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Suicide & how it affects the family

(17 Posts)
ThreeStepSons Tue 31-Aug-10 11:24:22

Hello ladies (and gentlemen)

I need some help. I am in a serious relationship with a man, who has 3 children - two step-children aged 19 & 21 who have always lived with him, and one natural son aged 15 who lived with his mother.

A week last Thursday, their mother took an overdose and died. Prior to this, there were no signs that this might happen, no history or anything. And there has been no explanation (although the divorce that was part-way through may have been a contrubuting factor).

The boys all want me around, and I desperately want to be with them and help them, not just at this time, but going forward. But I am completely new to this 'guardian' role, and I don't know how to help them through it all.

Their father and I seem to be getting stronger through this family tragedy, so we are a tight unit for them, and I have simply tried to feed them, make them wash themselves, do their washing and their housework. And of course provide the listening ear, the hugs and the reassurance that they are still loved.

I feel like I'm just wandering forward blindfolded - I don't know what the best things to do are. If anyone can give me any guidance or advice, or even reading reference materials, I would be so grateful.

Kind regards


Gomesmum Tue 31-Aug-10 15:26:13

For all your DSS to want you around (they would be the first to tell you your doing something wrong) and from what you say you are already doing, you sound like your doing just fine, even as parents we have no idea what we are doing as none of us have done it before, if you are there for them, give the love and support they need then you are pretty much spot on, you sound amazing, hope it all works out for you and your new

cyteen Tue 31-Aug-10 22:36:15

Be there for them, and be honest. Talk, talk, talk - as a family. You are feeling your way blindfolded because that is what everybody does. There is no right way, no right thing to do, apart from feel your way along. Don't be afraid to get things wrong, it will happen (to all of you!), the important thing is how you work it out together.

There were a lot of cover-ups and evasions in my family after my mum killed herself and the repercussions of this still affect me deeply, twenty years on.

Good luck

ThreeStepSons Wed 01-Sep-10 11:20:23

Thank you for the reassurance.

We asked them almost to the point of annoyance if they were ok with me being around, and there was a resounding 'yes', which of course settled the minds of their dad & I. I was expecting some kind of lashing out at me, but that's not (yet?) materialised.

Cyteen - I would be interested to know more about your situation, although I appreciate it's very personal. Their dad has obviously told them what happened - told them straight away, but is waiting for the Coroner's report before he gives them the notes she left - mainly because the Coroner has the originals, but also because the notes are cold, have nothing really in them (as in they read "remember I'm your mother" and not "I'm sorry to put you through this" kind of thing). For some reason when they were choosing an outfit for her to wear, he didn't tell them that she'd had an autopsy, etc.. Not sure what his motivation is there, I think he's just trying to shelter them. Hmm.

My final request for help is the youngest (15) is about to embark on his final year & GCSE's. His attendance to date has been 55% (his mother went on holiday a lot & took him with her) and he's not interested - just wants to leave & work for his dad. How can we encourage him to work? I'm prepared to work with him, and his dad is going down the 'I'll buy you a car if you pass them all' route..

Many thanks xx

cyteen Wed 01-Sep-10 13:55:03

Hmm, not sure what I can tell you really. My dad gave us both a copy of her note, but with hindsight it would have been nice if he/other family members had tried to talk about it with us afterwards. There was a real lack of discussion about everything, really; all of us sort of fell apart in our own ways and the three years I spent living at home between 14 and 17 were some of the darkest of my life If you've ever spent night after night in a house full of people and felt completely isolated, you'll know what I mean.

Re. school, although he's in a tricky position I would strongly advise not putting pressure on him. Especially not of the bribery/blackmail kind (not suggesting you'd do the latter, just speaking generally). He will probably be feeling a lot of guilt already over his mother's death (it's a standard response to suicide). My mum also died in August, funnily enough, just before I was due to start my first year of GCSEs, and I felt terrible pressure from my dad/myself to carry on and do well. It was incredibly hard - for about 8 months I didn't understand anything and felt like a complete failure.

That said, I do realise that from your POV it's not an option to just let him drop out. Lots of gentle positive support, working with him as you've suggested, gentle talking through of all the options/possible scenarios with different results etc. Also recognition of the fact that making big life-changing decisions in the raw shock of grief is a bad idea for anyone - perhaps if he sees it in that context he might be encouraged to carry on and see how it goes.

ThreeStepSons Thu 02-Sep-10 11:02:08

Thanks Cyteen.. Much appreciated advice.

The eldest had a bad spell yesterday - the house went from being full of people comforting, to empty, and he fell apart a bit. Best to be there for him, or to leave him to have that moment?

L x

inthesticks Thu 02-Sep-10 18:21:57

Just wanted to say how sorry I am for those boys and wish you all the strength you are going to need to help them.
Bringing up teenagers is difficult even when you've had them since babies. Starting at this dreadful point in their lives will be so much harder.
There is a lot of sound advice on general teenage matters on the teenager board, I can recommend it.

It's slightly different but my father died recently (hence I peep on this board from time to time). He was in a hospice when he died and I was offered all kinds of help for my children. Many highly experienced people from consultants to counsellors offer their services free to the dying and bereaved. They have experts to call on who can often talk to teenagers in a way that maybe would not be possible for someone closer.
I am saying this because if you have a local hospice you may well find they would be able to help with advice, even though the boys mum did not die there.
I can't remember the title but I borrowed a book about how teenagers handle bereavement.
Will try and think.

One other thing is a book called "The boys are back in Town" by Simon Carr. It's by a journalist whose wife died leaving him to bring up two boys.

emskaboo Thu 02-Sep-10 18:56:19

Winston's wish do have some resources on surviving parental suicide and are very helpful.

It sounds like you are managing incredibly well.

cyteen Fri 03-Sep-10 09:27:29

Yes, just had a look at Winston's Wish and found this excellent resource about bereavement through suicide. It has made me cry to read the way things should have been handled, because none of that happened with me From that perspective I urge you to take their advice wrt to your stepchildren.

zeno Fri 03-Sep-10 14:25:51

My family used SOBs for support, alongside Winston's Wish for the younger ones. Survivors Of Bereavement by Suicide - they have a helpline you can call for advice or a telephonic hug.

Suicide in a family is "a psychological bomb going off". It injures everyone and this makes it very difficult for family members to support one another. I know you will be invaluable to the children and their Dad just by being around and listening to them talk.

I read this book which I found reassuring in that I like to know how it's been for others. I have since passed it on to another family who had need of it.

Best of luck. We're four years on now and functioning much better as an extended family than we have in a long while.

ThreeStepSons Mon 06-Sep-10 13:37:26

The youngest has gone into school today, after a meeting with the head, head-of-year & his form tutor (and of course Dad). They're going to give him bereavement counselling, and soon (funeral is on Friday), and they've said they will talk individually to his best school friends & offer them support also. Pretty pleased with this actually.

DP thinks DS3 might snap & lash out at some point - apparently he did when he was 8 & his parents split up (one of the several times). I think he's more likely to say he doesn't feel like school because he's been thinking about his mother. Which is a bit of a teenage leaning, to want to get out of school (especially given his attendance records!), so how to know whether it's for real or not? That sounds really cold and harsh, and isn't at all meant in that way. (Hope that does come across correctly!!) But he likes to get out of things if he possibly can, and isn't particularly interested in school..

I will obtain copies of all the literature you can suggest - I don't think I could read enough on the subject. We're kind of worrying at the moment that they're all doing so well - I've said this before, but they're doing normal stuff - playing on the XBox, the eldest went out with his mates on Saturday night, etc. Apart from the few days in the immediate aftermath, they've not done any of the 'film-version' (if you like) grieving.. Is this 'normal'?

Just having a quick look at the Winston's Wish website - looks like it's going to be a great help.

Thank you everyone.

cyteen Mon 06-Sep-10 13:39:29

I would say that's fairly normal. I remember my granny being shocked to see my brother and I laughing at The Young Ones a week after mum's death. I was pretty shocked myself, tbh. Emotions aren't linear or logical, they jumble up with each other, so expect the unexpected for a while.

ThreeStepSons Mon 14-Mar-11 23:56:02

Just a quick update - 7 months on, and the boys are doing brilliantly. Despite them having lost their paternal father in November, and their maternal father the week before last. Seriously - how many bereavements in such a short space of time? No-one should be able to 'get used to' death..

Anyway, life is a whole other kettle of fish now.. Whether today's issues are related (I honestly think not), or whether these are 'normal' teen/young adult issues I guess I will never know, but my god is this hard!

See the step parenting post I just put up!!

everlong Tue 15-Mar-11 11:50:58

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

floury Sat 02-Apr-11 19:40:26

Having lost my own Mum to suicide 7 years ago you sound like you have been there for those boys and being there is sometimes all that is needed. I hope you will get through mothers day ok- I still find it hard especially when it is so late in the year and one has to see the advertising all the time.
Well done anyway.

ThreeStepSons Tue 06-Sep-11 00:33:42

An update:

Boys are doing well.

Eldest I think will need counselling in time, but he's not really ready for it yet he thinks. He tends to speak of his mum in unfavourable terms, but sort of to please us. That sounds odd, but things with their mum's family went down hill somewhat last year which I put down to grief - very unkindly the boys aunt & grandmother decided to blame my OH, and when the boys tried to stick up for him, their grandma said the eldest "might as well have put his hands around her neck" as apparently he was also to blame. Horrific stuff, and we ended up having to invove the police. We have honestly been as neutral as possible, but this boy has chosen a side (unasked) which is ours.

Middle boy - he's actually moved out as I think he wants to be neutral. I don't blame him for wanting to still see both sides of the family, and do understand is is easier from a home of his own. Still scary though. He doesn't ever talk about it, or his mum, but he had a tattoo done on the anniversary of her death in the same style as one she had, by the same tattooist, saying 'Mum'.

Youngest - he's been the most adaptable I think. He will openly mention his mum I'd he thinks to, and I think to him, I am now alpha female in a non-forced way. Obv he doesn't call me mum, but he refers to me as his parent & knows I will be involved every step of the way (ie school, etc). It's really fab for me, but also massively daunting as their dad also expects me to live the role if mum, which is quite tough as I have no experience!

Also, I tried my best to distract them on the anniversary ;-) as I was rushed into hospital with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. I was under the impression I was infertile (5 years of Doctors telling you that will convince you!), and that was a bit weird telling the boys. But they were great - they are happy for us if we have a baby, and have put in a request for a girl.

Hope you're all well, and thank you for your help last year!

Lindsay xx

ChippingIn Tue 06-Sep-11 00:52:34

Lindsay - I started reading the thread without noticing the date. So I've compressed the whole year - which I suspect has been a real roller coaster for you! They do sound like they're coping well and I'm sure a large part of that has been having you there for them.

Good luck with having a little sister for them smile

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