Death touches all our lives sooner or later, it is expected from old age or disease. Having worked in the care sector supporting families dealing with dementia, disability or terminal illness, I felt I was better prepared than most.
Nothing, however, prepared me for the death of my father. He had been struggling with grief and anxiety following the loss of my mother to pancreatic cancer three years earlier, but otherwise was in perfect physical health. Despite plans to travel abroad with me the following day, he took his own life in the early hours of the morning.
I was left reeling with shock and disbelief. How could he do this? why didn’t he tell me he couldn’t go on? how did I not realise? He died totally alone, what despair must he have felt! what a tragic way to end his life!! The weeks, days and hours leading up to that moment replayed over and over in my mind as I tried to make sense of it all. Worse still, with the benefit of hindsight, little signs now appeared obvious to me, odd things he had said suddenly made sense. This continued for a very long time, until finally something clicked. It was too late, there was nothing I could say or do now to change the awful outcome! I simply had to accept it. But I desperately needed to be able to talk about it, bottling it all up was making me isolated and ill.
That too proved to be difficult. Just telling people how my father died was not easy. Most people then don’t know what to say and those who, try to comfort with ‘it wasn’t your fault’, “time heals” or ‘at least they are not suffering any more’, things that did not reflect how I felt.That too proved to be difficult. Just telling people how my father died was not easy. Most people then don’t know what to say and those who, try to comfort with ‘it wasn’t your fault’, “time heals” or ‘at least they are not suffering any more’, things that did not reflect how I felt.
Grief, guilt, shame, anger and despair became an overwhelming mix of heavy emotion. In that terrible year following his death, I still had to organise a funeral, deal with probate, property and complicated inheritance tax (a nightmare all of its own!) plus an inquest that took place over a year later. I did not want to burden or upset the rest of my family, each dealing with their problems, it was easier to avoid the subject. I was put on a very long waiting list for counselling. It was only by chance via google, I found a charity called Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SoBS). There was a group running in Melton Mowbray at the time and contacting them changed everything for me. I was finally able to speak freely about what had happened with others who really understood, in a confidential and supportive space. Later on, I discovered I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and was able to access Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR). Any sudden death due to illness or an accident is traumatic enough, but suicide adds many extra layers of pain: guilt, stigma, anger and a sense of disconnection. This is because the person you have lost appears to have chosen death - an idea so abhorrent that you are left in a state of conflict with them, a conflict you try to resolve alone. By talking with others, I have found ways to understand things better and cope with my emotions. Sharing experience and information with others is also the best way to reduce the stigma of suicide. It has been five years since my father died and I am now facilitating a new SoBS group in Leicester. SoBS is the only organisation offering peer to peer support for people over 18 bereaved by suicide with monthly support groups, online virtual support groups, a national telephone helpline, an online community forum and email support. I am hoping to start another group in Rutland later this year. If you have been bereaved by suicide over two years ago and would like to volunteer to co- facilitate a group in Rutland or Stamford, please contact Victoria on 07734261991 If you need support and are interested in joining the Leicester group please email email@example.com for further details or telephone the National Helpline any day between the hours of 9am and 9pm on 03001115065 By Victoria Ugrinic