Bereavement due to traumatic death
Informal support from family and friends
Family and friends gave an enormous amount of support to people after the bereavement, and in some cases this informal support was the only support people wanted. However, bereavement can lead to tensions and disagreements within families. Most people we talked to had also used one of the many other sources of support (see our other ‘summaries’ about ‘Professional counselling’, ‘Support received from Charities’, and ‘Religion and spirituality’).
Some people said that they preferred to talk to others who had known the person who had died. Tamsin, for example, said she could more easily talk to people who knew how important her brother had been to her. It also helped Adam to talk to friends who had known his brother Lloyd. Cynthia found that meeting her daughter’s friends and flatmate for a regular meal helped because they remembered so much from her life.
After Matthew died Tamsin spent the first week with her mother. Later friends allowed her to talk...
And my mum and I spent that entire week together My partner went back to work on the Tuesday but was there, you know, was on the end of the phone, but he didn’t feel that he could be helpful and he felt it was better that, that mum and dad and I spent time together. And then my dad, and I don’t know whether that’s a male/female thing but my dad went, went off for a while as well. Whereas mum and I felt that we had to be together the whole time. So I actually didn’t come home till the following Thursday, when I’d started to receive cards from people, particularly his work, because they had, the police had visited his work in an effort to find out his next of kin. So they knew almost before we did. And, of course, my friends, yes, and so, and then I came home.
And where [else] were you finding any support at this time? Your family, your partner, your friends, did you seek any sort of professional help at all?
No, I didn’t, no. I was very close to my brother throughout our life, there’s only 13 months between us. And we were very close and our parents had a somewhat erratic relationship [laughs].
And we supported each other through that I think and that’s one of the reasons why we were so close.
And my friends and my partner knew that, and obviously my parents. And whilst not every body can relate to it, because many people have siblings that they’re perhaps not as close to, it was easier for me to talk to people who knew how important he was to me and what a big part of my life he was.
But you had sleepless nights; did you go to your GP for some help with sleeping?
No I didn’t. I used some over the counter Nytol type things for a few nights. And self medicated a bit with white wine [laughs].
Because that was, that was enough. And talked and talked and talked and talked and talked and talked to my friends, that was so important. And they were so good because they let me.
And I tried, you know I tried not to be morbid. But it was very important to me that I could talk. If I had, if I was in a conversation where I would’ve usually told a story of my brother and I, it was really important to me that I could continue to do that without anyone freaking out, and especially me. So I did a lot of that, a lot of reminiscing about good times.
Yes. Do you like to talk about him and use his name now?
Yes I do. Yeah he’s still a very important person in my life.
Yes of course.
And it’s helpful for me when my friends acknowledge that by allowing me to do it.
It helped Adam to talk to friends who had known Lloyd and who could exchange memories about him....
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Did you ever look at the internet at the time for any form of help?
No I didn’t. I didn’t do a lot of; I didn’t really look for support groups. I didn’t do anything. My parents started looking at the Compassionate Friends and they were talking to me about, “Oh I met this person on Compassionate Friends website, who’s lost a brother” or something like that, “and it would be nice if you could talk to them.” But I just, I don’t know I mean I, I couldn’t, it just didn’t interest me in talking to other people because, because like I said, you know everybody goes and experiences their things, you know, everybody experiences grief in a different way, and they didn’t know Lloyd whereas my friends, Lloyds friends, they all knew Lloyd, they knew what he was like, they all had memories, so we could exchange memories and talk about Lloyd and that made me feel better than, and I don’t suppose I’ve really faced it, I’ve never really had to, but, so even now I can still talk about him and not get upset, but I find that if I do get upset people tend to they don’t, unless you’re crying and sobbing you can’t, people don’t feel for you. And that’s something that really annoys me, really, it’s very disheartening to think that people are so short sighted that they can’t see beneath, you know, they can’t read you enough to know when you’re upset.
A few people said that the knowledge that family would help if necessary, was all they needed. Support groups, or professional therapy, weren't what they wanted.
After Timothy died Matthew knew that if he needed any support his family would help him. He did...
And did you get support for your own sort of feelings of grief from the other members of the Bali Victims Group or not?
You’ve not met them have you?
No. I think that’s one of the reasons why, it sounds pompous, that’s one of the reasons why I didn’t really want to go down the line of counselling and support because I saw what happened to certain people when they had it. And, you know that, that is very much a personal view but people’s reaction to these things; reactions differ depending on what kind of people they are. Everybody deals with these things in a different way and I decided for me that I would deal with it myself and I don’t have any, I don’t have any regrets, but I’m sure that there were people who did need support. I have a large family, you know, it could be that knowing that you have a large family and there being the suggestion, or the latent suggestion that there’s support there if it’s needed, is sufficient to give you the strength that you need.
The family supported each other?
Exactly, which of course is the spirit of the family I suppose. I know that there are other people who didn’t have that kind of support network, didn’t have that kind of family, maybe were on their own, maybe were very angry anyway, maybe were that kind of person, who didn’t have that kind of support and would have benefited from it.
Nina got most help and support from family and friends. She went to see a psychotherapist but...
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Where did you find most help after the crash? Did you go to the..? You were in hospital so you had all the hospital treatment for your broken bones, but did you get any help for your feelings of trauma and stress and bereavement?
My family and friends.
I did go and see a, now what they call Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, but I found it useless.
Well, no, no, no; friends and family and, I’ve a wonderful son and daughter, the others live out of the country, my daughter’s been a particularly, been, been here in the house almost every day.
Oh that’s wonderful.
And my son is a doctor in Suffolk who has come when he can, when he could and did a great deal for a long time.
What happened during a session of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?
Well they just say these silly things that you know already.
They tell you silly…?
Silly things that you know already. Or get you to talk about silly things.
So that didn’t help at all?
No. There’s only one thing that would’ve helped, if they’d brought him back.
So it actually didn’t help?
It made it more painful?
No it didn’t make it more painful; it just seemed a waste of time. The time of a good psychiatrist.
After Adrian died Godfrey's friends and colleagues were very supportive.
What about the wider family, have you got…?
Yes, I’ve got five siblings, siblings, two sisters and three brothers, and it was the first time anything like that had happened in the wider family. And again it was a great inability to accept that this had happened, and Adrian was seen by them all as a really high flyer who you know was successful at everything he did. And then suddenly he’s snuffed out and very difficult for anyone to believe that that could happen so easily.
Did you get support from your local GP, did you need help with your sleep?
Yes, yes, and I think it’s very interesting how your colleagues react, I mean I had been a GP myself, in [the local town] for 30 odd years when this had happened, so I knew a lot of people, and I suppose when you say your local GP, of course I’m in the position of a lot of GP’s really, didn’t, didn’t really have a local GP, and I did have, have one but I had, hadn’t been seeing him so I didn’t really know him on the level of being the recipient of medical care.
But my, my practice partners were enormously helpful, gave me time off, and of course all my colleagues in the University department which I worked in, and I mean, one of the men who now is dead because he died prematurely, very suddenly, and who was enormously supportive, I remember he came, came several days after Adrian’s death to see how we were, and keep an eye on us, and so on, that was really, really, really great.
Did you get any help from others at that time? Did you have any counselling, was that suggested?
I think, and of course we had lots of friends and I think we relied on them heavily and lots of friends flocked round, and supported us. Outside my medical colleagues, I think it was our friends really who we relied on to help and support us, and many of them did that. But I don’t think there were any sort of formal agencies so to speak that we felt we needed to call on.
Pat was supported by family and friends as well as a Cruse counsellor. To keep herself busy she joined a knitting group and made new friends there. She found herself sitting next to another woman who had lost a son nine years earlier, and talking together helped both.
Dean's whole neighbourhood offered support after his son Andrew was killed. People they hardly knew introduced themselves and expressed their sympathy.
Sometimes the circumstances of the death meant that people got more support from friends than from family members. Shazia was only 13 years old when her friend was the victim of an ‘honour killing’. Her parents did not give her the support she needed but one of her school friends tried to fill the gap.
Shazia would have liked support from her parents after her friend was shot, but they offered her...
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Did you have any support from anybody at that time?
Just your other friend who you could talk to?
Just the other friend that I could talk to who was with me in the park at the time, yes.
How did she react?
She lived next door to our friend who had passed away. She was heartbroken, she was heartbroken, and but her mother spoke to her about it, her mother said that it was wrong, her mother comforted her, gave her the affection, gave her the love and a listening ear, whereas she was trying to do that for me, my friend, because I didn’t have that.
You had no comfort from your parents?
Not at all, no comfort whatsoever.
Family members were all devastated and so found it hard to support each other in the way they...
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It’s very very easy I think to often forget the Father’s grief, the brothers’ and sisters’ grief, grandparents. The whole emotional cost goes on like a ripple within a family and the normal support mechanism that would take place when one member of the family has a problem, we’d normally rally round to help that person, it all fragments because everyone is in the same terrible place in differing degrees, and for different reasons within the family structure.
Did you have formal counselling or professional help yourself?
I haven’t actually gone for counselling, before this happened to Westley I was very much involved in people that were experiencing addictions, and to some degree counselling other people, so I’ve really gone through doing my own analysis, I have journalled everything, from very early on I kept a day by day diary of my emotions, what was happening within the family, what was happening within the court process and so on and so forth, but I kept that for a two year period so that I could refer to it, but it’s the people that I’ve met very much through Victims’ Voice through working with as I now do with the with the police, with schools, with my local M.P. in campaigning to try and address some of the issues that affect families. That’s what’s kept me going.
Adam and his parents were devastated when Lloyd was murdered. After his traumatic death they were supported by friends and family members who brought cooked meals to the house. Adam said that the family really appreciated the meals and the thoughtfulness of friends who tried to help reduce the stress they were living with. Many others commented on the kindness of friends and colleagues who offered practical help, sent cards or flowers and planned new activities as support and distraction.
Last reviewed October 2015.