The After Effects of Suicide on Those Left Behind: Suicide Prevention
There is no getting away from it, suicide still carries a stigma for both the person and those left behind. Families are torn apart by suicide, everyone looks for someone to blame and sometimes that results in them turning inwardly upon themselves or on other members of their family or professionals.
I have tried, very hard, to not do this. While I know that Dave wasn’t dealt with as he should have been ( full story is in my first blog post) by the professionals and the system that he was involved in, I choose to make this his legacy. I don’t want his memory to be bitterness and hatred, I want it to be that his suffering stopped the suffering of other people in his position. What greater memorial could there be?
Suicide is something we don’t deal very well with as a society. In fact death is something we don’t really want to talk about, but eventually it will come to all of us: it’s the only certainty of life. My point is, if we don’t talk about the effects on those left behind how will only one who is contemplating suicide realise that they are not ‘setting their family free’, they are not giving them less distress and that they would willing continue to support them if it meant they didn’t give up on this life.
Recently, one of my friends, who is also a widow through suicide, was on a train. There was an announcement that the train was going to have to stop its journey early because there was an incident on the line and apologies were given over. This then started a lot of moaning and groaning from those within her carriage, comments such as ‘ now I’m going to be late’ and ‘how selfish of them, don’t they realise that they are holding everyone up?’ My friend, eventually, couldn’t stand this any longer. She stood up and told the more vocal moaners ” can you show some compassion for the person who was obviously in a very dark place and imagine how that feels? They were someone’s family member and they have chosen to take their life today and all you can think of is how your journey has been inconvenienced”. It’s this attitude that many people experience before they take their lives and what those left behind contend with.
#Suicide is classed as a traumatic bereavement. It is perhaps one of the worst ways to grieve someone you loved because their life was not natural, it was not taken by someone else, it was taken by themselves. Can you imagine being that low that you don’t feel your life is worth living anymore? Can you imagine loving your family so much that your mind actually convinces you that you are doing them a great service by no longer existing?
When someone takes their life in their own home, the home is cordoned off as a crime scene. This goes on for many hours to allow forensics etc to do what they need to do. Dave took his life in our back garden. He hung himself on the back gate that directly faces our back door. The rope marks are embedded in the garden post and always will be. I found myself staring at this for many hours the days and weeks after his death and even now it is a sobering reminder that he chose to take his life there. I liken it to a fatal car crash, but can you imagine if your loved one died in that crash and then they brought the car to your house, parked it on your driveway and you walked past it every day?
When the #Police have finished with the crime scene, they give you back your keys and leave. The body of your loved one has been moved. In my case, I wasn’t actually told the correct information about where he was taken. I was led to believe, by a young Police Officer, that he had been taken to a funeral home. After all, isn’t this where people are taken after their death? I ended up having to phone the Police to ask where exactly they had taken my husband. I was informed to the mortuary. Unless you have experience of this, you have no idea that they will be taken there. You also don’t realise how hard it will be to come back to the place that that person was living in, then go to the back garden where their belongings still were ,as if they were coming back, the evidence of medical interventions were everywhere and the garden fence panel had been taken off. Everything is left as it was. You are responsible for cleaning up where your loved one has just taken their life. The friend I mentioned earlier had to go back to her home and clean up the blood that was over the walls and carpets, including his hand print.
Then, everything is very quiet. You are still in shock and very alone with your thoughts. Your mind starts playing tricks on you, blaming you for not doing enough, not sacrificing yourself enough in order to keep them alive, not saying the things you needed to or not responding to text messages when you had the chance. That first night I cried so much that I literally could not open my eyes through the swelling. The grief is all consuming, the negative thoughts take over your brain and you can actually relate in those first weeks and months to why they took their life: You just want the pain to end.
There is no support, no family liaison officer telling you what is happening and you have to find your own way through the system. You are asked to go and identify the body. I actually found this a comfort. Dave looked the most relaxed and painless you had for years. However, his demons hadn’t died with him they had transferred to me and the girls, which is the complete opposite from what he wanted to achieve.
You then have to deal with the #Coroner, deal with the fact that you can’t go into work because mentally you cannot interact with people. I didn’t go out of my house for months. I couldn’t face crowds or people, my anxiety told me that everything was dangerous. I had to remain strong for my girls, I couldn’t let them see me crumble as I was now all they had in life, but grief makes you selfish because you are so caught up in your own thoughts that you sometimes forget those around you. We aren’t lucky enough to have any family, no one visited, no one phoned. The funeral arrangements were made between ourselves, which is a whole new thing to organise. I was also sending a lot of evidence to the Coroner, because I wanted her to know how many organisations were involved with Dave before he died. His suicide was preventable. You go over the lead up to the death in minute detail, you analyse every meeting and interaction with other people and wonder why people didn’t step in when you asked them to. Why no one heard your cries for help. Dave did interact with MH services, however towards the end he gave up. He lost faith in the system and was fed up of being assessed. When he was #sectioned before, against his will, he did get better and this played with my mind.
My girls were absolutely destroyed, they had so much guilt. That is the cruel thing about suicide. One of my daughters finds it very difficult to talk, she has absolutely no faith in medical people and if they try to interact with her she says’ they couldn’t do this for Dave, so why me’. My other daughter already has MH issues due to being on the autistic spectrum. She has had suicide attempts and been under CAHMS Home Treatment before. She was the last person to talk to Dave and she went over and over this interaction on a daily basis.
10 months on, we still have our issues. My daughters attended the inquest because they said they needed to hear the full narrative. They said although they knew some of the details, I kept a lot of it hidden. It helped them to put everything onto a timeline, to make reason of it. They still have guilt and this is something that will never leave them. They miss his presence in their lives. They will miss the things that he should have been part of in their future.
Suicide is perhaps the cruellest thing to all concerned. To know that someone you loved and who you made a commitment to, who you tried for years to get help for in order to have a happy future chose to leave you in such a final way is soul destroying. I am not ashamed at the way Dave died, I actually think he was one of the bravest people I know. He had not taken anything to numb the thoughts of self-survival, he was definitive in what he wanted to do. He did not once fight it. In fact the Ambulance people said, you could tell he just gave in. He was peaceful, with no signs of fighting or changing his mind. The Police and MH people who had contact with him on the day of his death said he was calm and polite in his interactions so they had no need to think that he was going to take his life minutes later. I would argue that this should have been a massive red flag. If someone who was previously volatile, aggressive and making threats to kill MH people was all of a sudden calm and polite this is a sign that something is very wrong. Instead of thinking that the crisis is obviously over ( as they stated in evidence) they should have wondered why there was a sudden change in personality. This is one aspect that needs to be looked at, suicidal people don’t always act in a manic way or look like they are suicidal with threats. In fact, they are usually calm because they have come to their decision and are at peace with it.
Even though Dave’s death was service attributed, he will have no memorial, his name will not be engraved in the cenotaph because he did not die on active service, yet he did die because of his service. Only two members of Dave’s family attended his funeral, with his own mum saying she was glad he was dead. None of my family attended or sent flowers. This is the after effects of living with #PTSD for so long, you are isolated. Someone said to me that now Dave was dead, maybe I could re-kindle my relationship with my family and I said no. That would be a slight on his memory, like me forgetting the cruel way some members of the family treated him and us. It’s my girls I feel the most for, they have literally no family as they are also ignored with one member of my family telling my youngest that she ‘didn’t want to appear to be a hypercritical’ and his name was never mentioned by that person.
The point of this post is #suicideprevention You will not leave your family in peace and you will not set them free. Your demons will not die with you, instead they will transfer to your family. They will forever have certain dates and times of the year that is filled with pain, they will miss your presence for the rest of their lives. Your children will be affected forever. The ripple effect of your death will be felt in everyone who ever had any connection to you, your fiends will question why they didn’t contact you more, why they couldn’t help save you. The professionals will question their abilities and they will also analyse every connection they had with you, they will also have their practice analysed by other people. If you need help then find it or find someone that will help you get that help. Don’t you dare check out of this life voluntarily though.
These words are from a blog post by Jo Jukes on Nov 17, 2019.