she’s ever mentioned that, and that’s now what three months ago.


So is it a burden off your shoulders that you have been able to talk to them about it?


Yes, yes, I mean I think you know it was, early on it was a big, big issue.

 

Stephen believes that stigma is associated with mental illness but not with suicide.

Stephen believes that stigma is associated with mental illness but not with suicide.

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Is there anything that we haven’t covered that you think would be useful to talk about?


Yes, I mean we haven’t really talked about the stigma of suicide. And I know that’s sort of, it’s something that does… it’s something that happens in, that occurs in conversation about whether or not there is any stigma. But I personally never felt any, but I’ve also explicitly gone out of my way to tell people, and I know you know Gill’s, Gill’s parents for example, don’t tell anybody anything about it. I just think it’s just, she took her own life, I mean it’s a,  it’s, I don’t know, is it something like three and a half, four thousand suicides a year in the UK? Amongst young people, it’s one of the most common causes of death. Why the hell shouldn’t you tell people because almost certainly you know as I’ve found in telling people, you know people say, “Yeah, you know, it happened to me,” or my cousin, or my dad’s father – you know, it’s just, it’s just everywhere.


Mm.


And everyone’s been touched by it, I’ve found, so I, you know, I think the stigma, there is stigma in the person who’s experiencing the depression, and there’s stigma about being depressed, and there’s stigma about taking the drugs, you know that, there is definitely stigma. I don’t think in open society these days, not in the UK anyway, I don’t think there’s any, I don’t, I’ve not felt anyone ever, even a hint of, of  stigma.

 

After Stephen’s wife died the police were efficient, sensitive and apologetic as they looked...

After Stephen’s wife died the police were efficient, sensitive and apologetic as they looked...

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Yes, we called the ambulance and then when they arrived, called the police. Something like that. The main thing I remember is that, once, as it was all sort of starting to sink in, I wanted to find, I wanted to see if she had sort of written a note because you know, if nothing else I just wanted you know some sort of explanation you know? And I, I know subsequently in a lot of cases that, you know, that that there isn’t a note written. And luckily she, luckily she had done, and that was, that was a big relief, just to have something, some, some sort of like token but it was a strange start.

 

I mean I remember the police, and when the ambulance came they did what they were, they were going to do then the police came, and, that was very, that was very odd because of course I’m chief suspect, and they have to treat me like that, you know until they’ve actually discounted the possibility that there may be any sort of, any sense of something happening, some wrong doing, but they were excellent, I have to say they were you know they, the inspector was fantastic, extremely sensitive and very apologetic that you know, you know he didn’t have to say what you know what was what, what I know was on his mind, it was like, you know, I know it sounds awful but you know, you know you are obviously a suspect until and until we, till we, you know and they look around the house and all of, I don’t know, I don’t know how they decide whether or not there are suspicious circumstances but anyway, there weren’t any.


You say the police were very caring and compassionate, is there any, any lessons to a policeman, is there anything that they could’ve done differently that you would’ve liked or?

Not this particular policeman, no, no, no he was very sensitive, I mean he, as I said when he first, when they first arrived, I mean clearly, I am, you know a suspect, until they’ve excluded me from the investigations, and I guess I, I could’ve got upset about that I don’t know?

But they were very caring?

They were very caring and so, I don’t know, they just, well I felt for them to be honest.

Mm.

I mean I felt what a horrendous situation to have to come into. I mean you know having to come into a situation where they, to do their job professionally they had to treat me as a suspect, and how horrible that must make them feel.

Mm.

But you know, I just, I felt pity for them, to be honest, but very efficient, very kind, faultless, I mean as, if there was an example of how to do it, it was, it was, it was that. Yeah, I mean they were just fantastic. Good.

 

Stephen appreciated help with practical matters. His brother acted as his secretary, and friends...

Stephen appreciated help with practical matters. His brother acted as his secretary, and friends...

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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.


Mm.


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.


Mm.


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.


Mm.


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.”


That’s good.


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.

 

Stephen said that Gill's funeral was 'desperately sad', but it was a 'lovely day'. The church was...

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Stephen said that Gill's funeral was 'desperately sad', but it was a 'lovely day'. The church was...

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So yes, that was the Thursday, and I went up with my two brothers. Yes it was a lovely day, I mean the whole time was a lovely day, blue skies now always remind me of that day you know.

 

But the funeral, a lot of people had inputs, I mean the vicar was fantastic, because he had been through the whole thing many times before and knows what works and what doesn’t work, and it is, you know, it is a performance, it is choreographed, you know, it isn’t something that’s spontaneous. And in fact often spontaneous things don’t work very well.  It was all quite managed in terms of you know what’s going to happen when, and who’s going to do what, and it just looked, otherwise it just looks a mess if people don’t, you know, know who’s talking now, they want to know and be very clear, and we thought a lot about the music, and how we were going to come in, and what music was going to be playing then, and one of the really nice things was actually we had a photograph of Gill, using a data projector, projected on to the wall in the church and I know everybody said they really felt that Gill was there.

 
I mean the church was packed, and there must’ve been 300 people in the church, there were people out the back of the church because they couldn’t fit in it you know. I mean again we’d been to the church with the children.  I’d walked through how it was going to be, you know the day before I’d walked through, said well you know this is what’s going to happen, and the coffin’s going to draw up and well they’re going to carry it in, and then we’re going to walk behind,  and this is where we’re going to sit, and…, you knowso there were no surprises for them, and of course it’s, you know you can’t prepare them, you can’t really prepare for it at all can you? But you know, as far as was possible. 


And was she buried in the churchyard?


Yes, we, I didn’t want her cremated, I didn’t want her cremated for two reasons really, one was, I don’t know, just I felt  for the children just seeing her, I don’t know, just seeing her coffin being buried.  I’ll tell you this funny story about that actually it was, no matter what you do to prepare, no matter what you do to prepare, you still don’t know how children see things anyway so,  yes, but the second reason was because we then would have, because of where we are in the countryside, the nearest crematorium is at least 45 minutes away, so by the time you’ve got everyone there who’s going to go, it’s at least an hour there, and then you know, at least two, two and half hours and the whole thing will have just sort of dissolved. So we really didn’t want to do that, so it was very much, you know, do the funeral service and then bury Gill and then have, I hate the word  ‘wake’, I call it a ‘funeral party’, and we had a funeral party for everybody and then we had all the sort of close friends and family come round to the house, and we had literally we had a party, and  I’d told everybody not to come in black, I hate black anyway, I just think well it’s, I hate, I don’t want to be wearing black at my funeral, I know I’m wearing a black shirt now, you know,  but anyway I wanted sort of, and I knew Gill would’ve wanted it, just to come in your best sort of summer dress,  yeah I wanted it to be bright and sort of you know, a real sort of like celebration of Gill, and of course it was sort of desperately sad but she touched a lot of people, and it just made it a wonderful day, you know I think it was, it was just,  you know people said the party, because we used to have lots of parties up in London, a number of people said,&nb

 

Stephen believes that his wife’s medical care was “supremely deficient”. He had hoped that the...

Stephen believes that his wife’s medical care was “supremely deficient”. He had hoped that the...

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Do you want to say a little bit about the inquest?


Yes, well, being a suicide of course there has to be an inquest, and it usually takes, you know it can take anything, six months is a perfectly common sort of period of time. The police come round and have to take statements and they were again very, very good and the guy came round, I mean I thought I was going to write it [the statement] out, but I just told him and he then wrote it out, and I just had to confirm what that was. That is was right and, yeah, I mean it was pretty uneventful really, it was just another one of those things to sort to tick off, and just to say yes, that it was done. I mean, they [inquests] are pretty ineffectual really. I wanted to ask the questions about the medical care that I felt had been supremely deficient.


Were you prepared for what was going to happen at all? Were you in touch with the Coroner’s officer beforehand?


Oh they were very good, I mean the Coroner’s Officer was very good, I mean they, you know they said what would happen, the Coroner was very good as well, I mean it was quite upsetting.


Mm.


You know actually going through the whole thing and having to go through the detail of what happened on the day, you know it is, always probably going to be distressing telling that story,  in my mind just thinking back on it, I mean, nothing really, it didn’t, it didn’t change anything, nothing really came out of it, and as I say the one thing that I would’ve wanted it to address is the care that she got, or didn’t get as far as I’m concerned.


Mm.


And it didn’t. And it doesn’t have the authority to do so either. So really it was just, it was an exercise, it was just a legal exercise that needed to be done and needed to be gone through, and…

 

Family and friends offered tremendous support after Stephen's wife died. He found it helped to...

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Did you have anybody to help you with the children, or talk to them and be with them to start with and stay with you?


It’s funny, I have a Nigerian friend of mine and in Nigeria apparently if someone dies then I don’t think it matters how they’ve, how they’ve died, if someone has a bereavement then someone, culturally someone must stay with them, they must never be, they mustn’t be on their own for at least a month, for the first, for the first month, and that’s sort of the way it turned out. (…) I had fantastic support actually, you know my brother came over from Australia for a couple of weeks to spend some time with me, and a very good friend, who came down from up north, spent a week with me initially, and than came back a couple of months later. And I’m very lucky, I mean, I, consider myself lucky in, in a lot of ways.


Because you had support?


Oh so many ways, I mean because I had support, because I wasn’t forced financially to go back to work, I felt that, you know, I had nine months, I had nine months off, pretty much without working, and that for me was a fairly essential part of the process. I can’t imagine having to go back to work two or three weeks later, as I know often is the case with people (…). I wouldn’t have known where to start to be honest, well I probably would’ve done like most people do, would’ve probably sort of buried most of what, what went on and I feel like that period was a huge…; you know, if I was advising anybody it would certainly be to take as much time off as you absolutely possibly can, you know you need space and you need time, and going back to work just sort of, just burying yourself in something else, that’s not my way anyway, not my way.

 

So it helped you to interact with other people as well then?

 

Yes, I mean I can talk forever, I like talking and you know that was very important, that process of just talking endlessly, I mean you know you go over the same ground again and again.


Mm.


But each time it’s slightly different you know and you can’t talk enough about it really, you know. And you know every different person you speak to is, something, something changes slightly.


Mm.

 

There was a point at one stage where I felt that the story was sort of wearing a bit thin, I remember that feeling of like sort of, you know you’ve said it, when you’ve said something so many times, a story starts to sort of, well it just starts to wear a bit thin, it starts to sort of lose, whether, whether it’s losing reality or I’m not quite sure what that process is but it just, but that’s gone now, now I mean I’m happy to sort of talk about it.

 

Stephen attended a Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide group meeting. Most of the others had lost children. He found it depressing and could not imagine what they could be feeling. He felt he had nothing to say.

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Stephen attended a Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide group meeting. Most of the others had lost children. He found it depressing and could not imagine what they could be feeling. He felt he had nothing to say.

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I went to a bereavement group a couple of times, I didn’t really like it actually because it was mainly; people who had lost children, and ...


Was that a group specifically for people who had lost people through suicide?


That’s right, yes.


SOBS? Survivors of bereavement by suicide?


Yes, and I hate the name already, you know I just think you could at least come up with a name that just sounds a bit less depressing.


Mm.


I was depressed before I even got there, I felt like a naughty child when I was going there.


How did you find out about them?


I don’t know, somebody told me, I really don’t know, but …


So did you find a group fairly locally?


Well it was relatively local but still an hour’s drive away. But I remember sitting there in this group thinking, I’ve got nothing to say here. I have no idea what you must be going through, just by having, you know gone through what I’d been through which you know, is an extremely traumatic event, I still felt that you know I, I couldn’t, I hadn’t, I, yeah I felt I had nothing, you know I had no, I had no idea what they could possibly be going through having lost a child, and I still don’t you know, having my own children as well.

 

After Gill died Stephen asked SeeSaw for help. He found their guidance invaluable. A volunteer...

After Gill died Stephen asked SeeSaw for help. He found their guidance invaluable. A volunteer...

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SeeSaw are a charity who specialise in family bereavement with a focus specifically on the children, so they help the parents because they’re helping the children, but they don’t specifically provide counselling for the parent. And their advice has been invaluable; being able to speak to them about, well you know, does this make sense, or is this right, I mean does this feel right to you? You know they’ve been through it so many times that, yeah and of course at the end of the day it’s your decision but just having, you know, being in touch with people who you know professionally who, you know; there’s obviously some benefit in knowing people, who’ve been through it, but their experience is very specific to them, and it was important to me to have sort of a professional, you know that sort of professional guidance, and it’s all free of course, and [for me] Cruse in a in a similar way, the counselling there was excellent, I mean the quality of it was fantastic.


We have someone from SeeSaw, a volunteer who comes every couple of weeks now, to the house and although at the moment she’s doing arts and crafts stuff with them, her brief, well her brief, it’s not my brief it’s what she says that she’ll do, she’ll do anything with them, be that taking them out to the swings or going out for tea or sitting here talking about Mummy or, anything, so that is great.

 

Stephen was devastated when his wife died but now, almost two years later, he feels happier than...

Stephen was devastated when his wife died but now, almost two years later, he feels happier than...

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So how would you sum up how your feelings have changed over the last two years, year and a half?


Yeah, year and a half. June 2006. …Mm…. It’s very difficult really, I mean it’s been a..., I mean so much has happened. …I mean everything’s different, you know. The world is different, and it probably sounds strange to say, in many ways I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I resolved when, when it happened that I was going find the good. I was going to find the good in this, and I had no idea where that was going be. The next, just the next day I was due to get up at; I go running and I go running in the morning because that’s, well I’m just useless if I wait any longer, after I’ve got up I’m just lazy, and I’d arranged with a friend of mine and we just run, you know we run every morning so, you know, he rang me that evening and said, “Are you going out tomorrow?” And I said, “Of course I’m going out tomorrow, what do you expect?” What’s the point in just lying in bed and I know nothing’s going to happen by doing that.

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