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William - Interview 18

Age at interview: 48
Brief Outline: In 2005 William's 15 year old daughter, Lauren, was crossing a motorway and was hit by a lorry. She died almost immediately. William felt anger and guilt for not being able to protect her. He still misses her very much indeed.
Background: William is a Health and Safety advisor, for the fire service. He has 2 children (1 died). Ethnic background/nationality: White British.

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In 2005 William’s daughter, Lauren, was returning from the city, where she had been rehearsing A Night of Shakespeare, with a school group. She was 15 years old. The teacher and the bus driver allowed her to get off the bus at an unscheduled stop. She tried to cross a motorway and was hit by a lorry. She died almost immediately.
 
As soon as William heard about the accident on the radio he phoned home and was told by a policeman that Lauren had been involved in the accident. William was told to go to the hospital. There he was told that Lauren had died. He met Lauren’s mother and they were both taken into the hospital mortuary to see Lauren. Later there was a post-mortem, and then Lauren’s body was brought home to the house. She lay in an open coffin for a couple of days. There was a church funeral, and then Lauren was buried in the churchyard, next door to her old primary school.
 
William felt strong emotions, including shock, guilt and anger. He wished he had collected Lauren himself rather than letting her travel home by bus. He also felt angry with the bus driver, the teacher and the lorry driver.
 
William has had some informal counselling, and he has also attended a weekend for other bereaved parents, organised by Care for the Family which he found helpful. William has also searched the internet for information about life after death. He believes in the notion of consciousness independent of the body and a transcendent realm, and a continued existence after death.
 
The police did not think that any laws had been broken and so did not start any criminal proceedings. The inquest was held in November 2005. The coroner decided that Lauren had died due to an unfortunate accident.
 
The legal representatives for the school, the bus company, and the lorry driver, all resisted taking the blame for Lauren’s death. William found it very hurtful when they suggested that the accident might have been Lauren’s fault.
 
William says that he has now accepted Lauren’s death. He wants other people to remember her, and finds it hard when people seem to forget about her. He talks to the media on behalf of the road Charity, Brake, in order to prevent other road deaths. He finds it helpful talking about Lauren because he is proud of her and what she achieved. William also finds it helpful to take an interest in activities, such as acting, that Lauren was interested in. He revels in things that remind him of Lauren.
 
William was interviewed in 2008.
 

William heard on the radio news that a serious accident had closed the road. He phoned home and a...

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Lauren was an outstanding actress, and she used to enjoy acting, singing, dancing, generally performing, and she was selected to participate in a specific event in 2005 called A Night of Shakespeare, and on that particular day her school was taking her to the city to rehearse, for A Night of Shakespeare, and that was on the 21st June 2005. And rehearsals progressed throughout the day, but the party began to run late, and she was returning from the city towards her home town, around an hour later than was anticipated and I think she began to worry that she was going to miss her connecting bus and so she asked the teacher, who was in charge of the group, if she could get off at a location that would have brought her back home slightly earlier. And that was at the side of a motorway. And the teacher just referred her to the bus driver, and whatever the bus driver and Lauren said to each other I don’t know, but it resulted in the bus pulling to the side of a motorway, and Lauren disembarking. And the bus drove off, and she attempted to cross I guess four lanes of traffic, and she made it across three lanes, but when she tried to cross the fourth lane she was hit by a lorry, traveling at between 50 and 60 miles an hour. And a later inquest stated that unconsciousness was almost instantaneous and death would’ve followed shortly thereafter.
 
So around sort of 6pm on that day I was pulling into a petrol station near where I work, to fill up with petrol, and I just heard on the radio news that the motorway near Lauren’s house was closed due to a serious accident, so I decided to phone home to see if Lauren had got home safely before the accident. And when I got through to the house her mummy answered and said that there, there were policemen in the house and one of them wanted to speak to me. And so the policeman came on the phone and he said that Lauren had been involved in an accident, and he said that I should make my way as quickly as possible, but safely, and I said, “Right, I’ll head home right now.” And he said, “Well make your way down to the hospital because that’s where she’ll be”. So it took me around 20 minutes to drive to the hospital and you know it seemed like much longer at the time.
 
I’m sure it must’ve been very hard for you.
 
Yes it was, I could certainly feel the adrenaline working on me during that time, and I suppose I was driving fairly rapidly, but as soon as I made it to the hospital and parked the car and ran down towards the casualty department, I noticed that my father and my son were already there, and they were standing at the door of the casualty unit, and as I tried to make my way over to them to find out what was going on, a policeman took me to one side, and he said, “There’s no easy way to tell you this,” so that immediately triggered the thought that perhaps it was the worst possible news, and I said, “Is she dead?” He said, “Yes she is.” And I remember my initial response was that it would kill my father getting the news, because he’s very elderly anyway, but apparently he’d already been told, so he knew. 
 
 

William felt regret, and also anger - he believed his daughter, Lauren, had died because of other...

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There were two main emotions that were very near the surface, and one was guilt and the other was anger. And the guilt was firstly, you know the very obvious guilt that at her time of need, that the moment of the accident on 21st June 2005 that I wasn’t there to meet her needs. But also that earlier on that same day, you know, when I was getting her out for school that morning, normally I would hug her, give her a wee kiss and make sure I’d said bye-bye properly, but on that particular morning her brother woke up early and as she was leaving the house I was attending to her brother, and it was just a very quick cheerio, or “See you.” And so I didn’t really even get to say bye-bye properly on that morning, and I never got to speak to her again.
 
And so guilt for that, and guilt that I’d, for every time that I’d shouted at her, guilt for times that I’d raised my voice with her, not because of anything particular that she had done, but because I was in a bad mood.
 
Things like that. And the other emotion was anger. Anger that because of the actions of another individual, and in fact the actions of three other individuals, you know the bus driver, the teacher and the lorry driver, that my daughter had lost her life. And, it’s not that I was wallowing in self pity thinking, “Poor me”, you know, “look what lies ahead for me,” it was the unfairness to Lauren because she was a wonderful child. She never gave me any cause for being anything but proud of her, she had a lovely nature, she was very loving, and very well behaved and because of the actions of others she didn’t get the life that she deserved. And there’s unfairness with regard to her brother as well, because her brother lost a wonderful sister, and is now an only child, and that has taken him down a different path. 
 

During the inquest the barristers tried to blame his daughter for the accident and William felt...

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Yes, one, one of the horrible parts of the journey is that because Lauren’s death was caused by the actions of other people there is a civil case to be answered. And in civil law if the actions of others have caused something really nasty, whether it’s a nasty injury or a death, then one, you know, a party such as Lauren’s family can pursue a civil case against the parties who caused the death.
 
Where more than one party contributed to the fatality, you’ll find that there’s all these legal arguments and ducking and diving and it’s no longer about the fact that you’ve lost your loved one, it’s about money. And it’s about some, you know barrister saving his client two or three thousand pound. And so the reason why there were these legal representatives kicking about the inquest was that they, the school had a legal representative there, a QC no less, the bus company had a legal representative there, a barrister, and the lorry driver’s employer had a legal representative there. And during the inquest, which is not to attribute blame but rather to find out the facts, there’s all this ducking and diving going on, and basically the humiliation and extra hurt of each of these legal representatives basically saying, “Ah it was Lauren’s fault. It was Lauren’s fault. She was looking the wrong way.”
 
Did you have any legal representative there?
 
We had a solicitor there just, but when the legal, when our legal representatives, when our solicitor saw who was representing their side, they actually became quite intimidated because they said, “Oh if we’d known a QC was going to be here I would have brought a barrister for our side.” And so they actually felt very intimidated, but it was very, the way the inquest worked was you’re in very, very tight constraints, as to what, well as you know, as the bereaved person, what I as the father of the deceased was able to ask, was able to get information on, and so all the questions about, why did the lorry driver not see her before he hit her? Why did the bus driver let her off there? Why did the teacher take no interest? All those questions, they couldn’t really be fully addressed at the inquest.
 
Were you prepared for the inquest in any way? Did anybody tell you what was going to happen?
 
Well, informally I had some conversation with the lady from the Coroner’s office, on the phone. And they give you, you know, a handout a, a pamphlet about what happens at the Coroner’s court, but I don’t think I was prepared for it being so similar to you know, a High Court where someone would be tried for murder or something. And it was remarkably similar because I had cause to bear witness for the prosecution in a murder case previously, and it was remarkably similar, except.
 
So how did you, how did you feel about that?
 
I felt that when it comes to the law, those who implement the law and those who examine the law and test the law are fairly insensitive about people’s feelings and emotions, but I guess that’s just the nature of life. And certainly when it comes to application of the law, and the civil case, it’s not about truth or justice anymore; it’s about the letter of the law.  
 

After Lauren died William took his 12 year old son for a week's holiday run by Care for the...

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Did you have to seek special help for your son, because he lost his sister?
 
No he’s very strong. Oh he’s a great boy as well, he’s academically very good as well, and a lovely personality. Lovely person, a very loving person, and he’s been very strong. Now he bottles things up and that, that’s one of his ways of dealing with it is just to bottle things up, so, it’s very hard to get him to talk about the loss of his sister. And there’s some things that I’ve done with him that I wouldn’t have otherwise have done, like I took him on a special one week holiday, run by Care for the Family, and that I wouldn’t have otherwise have been taking him on, and very soon after the accident a benevolent fund that’s associated with my employer, you know, the Fire Service Benevolent Fund, provided a holiday to get us away from the, you know, the immediate aftermath of losing her.
 
That’s good.
 
And that was to Devon, and in ways it was a, it was miserable holiday, the benevolent fund was trying to all they could to make it better, but it was only, I mean they were trying to fix what couldn’t be fixed. And so it was a horrible time, but it probably would’ve been even worse if we’d been just at the house. 
 
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William believes that consciousness is independent of physical existence, and that it continues...

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Now, for myself, I have thought about you know matters of life after death and religion and so on to the extent that you know there are times I feel like I’ve tied myself in knots. And I’ve been through years of having zealous Christian belief, and then I’ve undergone times of questioning. And if there’s one thing that would make one question the fairly black and white ideas of the Christian Bible it is when, I suppose in very simple terms, something really bad happens to a really good person. And I’ve been you know, that’s one aspect of the suffering from losing your child that I’ll never be free from. And I’ll never know the answer to until I die myself, and if I’ll ever see her again, you know, if I’ll ever be with her again. And I can’t buy into the you know the very simple version of the bible story, given what has happened, and I do believe that there is a continued existence after death, and in fact I believe that there are certain signs, having, having spoken to other people who have lost loved ones, not necessarily children, but loved ones, there seem to be certain signs which are acknowledged as having some merit, that there’s a continued existence, you know I many sound fairly bizarre but interference with electrical systems, lights going on and off, that kind of thing, in the immediate aftermath of the death, and it would appear that there is a crossing over period of approximately about 7 to 9 days when there tends to be these signs, and then the signs go. There’s put forward that that’s because the crossing over is taking place into another realm. Now I have specific thoughts and beliefs about, that you know that sort of thing in more detail.
 
So what sort of spiritual belief do you have yourself, would you describe yourself as a Christian or?
 
[Sigh] I would describe, I would describe myself as so confused that I almost feel like a, feel like a fool to describe myself as a Christian. I believe that…
 
Did you say a fool?
 
I feel like a fool [laughs] to describe myself as a Christian because I’d probably be that, the notion of doing that would probably be dismissed by a traditional evangelical 21st century Christian, because my belief system would be more complex and complicated than you know a man with a big white beard sitting on a cloud with his sort of staff and rod, and visiting then you know his wrath on the inequities of the evil ones, and you know showering blessings on those who follow his path, because things don’t seem to work that way. Having said that, you know I do still have beliefs and leanings towards the purpose of Christ’s life and death and resurrection. I don’t think that I buy the infallibility, is that the word, of the bible, the idea that the inspired word, notion, doctrine, I believe that well, do you really want to hear about this?
 
Really. Mm.
 
I believe that the continued existence beyond the, you know our bodies, and the existence of God and so on, is a lot more scientific as it were and complicated than the fairy stories of the you know of the New Testament, well the Old Testament in particular, and I think that there are glimmers of understanding of the true nature of God and of the true nature of our existence, and the true nature of consciousness and a consciousness beyond the physical body. And what is described as quantum physics and quantum mechanics, in that quantum mechanics experiments have demonstrated that the classical physics notions of, you know, just there being material things and nothing more are simply wrong, they’re, they’re not right. And in fact experiments in quantum mechanics demonstrate that the classical physics notions of, you know, just there being material things and nothing more are simply wrong, they’re, they’re not right. And in fact experiments in quantum mechanics demonstrate that that there are behaviours amongst particles that are influenced by the observer of the particle, and that consciousness of itself perhaps create what we perceive to be the known universe, you know so it’s, it’s the collective consciousness of mankind that that creates the notion of you know all these sorts of millions of galaxies and so on. But the, the reality I think that, I don’t really have the intellect to get my head around, is that apart from the dimensions that we’re aware of, that is up and down, and sideways and across, and the fourth dimension of time, there are other dimensions that exist in the same space that we’re completely oblivious to, and I think there are quantum mechanics experiments that demonstrate the existence of those other dimensions. …And there are, I mean related theories of parallel universes and so on, that that every time there’s a quantum, quantum event there are new universes and new parallel universes and existences created. What it boils down to is that consciousness is independent of physical existence, and that consciousness lives beyond you know our physical demise. And so there is a possibility that I mean that, you know conscious beings, as it were reincarnate, I don’t know.
 
It’s a possibility, but certainly that, pardon me, in other dimensions beyond our understanding what tends to be referred to as the transcendent realm, that’s where the consciousness of our loved ones go. And in the Christian religion of course what the scientist refers to as the Transcendent realm, is called Heaven. In the Christian religion, what is referred to as consciousness by the scientists is referred to as the Holy Spirit. So, rather than me buying into to you know, the nonsense of Mr. Dawkins and his atheism or theism, I’ll buy into the notion of consciousness and a transcendent realm and if someone else wants to describe it as Heaven and the work of the holy spirit and so on, so be it.
 
 

William saw his daughter at the hospital soon after her death. After the post-mortem, two days...

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And so I asked the policeman “Was her body very badly damaged?” And he said, “No she’s not too bad looking.” So I asked could I see her, and the police and the hospital staff took me towards this room, I think it was marked, resuscitation unit, and her Mummy was outside the resuscitation unit already and so they took us in together, and there was the shape of a body underneath a white sheet, on basically a slab, , and right up until that point I was hoping that perhaps there’d been some type of mistaken identification, and that it wasn’t Lauren, and but then they dropped the white sheet from her head and I looked, and sure enough it was Lauren.
 
I’m so sorry.
 
Thank you. She didn’t look too bad, she had sort of a 2” gash, in this part of her head, exposing her skull, but apart from that she looked as if she should be alive, and in fact I put my hand on her leg and her leg was still twitching.
 
And did your son go and see her too?
 
No he didn’t go and see her at, in the hospital. He stayed outside the room, at that time, I think it was probably the right thing to do because he’d enough to deal with on that day, but when her body was brought back to the house two days later after the post- mortem he certainly went down and had his final moments.
 
You had her brought home?
 
Oh yes, yes, and in a strange way, you know there was a certain excitement about her body coming home. I think for, for the first number of days and indeed weeks, it doesn’t sink in that this person has gone forever. And so when the undertaker said that you know on the, I think it was on the Thursday morning, the accident happened on Tuesday it was on the Thursday morning the undertaker said he was bringing her home, it suddenly it wasn’t so bad, and it was nice to have her home and in her room, and , came the time of the funeral, and it was an all, it was, when it came time for the funeral it was with great reluctance actually that you know we were parting with her again as it were.
 
But the funeral was on the Friday. I remember that one, you know there was a couple of wee things happened in the lead up to the funeral, that are just awkward, but obviously it’s a very awkward situation anyway. Firstly, I mean this is, this was in the summer of 2005, and having an open coffin in the summer, by the time it was the morning of her funeral there was a distinct smell of death in the room, which was not pleasant. There was some relatives wanted to, who went to the room and see her, and others didn’t, and that’s fair enough.  
 

William decided not to touch his daughter’s room. Three and a half years after Lauren was killed...

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Were there any important practical things that you want to talk about, that you had to do afterwards?
 
What do I say, what do I say? Well, one issue is what do you do when, you know, with her bedroom obviously, what do you do with the room?
 
And again it helps to talk to other people. I thought that I was being a bit you know a bit mad, a bit loony to think that I really wanted the room left the way it was, and not touched, but I found out that, that’s quite common. And so three and a half years later her room is just the same as it was on the day she died. And I don’t know if that’s healthy or unhealthy, but it is fairly common. I know that other people who feel that when they’ve lost a loved one they have to clear the room out, you know make it a bare shell, give away all the clothes, all the possessions, and completely redecorate. If that works, then fine but I couldn’t at this point, I couldn’t entertain doing that, except for the eventuality of say the house changing hands. And all her possessions are still there. Now there is a gradual integration of her possessions, or some of her possessions with her brothers. You know, in as much as, you know if she had a MP3 player and her brother didn’t, then you know, but strangely enough there is a tendency with her brother that he’d rather get something that hasn’t been Lauren’s than take something of Lauren’s as his.
 
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William wanted his daughter's body to lie in an open coffin in her room until the day of the...

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And as a result of the post mortem activities, the face tends to have the appearance of bruising, which I wasn’t really prepared for until I saw her. So I asked the undertaker to put a wee bit more make up on her, and I figured you know cover what appeared to be bruises, then we’d be able to have the open coffin. So she was lying in her bedroom and then when it came for the time for the funeral, the undertaker arrived and we placed a few of her wee favourite nick nacks, her favourite CD, stuff like that in the coffin. And then they put the lid on the coffin and took it out to the hearse and we walked behind it.
 
 

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

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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.
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