Stuart had been separated from his partner, Anne, for 13 months, but saw her and their son regularly. He was deeply saddened when she took her own life by carbon monoxide poisoning in 2005. He feels isolated but has found help for his grief in many ways.
Stuart’s partner, Anne, became ill about a year after the birth of their son. She complained of headaches and blurred vision. After a consultation with her GP, tests to assess Anne’s physical condition were undertaken. Following those it was identified that there was not a physical problem. However the headaches still persisted.
About two years after the initial diagnosis Anne and Stuart sought the assistance of a psychiatrist, who thought her symptoms might be due to depression, but Anne still thought she had a physical problem. Anne’s headaches persisted and she saw a psychiatrist, who firstly diagnosed general anxiety disorder and later concluded that Anne had chronic somatization disorder, when symptoms of a mental condition manifest themselves in a physical way.
Stuart and Anne separated, after having spent 14 years together. Stuart still saw Anne and their young son regularly.
Social Services got involved after the separation, when Anne found it difficult to look after their son. Anne often saw members of the emergency community mental health team, and sometimes saw health care professionals on a daily basis, but she saw someone different each time, so lacked continuity of care.
In 2004 Anne got worse and started to talk about suicide. One day she tried to hang herself. Shortly after that she tried to asphyxiate herself with carbon monoxide poisoning from her car exhaust. She was admitted to hospital for a while.
Stuart found it frustrating at times because he was no longer living with Anne and so was often excluded from conversations and decisions about her care.
Eventually Anne gave permission for Stuart to be involved in her care and he managed to arrange a case conference at their house, with members of the community mental health team, a social worker, an occupational therapist, and one of Anne’s relatives. Those present discussed what sort of support they could provide for Anne.
One day in 2005 Anne did not collect their son from the after-school club. Later the police arrived and told Stuart that they had found a body in a car. Stuart was taken to hospital to identify the body. After identifying Anne, Stuart was taken to the place where she died by the police, which Stuart found very helpful. Stuart had almost expected Anne to take her own life, but he felt sad, shocked and numb when he saw her in the mortuary. He did not feel angry with Anne and wondered if he could have done anything to prevent her death.
The next day Stuart had to tell his seven year old son that Anne had died. This was very difficult for Stuart.
Stuart’s son did not want to go to the funeral but later on that day the vicar held a ceremony at the grave, which his son, and Anne’s brother and sister attended.
When Stuart went to collect Anne’s clothes from the police station he felt that the police did not handle the situation in a sensitive manner. The police just handed him the items and asked him to sign for them.
The charity, Winton’s Wish, which helps children who have been bereaved, gave Stuart useful advice about how to tell his son what had happened. Winston’s Wish also gave Stuart and his son the opportunity to attend a residential weekend with others who had been bereaved in similar circumstances. Stuart and his son found this weekend most helpful. The school has not offered Stuart’s son any counselling or other support, which Stuart finds surprising. He thinks it may be because of cost. The GP did arrange some counselling for his son, which was useful and now Stuart is trying to find some additional private counselling.
The WAY foundation, which supports those who are widowed and under 50, has helped too. Stuart and his son have met other people who have been bereaved and joined in activities organized by WAY. Stuart has also attended meetings run by the support group, Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS), which have been helpful. He has also had some private counselling, and some counselling organized through work. Stuart has found counselling very useful.
Before the inquest the coroner’s officer invited Stuart to visit the place where the inquest would be held and she guided him through the whole process, which was helpful. She asked Stuart to write down what had happened, including personal things about Anne, which made him feel better. The coroner was excellent in the way he dealt with the inquest. He was discrete and considerate. Anne had left numerous notes to say that the headaches had made it impossible for her to carry on, and the coroner concluded that Anne’s death was due to suicide. She had died from the exhaust fumes from her car.
Stuart often feels isolated and alone. When he phoned the policewoman who told him about Anne’s death she did not bother to return his calls. He feels weighed down with the responsibility of looking after his son on his own with very little support from family or friends. He finds it hard to make friends with other parents, particularly since he works full time. He worries about his son and he also feels that he has been abandoned by most of Anne’s family. Some days are better than others. Anne’s suicide has put other problems in perspective.