A-Z

Bereavement due to traumatic death

Messages to others

People offered many different kinds of advice based on their experiences of having been bereaved by a traumatic death. They also stressed that people are all different and what works for one person may not work for someone else.

 

After Karen’s mother died in a fire she said that everyone deals with death differently. There is...

After Karen’s mother died in a fire she said that everyone deals with death differently. There is...

Age at interview: 40
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Have you got any message to other people who’ve been bereaved in a traumatic way like that?
 
Not really, I mean everyone deals with it their own way.
 
I think everyone deals differently, there’s no right way, no wrong way. You know some people get angry, others don’t. There’s no right way or wrong way to deal with it.
 
Have you got angry at times?
 
I did get cross with the council when I started getting invoices through for my Mum’s repairs.
 
Oh.
 
You know? Yeah I had loads of invoices turn up, ‘cos I obviously had to have my Mum’s mail re-directed.
 
That was a fight with Royal Mail because they wanted to charge me for the privilege. I said, “I’m not having, you’re having a laugh.” So I managed to get her post redirected, um, and no, I think there’s no right ways, no wrong ways. Some people will get angry. And all I can say to professionals is, you’ve just got to expect that they might just get angry. They might lose the plot through frustration. You know.
 

Linda said that there is no template on death; people have to find their own way forward, whether...

Text only
Read below

Linda said that there is no template on death; people have to find their own way forward, whether...

Age at interview: 52
Sex: Female
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I’d just like to say that there is no template on, on death, on sudden death, on death of a child, that you’ve just got to find your own way forward and if I’ve helped in any way with an alternative way of getting through then, then it’s worth doing this interview.
 
And I just think you have to find your own place. If you’re religious you have to go to your church. If you’ve got close family and friends support network you go to them. If you’ve got a higher belief like I have you go more into them.
 
And you just heal your own way, in whatever way that you feel that you can. But nothing’s easy and you do feel, I wouldn’t say that I feel like a limb has been wrenched from me, but I feel like a quarter of my body is missing. It’s almost like when you have an amputation and you can still feel the leg. I still feel that I will forever put Kevin’s name in cards. I can’t ever see myself just putting my husband, myself and three children. In fact I’ve done it since he’s died and we just put stars. Round his name.
 
And, and I think I’ll always do that and he’ll always be included. And I think you just have to do this. Some people want counselling, some people will find self-helps groups, the Internet, books and I think you just have to find your own way. And I suppose the good thing about what you’re doing here is you’re giving people the choice, you’re giving them options, maybe things they haven’t thought about, you know, as ways to deal with it.

Some people felt quite strongly that after someone dies it is important to express one’s feelings.

 

Dolores said that although it may be hard to express emotions it is vital to bring them to the...

Dolores said that although it may be hard to express emotions it is vital to bring them to the...

Age at interview: 54
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Have you got any message for other people who are bereaved in this terrible way?
 
[Sighs] Just not keeping anything inside. How much, I don’t’ know, I know it’s hard to bring all the emotions out to the surface but I think it’s very important.
 
…to let the emotions go whenever they overwhelm you, let them come out. And not keep anything inside. I’m a great believer that suffering makes one ill. And the more we keep inside the more ill we get. I don’t know if I’m with all of the emotions I’m bringing out, I still may have something so deep buried in side me that I can’t bring it out
 
…you know. And, you know, seeing how shock can affect people, you know. My partner had a shock, this is a second shock after losing two children...
 
…he ended up with appendicitis in hospital. So that was the way his grief was manifested.
 
You know, it came out in a huge reaction in his body. And, you know, he knows exactly when it happened. It was after Tom. And I just think no matter how hard it is, it’s got to come out. And also, the way I speak about Tom, sometimes it’s very hard but when I start, I start speaking, I say, “Oh, I’ve spoken about him”. I continue. I don’t stop. And I talk to everyone and anyone who wants to listen.
 
So it’s very important to let the emotions out.
 

Michael discovered that he felt better after he allowed himself to cry and he suggests that...

Michael discovered that he felt better after he allowed himself to cry and he suggests that...

Age at interview: 52
Sex: Male
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Have you got any message for other people who’ve been bereaved in a similar terrible way?
 
My message would be to, as I said, to let your feelings out, and do talk. I think it worried my wife, the fact that I didn’t talk about Lewis, I hid it all the time, and you know, and a few times she’d pull me up and say, you know, “Why don’t you talk about Lewis?” And it was, it was too hard to talk. Because I didn’t want to let my wife see me crying, because I wanted to be supportive to her, and I thought if I cried I was letting her down. So I would say to anybody if, just let your feelings go, it’s so, I mean despite how long you cry for you do actually feel better afterwards. 

Alison said that it is important not be too sensitive to what other people might say. People may say things, such as, “I could kill for a cup of tea”, and not realise that such remarks can seem insensitive to those who have been bereaved due to murder or manslaughter.

Planning the funeral can be daunting. Josefine and her husband started the Natural Death Centre, which offers telephone advice. Josefine said that there are actually very few rules about how the burial has to be handled (see ‘The funeral or commemoration’). She compares natural death to natural birth and says that while professionals may help they don't necessarily know better than the bereaved. Elizabeth also felt that we ‘sanitise death in this society’ and may regret it if we allow professionals to take over the funeral.

Many people suggested that after a traumatic death it is important to talk about the death, allow yourself time to grieve and to seek help in one way or another.

 

Shazia was bereaved when she was still at school. She said that it is essential to talk to others...

Shazia was bereaved when she was still at school. She said that it is essential to talk to others...

Age at interview: 28
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Have you got any message to other people who might bereaved in this way, in a sudden manner like that?
 
I would say to somebody who is suddenly bereaved that please, please do your best to speak to somebody, somebody close to you, somebody even a teacher, anybody that you can find some comfort in or sharing what you’re feeling and that burden, if there’s any burden. Or anything that you’ve been involved with that person in order for you to receive some support some intense support and not carry this around with you for a number of years, it’s very difficult. I’m sure there is always somebody out there that hear and support and guide you, if you’ve been through something like this. Definite. 
 

Pat was gripped by shock after Matthew died and couldn’t weep, which she learnt was a common...

Text only
Read below

Pat was gripped by shock after Matthew died and couldn’t weep, which she learnt was a common...

Age at interview: 62
Sex: Female
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
So I would say to people who can’t understand, as I couldn’t understand, I could not understand why I was dry eyed and, and functioning in a normal way and looking like the normal person I’d always looked like all through the months following my, my son’s death, through the funeral, through all of those things. And I began to wonder, “Was I a person who didn’t have a heart”. And yet I know that that’s, that’s not true, but it is shock. It’s shock that holds us in a, a, a rigid case and holds us together and I guess there’s a reason for that, so that in small doses we can, shock can weaken its grip and we can start to really experience the reality of, of what’s happened. So I guess it’s, it’s a normal reaction but I would reassure people who wonder maybe about themselves that it…
 
So have you got a message for other people, who are in that situation?
 
…I would really recommend a skilled counsellor, talking to somebody who’s, who is skilled. An informed witness I think they call counselling. And that is so important.  
 
 

Pat points out that people need to cry and that crying can release emotions. Although she couldn...

Text only
Read below

Pat points out that people need to cry and that crying can release emotions. Although she couldn...

Age at interview: 62
Sex: Female
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
And I would, I would say to people, I’d want to say to people, because I think a lot of people are in this similar situation, we’ve, we’ve been taught as children, the first thing your parents and other people, well meaning friends, say is “Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Oh, don’t cry.”
 
 “Oh, please don’t cry.” And we take this message on board and yet we need to cry. It is a natural need. We need to cry. It’s an expression of our grief and our sorrow and our sadness. And I have never been able to cry as much as I’ve needed to but this year I have cried an enormous amount. I’ve cried every day.
 
And I’ve learnt what release there can be in crying. And I’ve learned a lot about trying to honour myself and my feelings which I’d never done before. So I’ve learned a lot through the experience of my son dying. And I just have to try and be thankful for those things there are to be thankful about. And maybe that is one thing to be thankful about. 
 

Lisa was in despair after her friends were murdered and at times felt suicidal. She recommended...

Lisa was in despair after her friends were murdered and at times felt suicidal. She recommended...

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I found the Samaritans were the best at, at that [offering support] you know. They would phone back.
 
Did they call you on a regular basis?
 
No. No. If I’d called them and said, “Look I’m feeling like this. I don’t know if I’m going to stay alive today”, they’d stay on the phone for, for as long as it took, even if I was just sitting there being quiet, not saying anything [laughs].
 
They’d just be quiet with me. They’d just sit there with me.
 
That was good.
 
And they would phone me back if, if they thought you know, give her an hour. Give her you know, phone the next morning or you know. They would phone me back [laughs].
 
Do you have any message for other people who’ve been bereaved like you?
 
Just hold on. Let it out anyway you can, whether it’s writing it down, screaming, punching pillows, just drawing, going into the forest. Just find a way of letting what you’re feeling out. Don’t bottle it up. Just let it out in a safe place. And phone the Samaritans if you ever need to, honestly.

After Tamsin’s brother died she went back to where she used to live, and roamed the fields where she and Matthew used to walk the dog. She said it brought her peace of mind and she suggests that after a death others may benefit from doing equally illogical and sentimental things.

Tamsin found it exhausting when other people, such as friends or colleagues, poured out their own grief about her brother’s death, and told her what he had meant to them. She recommends that after bereavement it is important not to spend too much time and energy comforting others. On the other hand William pointed out that other members of the family may need support and that they should not be forgotten. He recommends that people support each other and talk to each other about what has happened.

 

William said that after bereavement it is important not to wallow in self pity and that other...

William said that after bereavement it is important not to wallow in self pity and that other...

Age at interview: 48
Sex: Male
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Have you got any message for other people who’ve been bereaved?
 
I suppose one of the, one of the messages I would have is that they’ll get all sorts of , they will see in some people the best in humanity and they’ll see in others the worst in humanity, and I suppose trying to be more philosophical about it now than I was three years ago, so when people are being insensitive and people are saying stupid things like, you know “It’s been two weeks now, I’m sure you’re feeling better,” it’s not that they’re horrible people, it’s just that they’re silly because they don’t understand. And I think that on balance, although it’s not for everyone, I think it does help to talk to others who have been similarly bereaved, because I think it’s very important to know that you’re not the only one that’s going through the emotions that you feel. And in fact when you get to speak to someone who is maybe a few years further down the road, having had a similar experience, you find that it’s really quite predictable the, the different stages that you will go through. There’ll be the anger, there’ll be the feelings of guilt, there’ll be the you know, the feelings that life’s not worth living, that you know what lies ahead is going to be a living hell, a living nightmare for the rest of your life. But then you realise that because there are still those that you love around you and there are others that you know that you love that you have to take into account, you mustn’t wallow in self pity, and that that you must be careful not to you know fall into that trough of “Oh poor me,” you know, “Why am I having to go through this.” You know, that you really do have to pull yourself together, give yourself a kick in the backside and say “There are other people here that need you, get up and get on with it.” You know?
 
I remember reading in a book about bereavement. A family of, you know, a husband, wife, two children, had lost one of the children through an accident and the remaining family each felt that they were in a boat, small boat on a huge sea with giant waves, and that the waves were never going to stop. And that unfortunately the three of them weren’t in the one boat, each individual was in a different small boat, and couldn’t help the other two, because they each were suffering their own pain. But I think it’s a very, very important that as soon as possible you realise that the other loved ones you have that are in their own boats, going through their own pain, need you know, need each other, yes.. And even if it’s only within the family you need a wee tiny support network, you know, so that you can be that crutch for you know your partner, or your sibling, or your other child to prop them up, and they can be that crutch for you whenever it’s you that needs to be propped up. And the worst thing would be to completely isolate yourself and shut yourself away in a room, and you know close all lines of communication even to those you love most.

After a sudden traumatic death bereaved relatives may be desperate for more information about what caused the death and they may feel that they need professional advice to get justice for the person who died.

 

Cynthia’s daughter was killed on the road. She said that bereaved relatives may have to ask...

Cynthia’s daughter was killed on the road. She said that bereaved relatives may have to ask...

Age at interview: 64
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Have you got any message for those who are bereaved?
 
And that is to be equipped to fight your corner. Because you can’t assume that everybody who has a job in relation with your bereavement is going to do their job well with your interests at the centre of their job, sometimes that doesn’t happen. And you may have to ask questions, demand information, ask for information on procedures and ask for your rights in that situation, so be equipped to do that, don’t, don’t be shocked or frightened by it, just look for the information, ask for the advice, get what you need to know and fight your corner. Sadly you may have to.
 

Dorothy’s son died in an industrial incident. She said that in a similar situation the family may...

Dorothy’s son died in an industrial incident. She said that in a similar situation the family may...

Age at interview: 65
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Have you got any message for other people like yourself who are bereaved because of some industrial incident?
 
Yes, I would say don’t think that the police or the health and safety or the Crown Prosecution or whatever, that any of these official departments will be on your side, or will act for you, in your best interest. I think you need to get the strength of your own people around you, a good solicitor, and if it’s an industrial incident, the Centre for Corporate Accountability, and like myself, the Compassionate Friends, where you know, if it’s a son or daughter, are wonderful. And you just have to fight, you have to battle and fight to get justice. It will not come easily.

Views differed on whether time really is a ‘great healer’. Ian knows people who are as bitter today as they were a decade ago and believes that the experience differs greatly. After the Bali bombing Jocelyn saw how different families dealt with their loss in different ways; he concluded that it may require a conscious effort of willpower to move on and not get ‘stuck’ in the trauma of bereavement.

Martin was devastated after his wife was killed by a bus. Two years later he thought that the passage of time had not made him feel any better, but he said that after a while he understood that at least he wasn’t going mad. However, others, such as Stephen and Peter, thought that their feelings had got less painful as the years passed.

 

Nearly three years on Stephen found that his pain had become more bearable. He found some kind of...

Nearly three years on Stephen found that his pain had become more bearable. He found some kind of...

Age at interview: 49
Sex: Male
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Have you got any message to other people who might be bereaved in this way?
 
Well, probably the one that everybody tells, everybody else, time does help. It’s not a healer, I mean, it doesn’t make you forget…
 
…but it, time passes, it makes it a little more bearable and you can start to get on with some kind of normality again in your life.
 
So I know what it’s like, you’re just laid there in bed, just the thoughts of your loved one all the time running through your head. You don’t want to get up, you don’t want to go to sleep. You don’t want to eat, you don’t want to drink. You feel as though your life’s over. But all I can say is hang on, it will get better. I’m testimony to that.  
 

After Tim died Peter found that he could take only one day at a time. He recalls what a lovely...

After Tim died Peter found that he could take only one day at a time. He recalls what a lovely...

Age at interview: 60
Sex: Male
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Have you got any message to other people who have been bereaved like yourself?
 
It gets easier as the years go by. I can live my life from day to day now, when, in the early days, one or two people would commend me about the way I was handling it and asked how I coped and the answer was you don’t cope, you can’t cope you just manage day by day really. And the days number into each other and it’s a week and it’s two weeks and it’s a month and then it’s three and six months and a year goes by, but it’s still such a terrific loss, you’ve got to handle the fact that you’ve lost so much, you know, and you have to try and equate yourself with what you’ve got now and something someone said was that we move forward, we’re not moving back. So we shouldn’t look back, we should look forward, which is easier said than done, but it is a fact that there’s always light at the end of the tunnel I suppose and it is a bit of a tunnel. And there’s no way of getting round the fact that you’ve suffered the most horrendous loss and you have to get to grips with how you move forward, you can only take one day at a time. We’ve all normally got other responsibilities that we need to tend to and we have to tend to them.  I think of Tim and I pray for Tim and I try, and boast what a lovely lad he was  and he was a lovely lad and he was my boy, my little boy and he’s not with us anymore. Fortunately for us he achieved quite a lot in his life, he done things and saw things, he went abroad and he had holidays, he was an accomplished musician and he was a sportsman, he enjoyed his night life, often wasn’t in until after three in the morning, burnt the candle at both ends and enjoyed his life terrifically. So personally I’ve lost him in the best possible way really knowing that what time he had here he enjoyed and he done well and he left a very good impression of himself.

Julie suggested the bereaved should try to remember people as they were and not the horrible way in which they died. Angela said that it is important to continue living and that the deceased friend or relative would not want their death to ruin the lives of others. Carole also said that the dead would not want people to sit hour after hour crying. She said that although it’s not easy, people should still try to enjoy themselves. Nina advised others to try to find something to enjoy every day. 

After a traumatic death some people drew great comfort from helping others and by creating a memorial to the person who had died (see ‘Memorials, websites and headstones’) People wanted to pass on the message that people bereaved by death can help themselves by helping others to survive a traumatic death, and by trying to prevent other traumatic deaths (also see ‘Adjusting to life without the person who died’).

 

Patsy found help by talking to God. She suggests that people find comfort for themselves by...

Patsy found help by talking to God. She suggests that people find comfort for themselves by...

Age at interview: 61
Sex: Female
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Well for me the way I dealt with my trauma was to go to the Father and I found it was beneficial to me. It’s not everybody who believes in the Father, we have a Heavenly Father that exists, but for me it worked, and it’s about giving to others as well because when you actually give to others, whatever it is, whether it’s time, money, or whatever you do, when you give, in giving you will receive. So it’s about learning how to give and who to give to and the appropriate time to do that.
 
So have you found comfort yourself by giving back to the community?
 
I have found comfort yes.
 
Yes I can see that.
 
Yes and I believe because we’re human beings, just because we’re human beings we need to, because they’re all other human beings around you and you look around the trees and the plants don’t talk to you, the dogs don’t bark, you know, I mean they don’t speak, bark, human beings we are all human beings on this earth and we need to learn how to relate to each other.
 

Ann suggests that people should focus their terrible grief into something positive in memory of...

Ann suggests that people should focus their terrible grief into something positive in memory of...

Age at interview: 57
Sex: Male
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Have you got any messages to other people who’ve been bereaved like you?
 
Well yes I would, I would say that the pain is the most devastating, I can’t emphasise that enough. To anyone that’s probably looking at pieces of information such as this one that we’re doing now, sometimes the person can look on the face of it, as if they’re coping very well, and I think that we should never be complacent about the possible psychological effects that that person is going through. And hopefully if I can get this message to any other family, any other mum or brother or sister or father, take each day minute by minute, hour by hour and day by day. And try to focus that terrible, terrible grief into something positive in the memory of their lost loved one. On the days when you feel you have energy to spare, try and take the hand of the next person. If we can all link in with each other through organisations where people that have experienced loss, as we have with Westley, that are able, and I say able because it’s not easy. I count myself as a lucky person that I’ve been able to take those steps up the ladder and be able to give a little bit of help to other people, but everyone can do it, not as frequently maybe, but we can all do it if we link in with each other and give each other some strengths on the days when our strength is perhaps waning a bit.
 
Because it doesn’t matter how strong you are, maybe for six days of the week, on the seventh day you may be, you know, a little heap in the corner, so, don’t ever think that if you have those days, and they’re quite frequent, that you’re failing your loved one. It’s just the process, it’s just the way it is, and the next day maybe a different day, and you know we all, we all have to go through it, and we all can go through it, but we all have different ways of doing it.  

Matthew said that although there is a lot to deal with after a traumatic death, it can sometimes help the grieving process to focus on practical issues first. He said that it is also important to accept that there has been a major change in your life and find a way to adapt and accommodate it.

Last reviewed October 2015.

donate
Previous Page
Next Page