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Interview 12

Age at interview: 59
Brief Outline: In 2005 her 21-year-old son sadly died in ICU. She focuses as much as she can on remembering the good memories they shared.
Background: Housewife, married. Ethnic background/nationality: White British.

More about me...

Her 21-year-old son had Bipolar Disorder, which used to be called manic-depression. In 2005, when he was severely depressed, he took an overdose of tablets. She and her husband waited in Accident and Emergency for almost nine hours, not knowing anything about their son's condition while the medical staff treated him. This was an extremely difficult time, waiting and not knowing what was going on. Her son was admitted to ICU later that night and sadly died ten days later.

While he was in ICU she and her husband stayed overnight at the hospital almost all of the time. Her son's funeral took place about three weeks after his death, following a coroner's inquest. Friends and family wore colours to the funeral as she and her husband did not want a traditional funeral. Her son was buried and she finds great comfort in having a place to visit him. She focuses as much as she can on the good memories they shared. She has also found it helpful to focus on helping other people rather than concentrating solely on her own feelings.
 
 

The day after her son died, she saw another patient in the same bed he'd been lying in, fighting...

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I went back to Intensive Care the following day after losing our son to collect his belongings. I actually took a few deep breaths and I actually opened the door of ITU that I'd been in for the last ten days backwards and forwards seeing my son in that bed. And when I got back that day, the following day, there was somebody else in there, somebody else fighting for their life. And I just suddenly looked at life in a different way, this is the other thing in the Intensive Care is that you are cocooned. That world and the world outside, it is a different world. You are totally and utterly in that room with all these people who are fighting for their lives and you don't see anything outside. And that's okay, that's okay at that time but when I went back the following day and my son's not there and there's somebody else in the bed, that is life for you. 
 

 

Some of her son's friends turned up at the hospital and, at that time, she found this difficult.

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So when your son went into A&E that's when the neighbour phoned the people who needed to know? 

Yes. 

Did they come to the hospital? 

Yes immediately, I mean there was too many people really, they just couldn't believe it. And although it was lovely and supportive, it actually got too much. And I really thoroughly recommend that you just don't have too many people like that really round you. I don't know, some people act in a different way. So many of our son's friends, and a girlfriend that we didn't know too much about, arrived and it, although it was nice, it was a bit heart-' it was a little bit upsetting just seeing these young people round us when our son was fighting for his life. 

I got mixed emotions really. I got cross that, here they were, you know, and asking a million questions yes to be helpful, but I felt like screaming at some times, you know, 'Go away, leave us alone, you're alive and our son is dying.' But you look back and now, as the months go on, you take a different look at it and you think they're so caring and they didn't, you know, they're young and they want to ask questions. But at the time you think, 'oh just leave me alone.' 
 

 

She gained comfort from talking to other people in the relatives' room and did her best to be as...

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Through that time in Intensive Care, in the relatives' room, I found comfort, tried to make my husband as well by talking to other people there. Other people, but nobody as young as our son, it was all older people, mothers, fathers. And we couldn't really compare but we became sort of like wrapped into them and they'd got us sort of through it and said, 'When he survives we'll all go out for a drink together, we'll go out for a meal together.'

But I think to be there, it helps to talk to other people that are there. There were several people while we were there that didn't want to talk, we felt that they were in the corner, but there was another couple I met who were very similar to us, and we involved them. We didn't actually talk about the actual incident, we were talking about other things and outdoor life. And suddenly these people came into our little you know not a gang but, you know, to be with us. And it was, they really didn't know what to say at the time but they came out and we all ended up talking about what they did for a living, and it, you know, they actually said to me, 'D'you know this has really helped me today.' 

'I've sat here and I've not spoken. I don't wanna pick up a magazine. I've been really down, but listening to how you're doing it.' And I'm not saying it's right, everybody's different, but I truly believe that if you can just try and hang on to the good times that you had with that person that you're losing, rather than looking at the worst time and when they're so very, very seriously ill or they are fighting for their life, if you can try and keep holding on and on and being more positive it really can get you through. 
 

 

At the time, she just wanted her son to live but now feels this would have been selfish because...

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I would've wanted my son back in any state, after all what he'd done, whatever medically, but I'm then selfish, would my son wanted to come back not being able to speak, not being able to walk, not being able to see? And all this was told to us under the medical team, that this could happen to him. He's been unconscious for ten days and the brain is a complex piece of equipment, and at the time I said, 'Anything, just I want him'. But you look at life so differently and that would've been very selfish because I don't think, in just me and our son, that my son would want to have lived that type of life. So you must not be selfish. 

You've gotta make the distinctiveness between that person has gone and yes you are very sad but to have them back on a condition that could leave them not the person that they actually were originally i.e. my son was completely normal other than having this dreadful, you know, his body functions everything was, you know, working. But after this happened, we were told that parts of the body weren't working, would he have wanted that? No. Not at all, not to be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, not to be able to see, not to be, when he's done all those things before. That's not to say that I would, somebody having a child like that from birth, that's a totally different aspect, totally different.

So again it's the selfishness of what I want and what my son would've wanted.
 

 

A nurse rang her at three in the morning and told her, once she and her husband were at the...

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It was over three hundred tablets of everything. He went even into tablets that had been lying in the drawer for over a year, stuff of my husband's and myself that he took all that. He was then taken to Accident & Emergency where, that was horrendous because that was, nearly five hours of the doctors and nurses not really telling us anything. 

I thought maybe his stomach would be pumped out but it wasn't. They had to know exactly what he'd taken, and one of the drugs was so dangerous and the amount he'd taken does affect the brain so very badly and, I, we were left in a room and it was only me kept going out and out and calling any doctor, nurse, you know, 'How's he getting on?' 'We're dealing with it, he's alright, he's sedated'. And then we were brought back in the room, but that was like five days not five hours, horrendous. The only thing at that minute that got me through it a bit was my father was in the opposite wing of the hospital, just had his stones removed from an operation and he was fine and getting through it. And it was just going to be with him in the others part of the hospital which whiled those hours away. 

And then I came back again and, it was, still we weren't told, by ten o'clock that night and this happened at half past one that afternoon. So you can imagine the time was horrendous. We were told he was going to Intensive Care and I thought, I had a relief almost as though he was going to be really taken care of because I knew the doctors and nurses would be watching over him all the time. 

That first night I think was really a blur. We stayed and we didn't go home, we stayed the night. And the next morning we were obviously just by his bedside. Through the time he lasted ten days but it was very, very rocky, very up, very down, one doctor telling us that he was going to survive. We had a big black cloud but the other side of the black cloud was the silver lining, and I gave, I really had hopes that this was wonderful. I thought, after about four or five days my husband and I got to know every monitor in Intensive Care. I knew how it operated. I knew what it supposed to be, I knew that what was registering was wrong, that my son was not doing as well as we thought. 

His heart stopped a couple of times and they revived him, and he carried on another couple of days. The day before he died we were told that he would pull through, but they were, we weren't to know whether he was going to be either any brain damage or certainly liver damage and we were warned, which was another massive step to take. The staff were wonderful I can't wish for a better place. The support was incredible. We chose to stay at the hospital rather than come home. Every time I came home I couldn't cope with being at home. I had to be near him. And other complications set in, pneumonia set in. And on the tenth day he gave up the fight and died. 

When they called us through the night on that tenth day they just very, very, the phone rang at three a.m. and you know, it's just your gut instinct. And I just knew that something wasn't right that they, I can't remember the words they said but it was, 'Would you just come to the hospital?' I think I thought to myself 'he's already gone' just because they were very calm when the nurse phoned us, and I'd really expected the worst when I got there. Yes it wasn't very nice but our son was still alive, just hanging on, but two of the drugs that were taken were acting really so terribly dangerous and there was absolutely nothing they could do. They'd done everything else, they had I think charcoal was put into his body at some stage that absorbed one of the drugs and it was successful. Another drug had come, completely disper

 

It was important for her and her husband to see their son not attached to any equipment, looking...

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The one thing I did, I had to, we had an inquest. I had to go and identify, and I never thought I could do that. And I did, and I'm glad I did because he didn't have any of the tubes in him and he looked absolutely lovely, absolutely lovely, beautiful skin, face, everything. He was just asleep, just had his eyes closed. A neighbour came with me, my husband couldn't come and, from that day, I wanted to go to see him every day. I then said to my husband, 'You must go, you have got to go'. And he, 'I, oh I can't, I can't'. And then he just went without saying anything to me, he just did it on his own and then I couldn't keep him away. He was there every day, right up until the funeral, he just stayed with him the whole time. 

Visiting our son every day was something that I think everybody should do it's, I think it's really important, really important, because once the funeral's here it's just far too late and you can't look back and say, 'I wish I'd done it, I wish'. It's not frightening, it's not nasty. It's just very peaceful and very lovely. 
 

 

Organising their son's funeral helped her husband focus on something. They wanted everyone to...

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He [husband] chose the clothes. He chose the jewellery. He chose the sentimental bits that our son had. I did nothing of that, I left it completely to my husband. It was his way of doing it and he never regrets that. And it's so important, so important. 

And how long was the funeral after, how many days after'?

Because it was an inquest, because of it happening at home, and because of the severity of it, it was nearly three weeks. But the funeral directors were the most wonderful people. We didn't want a grand affair, we didn't want any cars. We didn't want anybody in black. We didn't want the people, the mourners in dark clothes. We wanted them all to come in ordinary clothes and that was one thing that got my husband through it because there was a lot of planning to do. Whatever he wanted to do I let him do and let him, there was certain things he couldn't do so I would take over with the help of friends again. My parents just couldn't cope with any of it, they were really bad but being so busy, and I made myself so busy for those three weeks. 

The funeral was just beautiful, it was again so important that the way we'd done it, the way we didn't have to have all this, what I call very rigid rules and harshness, it was so lovely to do it and everybody came in bright clothes. There was yellows and oranges and greens and it was beautiful. The church was just, no expense was spared on the flowers and again it is so important, it's important to us and I hope that anybody else listening to this could really be inspired by the beauty of the flowers. It really does help.

Everybody has a different view I suppose about death and how you're going to, whether you're having a burial or a cremation and I think I wouldn't be the person to say, 'You've gotta do this, you've gotta do that'. You've gotta follow your heart. And all I know is the way we've done it I've got somewhere to go, I have got a place to go, I have a place to sit and I find great comfort. Some people can't do it, some people just can't visit a grave but, for us as a family, and it's very important because right up until the end my husband did not want this. He wanted the alternative and I just said, 'I feel that I know you so well. We've been together for so many years that the burial is the right thing to do for us as a family'. And he is so pleased we did because he just, has listened to other people that they've not had it and he feels that he would never have been able to cope with that. So he is finding the comfort now but it's taken a, you know, it's a long time down the, well, it's not a year yet but it's still raw to him at times.
 

 

She advised people to accept their feelings, not to burden other people with their grief but try...

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There are days when there is this black cloud. But it might be a song that comes on the radio. It was actually three days ago, I went into my son's bedroom and I hadn't actually noticed but his helmet from his bike was on the floor. And I just picked it up and I just went into complete, I was almost inconsolable. I was sobbing, holding this helmet and I thought, 'what am I crying for? Am I crying because he's gone? Am I crying that he should be here?' I really don't know but it was, it happened. It was good. I put the helmet down, I sat in his room for a while and I came out and I wiped my tears away. And I got on and I don't remember what I did but I didn't have any more to relate to that incident, and that is fine. Whatever you do don't ever hide it. If you feel that you have gotta let that out and you wanna, you have got to just cry. It's all very, you can't be this brick all the time. You have to let it go.

I do feel to keep occupied, to have a purpose in life, you know, whatever it is. A hobby is very, very, it can be anything , you know, I mean it doesn't have to be golf or tennis or swimming, I don't mean to be anything like that, but just have an interest in life because it's not doing anybody, yourself, or the person that you've lost any good by just sitting down and crying. And also you have to be careful when you're talking to other people that you make the same mistake by keep bringing the subject up because in the end you can lose friends by keep repeating yourself all the time about the person you love. They know that you've lost somebody. They know how close you were. They know that. You don't want to be in this situation but you are, so to keep permanently reminding that person all the time that, you know, 'I've lost somebody and what am I gonna do? And how am I gonna get through this? And how am I gonna cope?' Is just no good, they don't wanna hear this, the average person. And I do truly believe you'll get on in life better, you'll meet more people if you can be more positive because, even though you do meet different people through your life that don't know your tragedy, if you can just sort of skirt it and just tell them that's what's happened, they have a picture in their mind that you've had this person, you've loved them, you've lost them and by making another conversation with them you'll have a better relationship with the people.
 

 

Certain times of the year are especially difficult, including Christmas, New Year, Mother's Day...

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Because it happened just before Christmas it was a very, very, very difficult time, but for the rest of the family we tried to be as strong as we could. The worst possible time, and I would never hide that from anybody, was sitting at the table and having that empty space. That was really bad, it was a really, a really bad time. And I just don't know what to say to anybody to better that because it happened just before Christmas. We actually didn't do any cards, we didn't do any presents to one another, we just couldn't do it. It was a day that we knew we had to get through whereas it had always been a lovely time. We'd always had lots of friends over, Christmas Day was a big dinner time and listened to the Queen's speech but we didn't even do any of that. We tried to do so many different things. We actually didn't have the traditional Christmas Dinner. We all had our favourite food, which in a strange sort of way quite helped. So there was seven of us round the table and everybody had different food. And one of the things I must say about that was, instead of it being a traditional Christmas Dinner which is just one, probably the turkey and all the roast bits that go with it, because there was seven different meals, it's rather like being in a restaurant kitchen. So everybody's dinner was prepared and so you were busy, that's the way I thought would be good, so whereas my husband had a steak and I think I had a lamb chop, and so on through the family, it was cooked at different times, it was prepared at different times and actually we tried to make quite fun of it. We were trying to say, 'Oh this is what they do in the restaurant'. 

So Christmas came and went. New Year was a very hard time too, but the thing we did, we were with some very close friends and we actually didn't have the television on or the radio on. It was just another day, we didn't celebrate at midnight and I truly believe that's how we got through it, with these friends. It was a lovely evening but we didn't have the necessity, I felt only in my heart that I was leaving that year that I'd lost my son behind and I was going into a fresh year. I wanted it to be a continuation so that I still now feel that he hasn't gone in a different year, he's still with us somewhere. And that really helped my husband, it actually helped our friends who were very close to my son. They were the godparents, and they thought it was really nice so that's just a tip for somebody. 

Mothers Day and Fathers Day is another big hurdle and I think that will probably, will be with you. There's not a lot we can do about that. I'm not a very keen person on that I don't like, because it happens to be Mothers Day the whole world does it, why not have Mothers Day any day. Just because they say it out there and just because there's a lot of cards in the shop, I'm not very keen on that. So if you can try and get over that one, that's only how I dealt with that situation. Of course as yet I haven't had the anniversary so that's another hurdle to go but try and make it as a nice, remembering as rather than it being sad. Again try and take the selfishness out of it again. So there are hurdles, there are massive hurdles and there's no right or wrong from it at all. You have to just do whatever it, everybody again is different, but these are just some of the little tips that I could try and pass on to somebody.

And again, you know, we have Easter, everybody has Easter again, the Easter eggs, the cards, don't make a big thing about it. Just it's another day really, just another day, and if you can look on it like that and be thankful that you're just here for yet another day in your life.
 

 

She takes every day as it comes, and feels that other people have far greater problems than hers...

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I've looked at life a lot different and taken each day as it comes, whereas we used to plan quite a bit in advance, maybe a holiday for instance which was a nice thing to do. I live really now from day to day and if we do go away then it would be, 'well we'll go away next week or we'll go away tomorrow' rather than do it a year in advance because, you know, life is so short you just really don't know. And I try not to take things for granted so much. Until something like this happens in your life, you know, you do say, 'What? Why me? Why has?' But there are so many other people out there with much bigger tragedies than what us as a family, to us it's our tragedy, but you know, we've been through another tragedy with friends who have lost their husband, child and another one's maimed for life, that's the whole family wiped out. And life is like this all the time so I don't just think of me.
 

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