On the Friday before the Early May Bank Holiday in 2007, my life and the lives of my family, relatives and friends changed forever. We lost our eldest child and only son, Peter David Clark, to suicide. It is something you never really recover from, though in some ways you learn to live round it. The devastation it caused ripples out from the event to touch the lives of many. Some people suffer from shame or guilt, (when obviously there should be none) others are just crushed and withdraw from life. In the first days after the event one is numb and you keep going on autopilot. There are practical things to sort out and a funeral to arrange. But then the grief hits you like a tsunami and you long for time to reverse so you can make good the ‘what ifs’ that go round in your head. I was amazed that I could live through such mental pain.
Suicide is always a tragedy. There have been many books written about why people take their own life. Suffice it to say that in most cases it is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, viewed from the point of view of the survivors. Our son had his problems; he had Asperger’s syndrome and learning difficulties, though these were not too severe. He had some problems at work and was working with various social workers to see how he could be helped. He had also been put on antidepressants by the doctor, we knew he had suicidal thoughts, though we did not believe he would carry them out, in fact we thought he was getting better.
As the years have gone by, we have gradually learnt to live with the scars that do not quite heal, and have found great joy and fun in life and in our on-going relationships with our friends and family members.
Peter was a server at church and enjoyed his unique view of the exploits of the congregation, I’ll say no more! We gave a Vestment Press to his memory, on the side is a plaque with his name and dates, between the dates is a gap – and this is the most important part as it is that gap that is filled with his life and his achievements. His beautiful singing as a child in various school events, both in English and German, his bravery in going to Berlin on his own, his A level in Biology, his careful driving both of his car and his fork lift truck for work and many, many other joyous memories, his love of chocolate cake and bluebells and so it goes on.
It is important to remember how people lived, not necessarily how they died.
After the funeral it seems that, for you, the world has stopped and you wonder why people are still laughing and joking whereas you don’t believe you will ever laugh again. What has kept me going, besides the support and understanding of many friends and relatives was the ability to talk to people who had also lost someone close by suicide. These are the people who really know what you are going through and the time it takes to even begin to see LIFE again.
We were lucky, if you can call it that, the police were able to give me Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide helpline number on the day Peter was found and I was able to telephone their helpline only a few days later and later on I was able to join a support group first in Nottingham, then at Ilkeston. I now help coordinate the helpline as well as work a least 1 shift a week.
There are many people around the country who have been affected by the suicide of a family member or close friend and who struggle to get support. The Helpline is there for them, it covers the whole country, and sometimes beyond, it is available from 9am to 9pm every day of the year. I was so grateful to be able to talk to someone who understood even though I often said the same thing again and again. I now feel honoured to be able to help people as I was helped.