In June 2006 Stephen returned home to find his wife, Gill, hanging in the hallway. She had been diagnosed with severe depression. Stephen found help from family, friends & Cruse. His daughters have been helped by the Charity, See Saw.
In 2005, Stephen’s wife, Gill, was diagnosed with severe depression. She had been feeling depressed for a while. She had been taking medication and had seen a clinical psychologist the day before she died.
One day in June 2006, Stephen returned from work to find Gill hanging in the hall- way of their house. Stephen was shocked, because although he had found Gill in the house with a rope before, they had discussed this event, and she had reassured him that she would not contemplate suicide, and he never dreamt that she would ever seriously consider taking her own life.
Stephen screamed and screamed for help. He and a neighbour tried to resuscitate Gill, but this was unsuccessful. They called the ambulance and the police. Gill had left a suicide note, but the police took it before Stephen could read it all properly, which he found distressing.
Stephen and Gill had two young daughters, Isabelle and Phoebe. They were aged six and four and a half at the time of Gill’s death. That afternoon the girls were at school. Stephen arranged for a friend to collect the girls and to bring them home. He did not want to lie to his children so he told them that Mummy had been extremely ill, that she had had an illness in her head, which had killed her. Telling the girls was the hardest thing Stephen has ever done. He felt both devastated and numb.
Stephen has had a great deal of support from family and friends. He took nine months off full time work and said that he needed this time to come to terms with what had happened. He has had individual counselling via Cruse, which he found fantastic. He also attended two group meetings organised by Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS), but he did not find it helpful.
A registered Charity called See Saw, which aims to help children who have been bereaved, has given Stephen useful advice about what to tell the children and has helped him manage their grief. He has tried to answer all the girls questions honestly, and when Isabelle asked about the manner of Gill’s death he explained that Gill took her own life by hanging. Friends have helped Stephen with the children and See Saw have helped by sending a female volunteer to talk to the girls and do things with them on a regular basis. Their school has also been very supportive.
The girls chose to go to the chapel of rest with Stephen to see Gill’s body. They took rose petals and other gifts to go in the coffin. Stephen and the children planned Gill’s funeral, which was held on a lovely summer’s day and was very well attended by family and friends. Gill was buried in the church yard. Afterwards there was a party. It was an excellent party with just one important person missing, Gill.
The inquest was held about six months after Gill died. There was no doubt that Gill had taken her own life.
After Gill died Stephen was determined to find the good in what had happened. He now feels more content in himself than he has ever felt before. He has started singing lessons again and is writing poetry and developing his creative side once more. He says that it was not easy living with someone with bipolar disorder and the years living with someone with mental ill health had taken their toll. Stephen has made new friends and has developed an inner strength that he did not have before.
Looking back Stephen is very unhappy with the medical care that Gill received. He wishes that they had sought a second opinion about the treatment she received for her mental health problems.
Stephen says that over time grief does get easier to bear and that he does see a future for himself and his daughters.
Stephen was interviewed in November 2007.