Marion’s husband took his own life in 1996. He had taken alcohol and analgesics and died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Marion and their four children were shocked and devastated. They found support from SOBS, professional counselling and Noah’s Ark.
In November 1996 Marion came out of hospital, where she had been ill. Her husband, Graham, had been looking after their four children, who were aged between 10 and 22 years old, while she had been away. When Marion came home her husband seemed a bit tired and down in the mouth. Marion suggested he should go to see his GP or the local pastor, but he told her not to worry and that he would do something about it.
The next day Marion woke to find that Graham had left the house early. She phoned his work but he did not answer. During the morning a policeman arrived at the house and told her that there had been an accident and that her husband was dead. The policeman said he could not tell her how it had happened or when it had happened.
Accompanied by her two eldest children, Marion went to identify Graham’s body. It was only later that she discovered that it had not been an accident and that Graham had killed himself with some pain killers, some alcohol and the exhaust fumes from his moped. He had left a note, a copy of which the police gave to her three days later. The note did not explain why Graham had taken his life. Some time later Marion discovered that Graham had had financial problems and that in the past, before they had married, he had had mental health problems. However, she never found out why he had decided to take his own life at that particular time.
Marion returned to the house. Later, when her youngest son returned from school, she had the terrible task of telling him that his father had died. Marion and the children were shocked and devastated. The children felt confused, distressed and angry about what had happened. The school teachers were very supportive and helped her with the youngest child, collecting him for school and bringing him home.
The two youngest children also wanted to see their father’s body at the mortuary. The coroner’s officer stayed with them while they were there. He was very caring and helped Marion get through the ordeal of seeing her youngest son holding on to his dead father. Marion’s middle son was speechless when he saw his father and ran out of the room. However, Marion does not regret her decision to allow the children to see their father’s body. They asked to see him and it was their decision. She wanted to include the children in all the decisions she had to make about Graham. Marion took the older children to see Graham’s body again, after he had been moved to the chapel of rest. She wishes she had spent some time with him on her own too.
The funeral was arranged for a fortnight and a day after Graham’s death. Marion planned it with the children. There was a short service at the local crematorium, which was led by their vicar. Marion found the whole event horrendous. The children were devastated and cried and cried. Marion did not cry. The day seemed unreal. She felt stunned. She was still numb with shock. It was only months later that she felt she really needed a funeral so that she could grieve properly. After the funeral Graham’s body was cremated.
The coroner’s officer was very professional, helpful and caring through-out this terrible time. When he phoned he always used her name, told her what he was calling about and reminded her of what he had told her before. He gave her all the information she needed about the inquest and answered her questions.
Marion found the police much less professional and much less helpful. Many factors relating to her contact with the police made her feel upset. For example, instead of using her husband’s name the police talked about the deceased and seemed to forget they were talking about a human being. When Marion rang the police for information she got passed from one policeman to another, and when she went to the police station to collect Graham’s things she heard a policeman talking about Graham in derogatory terms.
The local press reported Graham’s death in a horrible manner, which upset the family. The reporters included too much detail about what had happened and published inaccurate headlines and misquoted Marion’s account of events.
The inquest was held the following February. The verdict was suicide. Marion found it all very somber. The coroner concluded that the deceased had taken his own life, which Marion found very impersonal and cold.
After Graham’s death Marion felt that she must be to blame for what had happened and she felt a terrible sense of guilt. It took many years for her to accept that she was not to blame for Graham’s death and that she was not responsible for what happened. Marion also felt that others blamed her for Graham’s death. She thinks that there is still stigma associated with suicide. Her family were not supportive at the time.
It took Marion two years to find the support group, Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS). She has been to a couple of conferences run by SOBS, which she has found very helpful. She has also attended the SOBS retreats, which are social events, and where there is a candle-lit dinner and where she finds support from others who have been through a similar experience.
Marion coped for a long time without any professional support. She worked very hard to support the family. However, eventually she found she could not cope any longer on her own. Her emotions were like a roller coaster. One moment she felt fine and the next she was in floods of tears, swinging from sanity to border-line insanity. To start with she did not want to tell her GP how she felt, but eventually she broke down in front of her GP when she went to consult about her ankle. The GP arranged for her to see a professional counsellor once a fortnight for three years. This helped her to go on with her life and it put her life back on track. Marion also enlisted the help of the Charity called Noah’s Ark, who helped her youngest son cope with his bereavement.
Now, eleven years after Graham’s death, Marion still finds it very hard to live without him. She misses him greatly, especially on special occasions, and she worries about a future without his love and friendship and without his emotional and physical support.
Marion was interviewed in November 2007.