Bereavement due to traumatic death

Josefine - Interview 30

Age at interview: 57

Brief outline: Josefine's husband, Nicholas, was killed in a car accident in 2001. Josefine was shocked but understands that death is part of life. She arranged a 'green funeral' and buried Nicholas on her own land. She has had tremendous support from family and friends.

Background: Josefine is a psychotherapist. She is a widow and has 1 child. Ethnic background/nationality: White German.

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In June 2001 Josefine’s husband, Nicholas, was killed in a car accident, which happened on a little country lane. He had been to see his mother. His mother was driving, and as she pulled out of the driveway another car came round the corner and hit their car. Nicholas was taken to hospital but was declared dead on arrival. He died of a broken neck. He was 52 when he died.
Josefine was at her home in London when two policemen called to see her. They told her that Nicholas had been killed and they suggested that she should go to the country to be with her mother-in-law. Josefine was deeply shocked. She felt quite calm as she went with a friend by taxi to the country. That night she also felt calm because she felt that Nicholas was with her, his presence embracing her, like the duvet that was wrapped around her.
The next day Josefine phoned her son, who was working in Germany. He came back to England and joined Josefine. Other family members and friends gathered at the house too. They went to see Nicholas’ body in the mortuary. Josefine wanted to stay with her husband for as long as possible. She wanted to touch him and hold him, and she and her family and close friends went to see him every day for three days.
Josefine and Nicholas had a Buddist view on life and so Josefine asked the coroner to wait for three days before doing a postmortem. She did not want Nicholas’ body to be disturbed during those three days. During the days following Nicholas’ death Josefine and her son each had close friends with them all the time. She felt that was very important.
One day, about ten days after Nicholas had died, Josefine was crying and feeling very emotional. Suddenly she felt that Nicholas was with her. He touched her and told her that everything was alright. Josefine was amazed, but seeing Nicholas made her feel at peace. For about a year Josefine had similar experiences, sometimes called “after death” communications. She also had dreams and was able to communicate with Nicholas in her dreams. This convinced Josefine that there is some kind of life after death. She was amazed at these experiences but through some research found that these experiences are very common.
Josefine and Nicolas founded The Natural Death Centre in 1991. It provides information on all types of funeral choices, but is especially known for advice & support on family-organised, environmentally-friendly funerals, and Natural Burial Grounds (see The Natural Death Handbook). Josefine told the officials at the hospital that she would organise the funeral.
Josefine returned to her own home and started to organise two big events, a funeral in the country, on a piece of land that she and Nicholas owned, and a memorial service in London. She went to the hospital with friends to fetch Nicholas’ body and with friends she prepared Nicholas’ body for burial. They massaged his body with essential oils and then dressed him. Josefine found this a profound experience. Friends met round the open coffin, which was in the house.
The preparation for the funeral on site took a whole day. Josefine and her son and his friends dug Nicholas’ grave. It was situated in a clearing in the wood. They chose a bamboo woven coffin, which everyone decorated with flowers as part of the ceremony. They held a ceremony beside the grave and friends and family talked about Nicholas. Then they had a tea party in the field as the sun went down they danced around the grave. Josefine felt it was a wonderful funeral.
Nicholas had made a video which he wanted played at his funeral. Josefine and her friends watched it many times. It was played at the memorial event in London, the day after the funeral, and on other occasions. She is so glad that Nicholas made this video. About 300 people came to the event. People watched the video, talked about their memories of Nicholas, drank champagne and danced. A year later Josefine also held a memorial service for Nicholas in a church, where this video was also shown.
The inquest took place in October. The coroner decided that Nicholas had died due to an accident. Josefine is happy with the verdict.
Josefine still misses Nicholas, and she wishes he were still here and they could grow old together. She is also sad for her son who has since got married, as Nicholas was not there to share the experience. But she is happy.
Josefine was interviewed in 2009.


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