Ted was 12 years old when his father took his own life by hanging. Ted’s family found it hard to talk about it and Ted lacked information. He felt intense grief during that first year. Ted has found help by researching his father’s life and through SOBS.
Ted was only 12 years old when his father took his own life by hanging and asphyxiation. This happened in 1964. His mother found it hard to talk about this terrible event. She told Ted that his father had had an accident and that he was ill; that he had had a sudden aberration. Ted discovered that his friends knew more about his father’s death than he did, because they had read about it in the papers, but he could not talk to them about it. Ted could not talk to his sister, grandmother or friends about it either. He only found out what had happened because he found his father’s death certificate in a box.
Later Ted discovered that his father had suffered from serious depression and post traumatic stress disorder, almost certainly caused by experiences he had had during the war. Ted’s father had sought help from his GP, who had given him medication. Ted’s mother told Ted that she blamed the doctor for not helping her husband enough. She had asked the doctor to sign her husband off work, because her husband worked too hard and came back from work shaking and in a terrible state, but the doctor had sent her away and had not intervened. Although Ted’s mother blamed the doctor for what happened, Ted has never blamed the doctor, he blamed his father.
Ted felt numb and experienced intense grief for at least a year after his father died. He cried when he first heard the news, but then found it hard to express his emotion. After about a year Ted started to feel intense anger with his father for what he had done. Ted was angry mainly because his father’s death ruined his mother’s life. He believes that she never really recovered from his father’s death.
In 2000, 36 years after his father died, Ted read a book called Easy Peasy, by Lesley Glaister, about a man who had hung himself because of war time experiences. This made Ted think about his father’s death. He wanted to know every detail about his father’s life during the war. He talked to his sister, aunt and uncle, looked for war time records and photographs, and he read his father’s letters and diary. He also read books about depression.
Ted recalls that he became obsessed with what had happened. He wrote about the events that had taken place before his father’s death, what happened on the day he died and what happened afterwards. Ted says that he reconstructed his father’s war time career. Ted believes that his father suffered from survivor guilt, because he had been ill with appendicitis and had not been able to accompany his men on the day that many of them died in action.
Ted tried to understand what had happened on the day his father died and what had led to his death. His father had not been happy where he worked in a bank, but Ted thinks that his father felt that if he left the bank he would be leaving his colleagues in a difficult situation, rather as he had done in the war when he had had appendicitis.
Ted says that he no longer feels so angry with his father and that perhaps his reconstruction of his father’s life and his writing has made him feel less angry and less guilty about what happened. Although he was only a child when his father died he says he did feel some guilt about what happened, perhaps because he beat his father at cards, which his father disliked.
Ted did not go to the funeral or the inquest. At the inquest the coroner’s verdict was that Ted’s father took his own life. His mother would have preferred the verdict he took his own life while of unsound mind. She was sure her husband was depressed and ill and she perceived that the coroner thought that perhaps other matters, such as financial difficulties, were involved.
Ted got involved with the support group SOBS (Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide). He found that talking about his father to others who had been bereaved by suicide was helpful. Talking to others helped him to remember what his father was like.
Ted still believes that even though his father might have been ill with depression he should not have taken his own life. Ted believes that his father fell down on his responsibilities, and that suicide is not a morally acceptable action. Ted regrets that his father was not part of his life for so many years as he was growing up, and he has not absolved him for what he did so many years ago.
Looking back, Ted feels that his father’s suicide gave him strength to deal with adversity. He knows that he survived his father’s death so he can survive other difficult events in his life. He thinks his father’s death also made him more adventurous and gave him creative insight, intellectual curiosity, and the ability to take risks.
Ted was interviewed in October 2007.