Bereavement due to suicide
The headstone or other memorial
The people we talked to wanted to have one or more ways of remembering the person who had died (also see ‘Coping with grief and keeping memories alive’). It sometimes took many months after the death to decide whether and how to mark a grave or special place. It offered a good opportunity to involve people affected by the death, but sometimes the decisions were made rather too quickly, or people felt excluded if they were not consulted.
Some had marked the grave with a headstone. Others had marked the burial place, or where ashes were scattered, with a plaque, a small stone or a memorial bench.
Jane and Maurice marked Toms grave with a small stone. Jane wishes the stone were bigger to...
Did you have a special memorial stone made for him?
Well that’s one of my regrets, because he was cremated we were only allowed to put his name and date on the stone, and it had to be a specific stone and specific size, and that at the time was a huge regret for me because there was nothing personal on it, and if I could change that I would’ve done. I think that’s a big thing, but it’s not just name and date situation but that’s how it was at that churchyard and because of there being a time lapse from the funeral and the burial, I guess if we’d had him buried here he might’ve not been cremated. And I’ve got no strong feelings about either, it was just being left with this single little stone, I don’t like; we can put flowers there, and the churchyard bends the rules a little bit by having a pot and things and it’s nice to go back and change it and the grandfather and other generations are there, so that seemed sensible and we also put a seat in the churchyard because I think time to contemplate was good for anybody.
A year after Alice died Alex and Felicity asked a sculptor to carve a headstone. One of their...
Did you have a, a little ceremony when the headstone was put in place, or did you meet at the grave at that time?
The funeral director helped Linda and her family to find a stonemason, who showed them a booklet...
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?
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 …
… 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 …
And it’s just like, you just don’t’ think about things like that.
But that was, you know, and we tried, and we did get my other daughter involved with that as well.
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.
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.
Yeah. That was quite good.
Kate pointed out that in many parts of the country, it may take a year or more for the soil to settle after a burial. That was another reason for waiting to have a gravestone made. Margaret delayed a long time before commissioning a gravestone for her daughter because she mistakenly thought she had to wait until after the inquest before she could erect a permanent memorial stone. When she received the final death certificate she had a heart shaped stone made for the grave.
Amanda didnt like the headstones suggested by the funeral director. She found a letter cutter...
Bob and Lynda put up a headstone which 'summed up Darren's life'. They visit their son's grave...
Mm. Did you have a special stone made for him later?
We had, we had yes, we got a stone from one of the local firms. It was actually a new design that had just come out because I didn’t want anything with crosses on or things like that, and nothing too fancy. This one was; summed up we felt Darren’s life probably it was smooth face with rough round the edges, the smooth with the rough like the life he must’ve led I mean, and it’s a new, fairly new design that just come out.
And do you go there sometimes?
We go there every, all the time, we go at least once a week. While we’re over here, I mean if we go away we go before we leave and go when we come back. We look after the grass up there, we cut the grass, that’s all I can do now for Darren is to just look after him, after his plot, his his garden, if you like, it’s is his garden. You allowed so much to have your own bits and pieces out up there and the rest of it has to be lawn, or what they call lawn garden, lawn cemetery. So I cut the grass ‘cos I don’t like them doing it, ‘cos they make a mess whenever they do it, but they’ve got a job to do and it’s a big site so they do it the best they can but I as I say I take a little extra care.
Do you find it a comforting place to be?
Or a painful place to be?
Well again it’s mixed, mixed emotions, comforting at least it’s a sign that he’s there, his name’s up there, but painful that he’s there and not with us in life.
Rachel wants to change her mothers headstone so that her mother is remembered in a positive...
And you said that your mum was cremated. Did you have any special place for her ashes?
No, she went to the cemetery near, sort of near where we lived and near where my dad’s parents are. Which again in hindsight, I think, I don’t know, because she wasn’t from there, but they probably, you know, had her ashes there because it was closest to where we were. And I don’t know how quickly dad got a headstone. There’s a headstone there now which I’ve been meaning to change for years because we, none of us like what is on the headstone. Because dad had the headstone engraved with “such a tragic ending” and I remember thinking, “Well, actually, I don’t want that to be anyone’s, you know, impression of mum.” There were a lot of good things and I thought, “Why focus on what happened at the end?” So a couple of years ago I got, I got loads of information about gravestones and, and tried to get the headstone redone and, you know, just tried to think what we could put on it. But it’s amazing how apathetic my brother and sisters are. You know, they’re all very, they want to do it, but they’re quite happy to let me do it. So as I say I haven’t done it yet. But I’d like to get it changed.
You say it’s in Cheshire?
It’s in, yes, it’s sort of near where my dad lives, where, where we grew up really. So I don’t actually go very often. I used to go, but I found it quite upsetting. I don’t actually get a lot of comfort [from going there], I know some people get a lot of comfort from going to a grave, maybe because it doesn’t say anything particularly positive about mum on the stone…
Looking back, as teenagers, would you like to have been consulted, do you think, about what was going to be on the gravestone?
I think definitely, yes. Because I think, you know, it was, mum played such a big part in our lives and I suppose it is, it is a permanent reminder of, of somebody. But I, you know, it, I don’t know, I don’t know if dad felt he, he, he shouldn’t consult us. I think, as I’ve said before, he’s not someone that speaks easily about his feelings. And, you know, that would have been quite a, a, I suppose a challenge to get all four of us to agree with what we wanted to say on the, on the stone. In hindsight it might have been better to just put mum’s name and then I think you, we could have gone back later on and, and, and had some engraving done. But, you know, I suppose that he just had to make a decision and do what he thought was right. And I suppose hindsight is a, is a great thing. There are an awful lot of things that would have been done differently.
When Rose died, Susan donated money to help build a school in Africa in memory of her daughter....
One thing I would say to anybody who, who has a chance to do something like this, I haven’t been to see what I’ve done yet, is to set up something in the person’s memory because it’s really worthwhile, even if it’s only … not just to give some money to a charity, but to do something even, even if it’s to buy a new desk in a school or something. (…) We’ve raised money for a charity, and it turns out quite by coincidence Rose was already involved with the building of this school in Africa, run by someone called Grace, who has set up a place for girls and women who’ve been abused and left with children. And in Rose’s memory they built a loo block, and a teaching block and a covered playground. I think that’s a great thing to do. As yet I haven’t got her head stone or anything. I’m going to because she must be marked.
Where will you have that?
Well probably against what I would do but what she would like it’ll be in the church yard.
Hmm. And by the way there was a wonderful charity called Memorials by Artists set up, working from Snape in Suffolk, set up specifically for people who’ve lost children. It’s memorials for young people. And you design your own memorial and it’s made and you can put in it … it’s totally a-religious, and set up by someone who didn’t know what to do for her stepdaughter who killed herself.
Last reviewed July 2017.