In 2006 Melanie’s husband, Simon, took his own life while the ‘balance of his mind was disturbed.’ He jumped to his death. Melanie and her three young children were devastated. They have found help via counselling, support groups and the internet
Melanie’s husband, Simon, hurt Melanie by what she has called a betrayal in our marriage. She was upset and angry but told Simon that she wanted to help him to work out his problems. Simon said that he was deeply remorseful about what he had done. He said he was sorry he had hurt Melanie and wanted to change things.
At times Melanie continued to express her feelings of hurt and anger. At the same time she tried hard to be supportive. She wanted to keep the family together, and a happy life for her three sons, who were aged 10, 9 and 5. Gradually it became apparent that Simon had a mental illness, partly because he said he could hear voices. One day he tried to take his own life by taking alcohol and a number of tablets. Melanie called 999 and he went into a mental health unit for a few days. He then had a fortnight in a private clinic. He was not given a diagnosis or any medication at the time, but looking back Melanie and Simon’s GP think that Simon had probably been suffering from bipolar disorder.
One evening, in April 2006, Simon said that he was going by train to a self-help group, debtors anonymous, but he never returned. The next day two policemen arrived with the local vicar to tell Melanie that Simon had taken his own life by jumping off a railway bridge. Simon had left a suicide note to say that he felt such a sense of shame and guilt that he could never be with normal decent people again. Melanie believes that Simon did not want to die but that he could not see any other way to solve his mental anguish. He felt he was causing others great pain and distress and wanted that pain to stop. He had made an appointment to see someone from the mental health team but he died before the appointment.
Melanie screamed when she heard the news and then felt completely numb. She could not believe what had happened. When the children returned from a friend’s house she told them what had happened. Obviously the children were very upset. She told them that their daddy had taken his own life because he had a mental illness. Melanie then phoned other friends and relatives to tell them the terrible news.
The local vicar went with Melanie to the local hospital so that she could see Simon’s body and kiss him goodbye. Members of the hospital staff were wonderful. The vicar read some prayers and was very supportive.
The next day Melanie and a friend went to the place where Simon had died and laid some flowers on the ground under the viaduct.
Simon’s body was taken to the chapel of rest. The funeral directors were kind and helpful and let Melanie visit each day to see Simon, even though it was over the Easter holiday weekend. At times Melanie felt distraught and shouted, Wake up. She took her eldest son to see his father. Her son was only aged ten at the time, but Melanie believes it was the right thing to do.
Ten days after Simon’s death his funeral was held in the village. Melanie chose the hymns they had had at their wedding. Simon was buried in the churchyard.
Melanie looked for support for her sons. She found a wonderful group called CHUMS, which provides support for bereaved children and their families. A counsellor from the charity came to the home to give individual counselling to the two older children. The children also met other children on Saturdays for play therapy and other activities.
Melanie also phoned Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) and attended her first meeting three weeks after Simon died. She found it amazingly helpful to talk to others who had also been bereaved due to suicide. Melanie still finds these regular meetings a great help. She goes every fortnight and sees them as her life-line.
Six months after Simon’s death Melanie phoned Winston’s Wish, who also support bereaved children and their families. After an initial assessment she took the two older boys for a weekend camp. About 20 children were looked after separately while their parents had discussions and meals together. Alternative therapies were provided for the adults and the children took part in numerous activities, which they found hugely helpful.
Melanie also had 10-12 sessions with a counsellor, a woman who listened as Melanie poured out her grief. This counselling was provided by her work. This was followed by more counselling which was provided by the NHS mental health unit. Melanie has found all this counselling immensely helpful. She has also found Widowed and Young, the WAY foundation, a lifeline and another email message board called Widowed through Suicide Support helpful too.
In September 2006 the inquest took place. The coroner was sympathetic and caring and after the documentary inquest gave the verdict that Simon had taken his own life while the balance of his mind was disturbed. The coroner went on to say that had Simon been well he would never have done it.
Melanie has found grief physically exhausting. She felt a great sense of physical pain and desolation for the first six months. She still feels devastated and also very angry with the person who she believes is responsible for Simon’s death. She also feels she could have done more to help Simon. Melanie finds it hard coping with all the many practical matters that have to be seen to, as a widow, living on her own with three small children.
Patricia was interviewedin July 2007.