In 1984 Maurice and Jane’s son Tom took his own life by hanging. Jane and Maurice were shocked and devastated. Maurice found most support from friends and colleagues. The local vicar has also been helpful.
Maurice and Jane’s son Tom was 17 when he hung himself while at boarding school. Tom may have been under some degree of stress, partly because he was preparing for A’ level exams, and partly because he was about to take his driving test. Jane suspected that other factors might have played a part in Tom’s decision to take his own life (see Jane’s account, interview number 13). Maurice, like Jane, thought that Tom may have had some problems at school with particular teachers. Maurice also wondered whether or not Tom had girl friend problems.
At the time of Tom’s death in 1984 there was also some upheaval at home because Maurice had been made redundant, and he and his wife Jane had been thinking about moving to Australia.
When the police arrived at the house to tell Maurice and Jane that their son was dead they were devastated. Maurice said he loved Tom and missed him, and wondered why Tom had killed himself. Maurice thought about the way his son had died and even today, 23 years later, Maurice still wonders about the exact manner of Tom’s death and about how long it took his son to die.
When Tom died Maurice also wondered whether or not Tom’s suicide could have been prevented, and he also wondered whether or not he was guilty in some way or could have handled things differently.
Maurice and Jane went to see Tom 48 hours after officials had done the autopsy. Tom was lying in the hospital chapel. Maurice says that it was important to see his son and to spend that time with him after his death.
Tom’s funeral was held in the school chapel. Maurice is a Christian and he found the service helpful. After the service the family held a wake at their house so that they could celebrate Tom’s life.
Tom was cremated and then buried next to other family members in a church yard in Cheshire. Jane and Maurice placed a seat in the churchyard in Tom’s memory.
The inquest was six months later. Tom did not leave a note but the coroner decided that Tom’s death was due to suicide while the balance of his mind was disturbed. Maurice says that he is not sure he likes the coroners conclusion that his son’s mind was disturbed, because no one knows what was going through Tom’s mind at the time. In 1984 there was stigma attached to the idea that a person’s mind was disturbed.
Maurice cried after Tom died and found it helpful to talk to close friends and colleagues about what had happened. The local vicar has also been a source of support. Maurice has not had any formal counselling. He has found it helpful to work hard and to keep busy with activities such as sailing.
Maurice says that he and Jane go on living despite the trauma of what happened, and he gives thanks for the 17 years that Tom had with them when he was alive. However, painful memories still come to the surface from time to time. Sometimes another school boy or a grand-child reminds them of what happened. Only recently Maurice and Jane wept together while remembering Tom.
Maurice was interviewed in August 2007.