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Bereavement due to traumatic death

Memorials, headstones and websites

Everyone wanted to have one or more ways of remembering the person who had died. It sometimes took many months to decide whether and how to mark a grave or special place. It can take time for people to be sure of what they want written on any permanent memorial; after three and a half years Peter and his wife were still unsure. Planning a memorial can be particularly difficult if family members do not communicate easily or couples are separated.   
 
Some people had been told to wait a year before buying the headstone because the ground tends to drop after a burial. Others had already marked the burial place with a headstone, a sculpture, a plaque, a small flat stone, or with another memorial such as a bench or a tree.
 

Peter and his wife do not want Tim forgotten. One day they may choose a stone to mark his grave....

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Age at interview: 60
Sex: Male
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I don’t want, I don’t want him [Tim] forgotten. We tried to, we tried to run a bit of a charity with; the concert band do a memorial, do a concert every year, October at the local theatre, for charity. We lost him in the May, not the following October but the one after, because that was booked, they done Tim’s World, and they had a musician write a score called Tim’s World, we’ve got the score here signed by him, and we had a memorial concert, There were, 500 people attended, and we were hoping to make some money out of that, we made £160 for Break [the charity].
 
And we wanted to do something in his name, through the whole of the process, we wanted to do something in Tim’s name, we haven’t actually got a stone for him yet, three and a half years on, we’ve not really been in a place were we feel comfortable. It’s like one of the, one of the last nails in the coffin as it were, one of the blocks of stone and now the proper point of closure as it were, getting his stone, working out what to put on it, because once it is written in stone, you know, you can’t say it’s not and once you’ve written it, it’s there, you know, we’ve never really got to a point where we were happy enough to do that.
 
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The family put up a lovely headstone in memory of Michelle’s mother. They also commissioned a...

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Age at interview: 40
Sex: Female
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Did you have a special gravestone or plaque made for her?
 
We’ve got a lovely headstone and it’s got a little angel, sat like that, which is really nice, lovely words, beautiful words, and we’ve recently had a bird bath made with some lovely words on and put in the church grounds where my Mum used to go. So that’s nice.
 
How did you plan all that? Did, did somebody help you choose the stone, or the wording or the inscription?
 
The funeral director brought round some pictures so that you could look at like different headstones, different colours, and sizes and shapes and different types of stone, and also you can look at all the script to see which style of writing you like. And it’s quite hard actually because you want, you want it to be perfect and you want to choose exactly the right thing. But I quite enjoyed doing the words. I came up with the words, and you know cleared it with my sister and my dad to make sure they were happy, and yes.
 
So then do you ask the funeral director to organise that, or do you get in touch with the person that’s making it directly?
 
They do it. They gave, there’s a stone mason local, which is up the road, and they sort of liaise between themselves.
 
The funeral director does?
 
Yes, and the stone masons, but they’re very good. 
Most people felt comforted visiting the headstone or other memorial (see ‘Burial or scattering ashes’). A few said they did not need to visit a particular place because the person was with them in spirit.
 
When Cynthia’s daughter was killed in a road crash, people left flowers at the spot where she died. The charity, RoadPeace, now produces plastic signs, with a flower and the name of deceased, which can be left at the place where a person has been killed on the road. Cynthia’s daughter’s friends also created other memorials for her daughter. 
 

Cynthia’s daughter’s friends had a tree planted in the college grounds. After her ashes were...

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Age at interview: 64
Sex: Female
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Do you mind me asking what happened to her ashes? Are they there? Or did you take them somewhere?
 
No, we got, we got the ashes and most of them were scattered on the canal. In her last year at college my daughter was in digs with a couple who had a canal boat, and she often used to go on the canal boat with them. She loved being on the canal boat. So some of the ashes were scattered in the grounds of the college when her friends planted the tree there, the rest were scattered from the canal boat. We took a special journey, and they, the people that, this couple that she was in digs with, they had a special plaque made to stick onto the canal boat and they gave me a copy of that, which I’ve still got. 
 
 

Stephen’s family have erected a gravestone in memory of his brother, Tony. They have also made a...

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Age at interview: 49
Sex: Male
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And the do you sometimes go to see his grave now?
 
Weekly.
 
Yes. 
 
Our whole family, weekly we go and do flowers every week. 
 
Oh that’s nice. And did you make a memorial stone for him or anything that’s a sort of a memorial there, is there a gravestone?
 
He’s, he’s got a gravestone yes. 
 
Yes. 
 
We’ve also got a tribute in the back garden. 
 
Oh. 
 
It was nice before but my mother made it into Tony’s garden. So we’ve got flowers and his pictures along the fence. You know if… if for some reason, bad weather, we don’t go to the cemetery, then we go see him in the garden.  
Linda scattered her son’s ashes on the local Downs (see Linda’s account in ‘Burial or scattering ashes’). She has had a bench made in Kevin’s memory for a local park. She has also planted a couple of beautiful rose bushes in his memory, and she has spray-painted her hallway with aspects of Kevin’s life. She also has photographs of Kevin all over the house.
 
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The family have dedicated their hallway to Kevin. They found a graffiti artist who painted a six...

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Age at interview: 52
Sex: Female
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We’ve got a bench for Kevin. We, what we did is we felt that because we cremated him and because we scattered his ashes I didn’t want the Downs where we went to be a mourning place. I wanted a place that we’ve always been to and we always will do and when we went back there we were going for walks and obviously we’d probably particularly think of Kevin then. But we needed something more solid and because I’d chosen not to have him buried and I didn’t want, I didn’t want a place that I felt that I could never move.
 
So if we had him buried where we live I felt I would never be able to leave this. But I look at this place now, that it is a place where I’ve lost my son and that, that in time we’ll more than likely move away from here… And felt that I wouldn’t be able to do that if he was buried here. And I would have had tremendous guilt on up keeping his grave and that if ever over the years I let it go…
 
…but that would be on my behalf something that I’d failed and that I didn’t care for him any more. So we had a bench put in one of our local parks…
 
It’s a really good idea.
 
…and we had a name thing put on it. But not, not with a date that he died, or anything like that, just his name and ‘In loving memory’, ad for us to sit on and anybody else that chooses to sit on as they go by. And it’s in a lovely part and it’s overlooking a lake and it’s right up high so you overlook everything and…
 
And could you move that if you wanted to?
 
No, that’s there. That’s, that’s, that’s part of the park’s Trust now. But of course if I moved I’d just, if I felt the need to do it, I would do a bench in, in a new area.
 
But my hallway, we’ve dedicated to Kev. So because he was young we managed to get some professional graffiti artists in and we, they basically spray-painted my hallway with all aspects of Kevin’s life and, and plus a, a sort of six foot wall of his face and we come to that every day. But I have another daughter who hasn’t been able to live here since he’s died because that’s all too much for her. And my youngest daughter lives away from home now. So I just have my son here. 
 
And that’s kind of our way of, of dealing with it. And the other thing that I did that might work for some people and might not is because I believe this birth and death is constant and you’re, you’re constantly, you know, rebirthing and dying I went and bought a couple of really beautiful rose bushes.
 
But I went for their smell. I didn’t care what the title was, what, what they were named but it was really important that I had the smell. And I bought two, and I bought two beautiful pots. And they’re on my patio so that wherever I go now…
 
That’s a lovely idea.
 
I take my flowers and I watch them die and rebirth and die but it’s the same plant and that shows me that the actual essence is still there. It dies and re-grows and dies and re-grows and, and I’ve actually taken this time, because it’s, it’s the first rose if you like that’s come to the end of its cycle, a year after. And I’ve pressed the last one…
 
I’ve pressed. And, and I just think that that’s great because in the summer you sit out there and you have the smell, and that reminds me of Kev. 
Alison has online memorials for her children on two websites. It means a lot to her when people post messages on the websites. Alison also had a fun day for local children in memory of her son and daughter.
 
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Alison has created pages on a website so that others can share memories, light candles and leave...

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Age at interview: 37
Sex: Female
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I’ve got online memorial sites for them, which I find very helpful, although distressing when people don’t write something on there or light a virtual candle. I think they’re forgetting them. 
 
Is that on a particular site, like ‘Gone too soon’?
 
Yes.
 
Or something like that?
 
They’re on ‘Gone too soon’ but they’re also on ‘Memory of’ dot com. And that’s, that’s nice, you know. My mum and I are the ones mainly who post on there…
 
But every now and then some, for example my friends on their birthdays there’ll be a candle from them. And that means a lot. It is my horror that my kids will be forgotten.
 
Have you got any other memorial? You’ve got the online memorials. Did you have any memorial, at the churchyard?
 
Oh, at the school they, they attend, well, one attended and the other one was due to attend, they asked the kids what they wanted to do and they’ve they decided on the Rainbow Garden. 
 
Oh.
 
So the theme is rainbow, butterflies and sunflowers.
 
And the kids have designed the garden, we’ve raised loads of money for it. And it’s going to be an outdoor teaching area for them. It’s also a, a place for them to go and remember. And the kids do remember. 
 
That’s really nice.
 
You know, whenever I got here they’re all over me. They did a lovely service for them.
 
It was heartbreaking to see the, how much the kids were affected… 
 
People who had lost a relative in a mass disaster, such as the Bali bomb of 2002, sometimes helped to create a public memorial to the victims.
 
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Matthew's brother died in the Bali bomb in 2000. Matthew was closely involved in creating a...

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Age at interview: 48
Sex: Male
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You mentioned memorials; you’ve got this wood, wood, where trees have been planted.
 
Yes.
 
Is there a plaque there or anything?
 
Yes, there’s a small plaque there, and there’s a bench I think it’s you know somewhere peaceful that people can go if they want to. Quiet. And there’s also one in London on Horse Guards Road, which I was very closely involved with, with other people, because I’m a surveyor and the other people were architects, so we negotiated long and hard with heaven knows how many people. I mean I was going down to London twice a week probably for two years and we’ve got a beautiful memorial in probably one of the most prime sites in London, paid for by the Foreign Office.
 
Would you like to describe it, because I haven’t seen it?
 
It’s beautiful. It’s right outside the Foreign Office, at the bottom of Clive Steps, it’s on Horse Guards Road between St. James’ Park and the Foreign Office, it’s right between the Treasury and the Foreign Office and next door to the rear entrance to Downing Street, right by Horse Guards Parade. It is a curved wall, with, in the middle of the top, it describes what happened, and where and when. Underneath that in larger carving it’s got all the British citizens names, and then either side flanked is the name of every single other person who died, and in the middle of that, if you imagine that the curved wall is a quarter of a circle, imagine completing the circle and then the middle of the circle there’s a huge granite globe, a round ball that just sort of sits on the ground like it’s kissing the ground, and it’s got 202 doves carved into it.
 
How lovely.
 
Each one is different and hand carved and each one represents one person who died. So it is a beautiful, and I’ve been there several times, and every time I have been there, there have been people stopping and looking and reading it, and so you think to yourself well that was worth all the effort and…
 
I shall go and try and find it.
 
Oh it is, it is very moving and it’s in the most incredibly prestigious location, and perhaps that was my little project that sort of kept me sort of focused on things, in the aftermath, but you know we were dealing with the Foreign Office, the DCMS, Tessa Jowell we were dealing with, any other Government Department you can think of, and how many quangos are there in London? I don’t know. But you know quite apart from the, quite apart from the planning issues which were huge, we had to, we had to consult with I think 43 different interested parties. 
 

Jocelyn helped to create the memorial for all those killed in Bali. Ed’s brother made a film and...

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Age at interview: 65
Sex: Male
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…I think the memorial, in which we managed to get, I mean and in the most amazing place, I mean off St. James’s, in St. James’s Park on Horse Guards Road, right in front of the Foreign Office, under the Clive Steps, it couldn’t have been a more appropriate place, it’s a very beautiful memorial. All those processes I went through, and for me it actually marked a watershed, four years after the anniversary, opened by Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall, very graciously, who were always very supportive and he was always very supportive and thoughtful, kind, mindful of our predicament. Everybody got letters from his household. He, you know, and that event and that beautiful memorial that reminds people how young those victims generally were, it has the names of all of them, which is very good. It’s in a, as I say, it’s in a prominent place, and passers by can see it’s a sort of reminder of the dangers that lurk out in the world from extremism.
 
One positive thing that came out of this, I suppose, is that my relationship with my elder son, perhaps was not as strong as it had been with my younger one, improved, and we became very, very much closer as a result of this. He, he did, he did wonderfully, to put together the memorial service and to make a film, he’s a film maker, which is very moving, it’s a wonderful memorial and brings a lot of the themes of Ed’s life, and the life of our family and our friends together, and so you know that’s been of, that’s, and that’s some, and he now, he now has two sons, and you know, life goes on. But that’s been a positive thing but as I say, he’s fortunate, Ed, in the sense that he’ll never grow old, we’ll remember him, like James Dean or Buddy Holly. We certainly take him with us every day of our lives and so do a lot of other people, which is good.
 
Do you get a sense that he’s still with us in spirit as it were?
 
Oh yes, oh definitely, oh definitely yes. I mean there is a sort of finality in death, but definitely a spirit lives on and I don’t want to get into it, I mean you know we, we, we, we we’ve still got Ed around us, no question and it, and just not just me and the family, as I said he’s got these this immense body of friends and if you go to his website which I recommend anybody to do because it’s very interesting and very moving, and very informative, www.edwaller.com, I’ll give it a plug.
 
There’s about 700 tributes from various people who knew him, and they are fascinating and they are fun. And there is a lot of stuff from his brother and there’s things about him and a picture gallery. It’s a book, it’s great.
 
Have you taken comfort from the website?
 
Oh yes. 
Memorials can take many forms. Rosemary’s son, James, died on 7th July 2005 in the London bombing. A memorial is planned in Hyde Park for all those who died in the bombing. Rosemary has also created other memorials to her son.
 
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Rosemary believes that if people create memorials to those who have died something positive can...

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Age at interview: 65
Sex: Female
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And then you said there’s going to be a memorial for everybody involved?
 
Yes there is, but perhaps we can talk about something else I found really good which is, I thought personally we’ve got to do something to mark his life for him and what his employers did, they suggested it, not me, the Chief Executive and the Chairman suggested that they had an award in memory of him, which is to enable other young analysts to do research into health care basically, and that’s what’s happened, so since 2006 there’s been annual awards, with quite a generous amount of money to young people who work for that organization.
 
They do with research and I’m on the selection panel for it and so is one of James’ friends who happens to be a solicitor and I think they’ve done some amazing research projects and they’ve been given an opportunity to do something they wouldn’t have been able to do before and it’s in his memory and it’s on the website so that’s lovely. And also last year the university and my family between us are donating an annual prize in memory of James to the person who does best on one of the university courses called Islam and the West, which when I read about it I thought this is just the right thing to do. 
 
 
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Rosemary has also written about James in a Book of Remembrance, kept in St Ethelburga's church....

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Age at interview: 65
Sex: Female
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What about the Book of Remembrance is that. Where is that kept?
 
It’s kept in St Ethelburga’s which is in the City of London and the idea was and the people who organised that, they wrote to all the bereaved and asked them if they wanted to contribute something about the particular person, and I did and that’s another thing I found very therapeutic, I found it wonderful to write about James actually, in an honest kind of way. We all had to provide some photographs and things. It’s a fitting memorial, in fact it was very interesting because it’s also in the Museum of London and I have, I went to dinner with the Director of the Museum of London about six months ago and it was, it’s actually on display in a main area of the Museum of London and it’s being looked at so often, it’s tatty and that’s kind of, you know, really tatty, you know, and you think that’s pretty, you know, at least people are, the fact it’s in the Museum of London is fantastic because that’s in a way the heart of the history of London and I think it is part of the history of London now so it’s great that it’s in there. I must say that was one of the things I really wanted to do and thought it was really valuable to do it and it made me feel, writing about James, made me feel, yes it was good for me I think.
 
Did you have a sort of special ceremony in the church?
 
Yes we did, we had a dedication ceremony for it which was, I mean it was nondenominational, it was really just, yes I mean it was just a fairly simple ceremony with some, you know, words basically.
 
Has it been moved to the Museum of London permanently?
 
No, they’re just copies basically, they’re the copies in the Museum of London and the main copy is in St Ethelburga’s and will be permanently because it’s the Centre of Reconciliation, which I think is very appropriate actually, it’s a nice place to go, very quiet.
 
Can you look at it in the church as well or is that behind glass?
 
I think, I haven’t been in there recently, I think it may be in a cabinet, I can’t remember.
Dean’s son was killed by a car as he waited for a bus near to their home. Dean and his wife were supported by friends and relatives, and with help from neighbours and his MP and the former Mayor of London, they put up a bus shelter in his memory. It stands at the exact spot where Andrew died and has a plaque with his name.
 
Some people campaigned to prevent other senseless and traumatic deaths (see ‘Adjusting to life without the person who died’). Members of the family and friends set up the Tom Easton Flavasum Trust in memory of Tom. The aim of the Trust is to get the anti-knife, anti-gun message across to other young people.
 

The Tom Easton Flavasum Trust aims to try and prevent similar tragedies happening again by...

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Age at interview: 54
Sex: Female
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Do you have any spiritual belief yourself?
 
Yes and no. I don’t believe in a God. I just, I just believe there is something. 
 
…I don’t know… I mean a lot of friends around me have told me about his soul and his … I just…. What we put on his stone was “a shining light”. We had a sculptor. We… in fact that we brought a piece of granite from the Alps all the way to here in a car. 
 
Oh how wonderful. Yes. 
 
Because he used to like the place where my sister comes in the summer, [in the Alps].
 
And we used to go there and he absolutely loved it. So we took a piece of [granite]… by a river in the Alps. And we brought and had it sculpted by a sculptor.
 
That was lovely. 
 
And it just says, Tom-Louis Easton and the year. And “shining light” and that‘s all I think of him as. 
 
He was full of light. 
 
And then you’ve been involved in creating a trust in memory of your son?
 
Yes, yes.
 
Would you like to say a little bit about that?
 
Yes. The Flavasum Trust is, is what we created straight after the funeral by basically bringing together any form of creative any creative means to get the message, the anti-knife and anti-gun crime message across. And that could be theatre, music. And basically we are bringing people together that do that kind of thing already. Or we’re encouraging young people to do that kind of thing by facilitating. And by hopefully impacting upon their lives. Because everybody’s creative. And also because Tom, you know he was trying to help this guy. He didn’t know him.
 
I know.
 
But he just accepted, there’s someone creative out there, that maybe’s got a chance. 
 
And he was the first person to give anybody who had some creativity in him.
 
…give him a chance. And that’s why we wanted to do this and use creativity as a method of getting across the anti-knife message. And we, we’re doing well. We’re doing well.
 
You’ve been taking plays into colleges?
 
Into schools.
 
Schools.
 
And we’ve organised a conference called The Cultural Olympiad' Engaging young people through sports and culture, last year. And recently we’re coming together with some theatre groups, anything from comedy to interactive theatre. We still want to do some musical events. It’s hard work because we still have to live and work.
 
But we’re very, very serious about trying to make a difference. And we’ve come together with other families that have been through what we’ve been.
Jayne's work with the Zito Trust is a memorial to her husband; she did not want a plaque or other memorial.

Last reviewed October 2015.

Last updated October 2011.

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