Kavita’s brother was 30 years old when he jumped to his death. He had been feeling suicidal for some time. Kavita felt ‘shattered’ and desperately wanted help. She had counselling with a psychotherapist and found that SOBS was a ‘lifesaver’.
Kavita’s brother was an intelligent man. He successfully ran the family business. In 2000 he told Kavita that he was feeling strange and at times depressed and suicidal. He did his own research and concluded that he had bipolar disorder. He consulted his GP and started medication, but did not always take the drugs. He continued working but still said he felt suicidal at times. He looked well and no one thought that he was seriously considering suicide.
Kavita’s brother became worse. His mental health deteriorated and he was voluntarily admitted to an NHS psychiatric unit. The next day he told the doctor that he wanted to go and look at the shops and would return that evening. Kavita tried to phone her brother during the day but he did not want to talk to her. She became worried and that evening she went to a hotel, where he had been when she phoned him. Kavita and her husband were met by the police, who told them that her brother had jumped to his death from a hotel bedroom.
Kavita felt hysterical and did not want to leave the hotel. She could not believe that her brother was really dead. After a while she went to see her mother, who was also feeling devastated.
Two days later, a coroner’s officer took Kavita, and her younger brother, and her mother, to see her brother’s body. He looked peaceful and did not look as though he had been through a bad fall. They felt calm but numb. Kavita was glad that she went to see her brother’s body because it convinced her that he was really dead.
At the inquest the coroner concluded that her brother had died by suicide. Kavita did not find the inquest traumatic. She found it helpful.
Looking back, Kavita wonders if she should have stayed at the hospital with her brother and not left him alone. She thinks that her brother should have been kept in hospital and not allowed to leave. However, Kavita knows that her brother was good at convincing people that he was well.
After her brother’s death Kavita felt shattered and desperately needed help and support. She rang someone from the mental health team, but was told she would have to go on a waiting list for an appointment with a counsellor. Meanwhile, Kavita went to see her GP and was given some anti-depressants.
Friends and relatives visited her mother’s house in a steady stream, as is the custom in the Punjab after someone dies. The visitors were tiring but were a form of support. When the visitors stopped visiting they felt quite alone in their grief. Kavita took two months off work.
Before the funeral Kavita’s father washed and dressed her brother’s body in the Hindu tradition. On the day of the funeral her brother’s body was brought home and lay in an open coffin. The priest performed rituals, such as anointing the body with oils and ointments, which Kavita did not like. Prayers were said and then the body was taken to the local crematorium, where there was a Hindu service. Kavita cried and cried. Later, her brother’s ashes were scattered on the river from a boat, as is the Hindu custom.
After her brother’s death Kavita found out about the support group, Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide, SOBS. She went to some of their group meetings, which she found a lifesaver because she met others who had also lost loved ones due to suicide. When she was with people who had not been affected by suicide she felt very isolated.
Eventually Kavita had about 20 weeks of counselling with a psychotherapist, which she found very helpful. However, she still felt depressed due to her brother’s death and from about 2001 she began to drink heavily. Kavita thinks that this was a way of numbing her grief. She decided to seek help for her drinking when she started to put on weight and when her liver began to suffer. She saw a psychotherapist, who suggested she contact Alcoholics Anonymous, which she did, and by 2005 she had stopped drinking.
Kavita still feels that she is grieving. Her brother is at the back of her mind all the time. She has a strong spiritual belief. However, the grief isn’t as strong as it was before and she has accepted that she must live on without him.
Kavita likes to talk about her brother but has found that some people do not like talking about suicide. She thinks that there is still stigma associated with suicide. Her mother says that some Hindu’s believe that suicide is a sin. However, Kavita does not see suicide as a cowardly act and she wishes that it could be discussed more openly.
Kavita was interviewed in November 2007.