Hi, I’m Lizzie. I’m from a town called Kendal in the north of England, UK.
I want to start by saying that my mum was a wonderful person. She was kind, caring, creative, and full of love. My sister and I have many happy memories of our childhoods.
But unfortunately she suffered from depression. The first time she was hospitalised with it I was about 5 years old. From the age of about 10 onward her periods of illness seemed to get worse and last longer. Her mental health problems wrecked havoc on all of our lives. There were times when I would walk in on her crying, or she’d go missing, or was suffering from moments of mania where she would run around the house and do weird things. It was really scary.
A common problem in the UK is a lack of beds for mental health patients so naturally we were affected. At one point visiting mum meant a long 45-60 minute to a hospital in the other side of the county. It would have been hard for her to be so far away from friends, family, and home. It was hard for us too.
In the last year of her life she was ‘treated’ with electro-shock therapy – something which I had thought they had outlawed in the 60s! It really affected her well-being and memory.
There were quite a few suicide attempts before she died but on 27th January 2004, when I was just 16 years old, my worst fears came true. I arrived home from school and found her hanging in the garage. She was only 44 years old.
Having to call my dad, and later on listen to him call my sister to break the news will always be one of the worst moments of my life.
From that moment on adults seemed to do little else other than tell me how well I was coping, but few people ever actually asked! The answer is I didn’t. You can’t. You won’t after something like that has happened.
I suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I had nightmares and flashbacks which were like video tapes of finding the body that would never stop playing in my head. I was extremely anxious. I still have to do things like check everybody in the house is still alive if it’s been really quiet. I still can’t stand the sound of sirens.
Like many survivors I felt extremely guilty and ashamed. I know it isn’t true now, but at the time I felt like I must have been a terrible daughter if my own mum didn’t want to stay alive for me. Birthdays are also very painful to celebrate because it felt like she’d rather than die than see me grow up. And every one is a reminder that it’s been another year without her.
I struggled to concentrate on anything and drank and self harmed a lot. Most days I either skipped school or turned up late.
There were so few resources at the time and I really struggled to get help. There were SOBS groups in existence but only in the south of the country and most bereavement services required me to be either a child or over 18 so I fell through all the gaps. One day I went to the doctors and begged for help only to be told that there was an 18 month waiting list for counseling. There were some websites about loss by suicide but not very many and social media as we know it today didn’t exist back then.
I didn’t know anyone else who was going through what I did. I couldn’t imagine living past 20 years old or having any kind of happy or normal life.
But one thing that motivated me was the idea of helping other people. (Clearly taking after my mum.) I was determined that something good would grow from my loss. So I taught myself HTML and made my own website on GeoCities. You can still view it now using an Internet archive. Not quite sure why I went for salmon pink though!
I also did a lot of volunteering and won a Princess Diana Memorial Award in the ‘Inspiration’ category.
I don’t think grief ever ends. It just changes shape. And in time you learn to live with it and it becomes so part of you, you don’t really notice it any more. With grief your world is shattered. You can put the puzzle pieces back together but it will never be the same as what it was – so instead you find a new way and go forwards from there. The good news is that there is nothing stopping you from living a happy a fulfilling life in time.
I think one good thing that came out of losing my mum was knowing that life is short so you have to follow your dreams. I got into university, graduated, and taught English in Japan for 2 years in my early 20s. Upon returning to England I began working in the charity sector. Travel is one of my favourite things and I’ve now been to over 30 countries. I’m also an activist and have been published online and in print.
I’m 32 years old now and I’ve had a great life!
Mum may have taken hers when she died but she didn’t take mine.
Of course there have been many ups and downs and it’s been a long and hard journey to get to where I am today. In the 16 years since mum has died I have had 4 rounds of counseling and spent 2 of those years on anti-depressants.
I’m saddened by how little has changed for people who have been bereaved by suicide in the UK since my mum died. Suicide is still a leading cause of death in this country for some age groups, and in 2015 there were on average 13 suicides every day. Funding for mental health care continues to be slashed. Every day I think of the people who will have just lost a loved one to suicide.
Whilst there are more resources out there now than when I lost my mum there is still very little for people who have lost someone in this way. Especially for all those moments outside of week day office hours when you can’t sleep or you have a moment to think. Such as when you’re sat on the bus, or you burst into tears whilst doing the washing up on a Sunday…so a podcast that people can listen to anytime, any place, whenever they need it will be a useful tool.
If you have lost someone you love then I really hope this project can help you. You may be hurting but are not alone.