The death of a loved one to suicide can be especially traumatic and difficult to understand, particularly for children. When Kathy’s ex-husband, Gary, took his own life, she found it hard to know how to explain his death to their two children, Matilda, 9 and Finley, 7, and help them cope.
Here she tells us how she learned to cope with our help.
“Gary and I were divorced when he took his own life and he had been struggling with mental health issues for some time, which I was not aware of. So, it was a shock when we had a 3am knock on the door from the police to tell us the news.
My immediate thought was ‘How do I tell the children’? The police advised me to be honest with them. It was very difficult. They’d never come across suicide before and were too young to know that people could take their own lives. Matilda, especially, was asking me tough questions about exactly how he did it.
At the time, I’d also just had a baby, 6-month-old Toby, with my new partner. I felt at a loss as to what to do to help Matilda and Finley. I looked online for information and that’s where I came across HOLG. Being a teacher, I’d heard of them before, so I got in touch straight away.
Debbie called me the next day and later visited us at home. She was so helpful. I was concerned that the children didn’t appear to be acknowledging what had happened – they weren’t really crying or talking about it. As Gary and I had been apart for a long time when he died, I was also worried that they might be confused by my reaction to his death. Debbie reassured me that their behaviour was perfectly normal. It was such a relief to have an expert like her on-hand.
The children’s school was also very supportive. They allowed them time out of the classroom with a teaching assistant whenever they felt they wanted a break or to talk about their dad. But after a while, that all settled down and it wasn’t until about 9 months later that the children went on a bereavement weekend. It was so good for them. It brought their dad back into focus and it was great for them to be around other children who’d been through similar experiences. After that, they also went to HOLG’s summer and Christmas parties. They don’t necessarily need to talk about their dad with the other children at the events, it’s just nice for them not to feel like the odd ones out.
I’ve also been to parent support groups and it’s really helpful to talk to people who understand what your family is going through.
It’s so good to have HOLG on-hand to help us – just to feel that there’s an expert who is always available. The kids are better supported and they’re doing really well.”