Bereavement due to traumatic death

Michelle - Interview 41

Age at interview: 40

Brief outline: In 2005 Michelle's mother was murdered. She was stabbed. Michelle was shocked and horrified. She has found help through friends, family, a community psychiatric nurse, a psychologist, a homeopath (privately), a medium and by writing about what happened.

Background: Michelle is not working due to illness. She is single. Ethnic background/nationality' White British.

Audio & video

One day in October 2005 Michelle’s Mum did not arrive for work. Michelle and her father were worried about her so they phoned the local hospital, but no one knew what had happened. Michelle’s Dad went home and was met by two policemen, who were waiting for him. Michelle phoned her Dad at 3.30pm to ask him if he had picked up her Mum from work. He told her that she wasn’t there and that he had had to report her missing. This obviously wasn’t true, but he didn’t want to tell Michelle anything more over the phone.
At about 6.30 pm a Detective Constable/Family Liaison officer, a trainee Detective Constable/ Family Liaison officer and Michelle’s Dad arrived at Michelle’s house. The police officers reported that a woman’s body had been found in the local area, but that they did not have any details about how she had died. Michelle was hysterical. She felt shock, horror and disbelief. It was way too much for her to take in. Michelle felt like opening the front door and running. She just wanted to escape from this nightmare and be alone. The policemen made her go to her parents’ house for the night so that she could be with her father.
The next day the same two police officers returned and told them that Michelle’s Mum had been murdered. Michelle felt numb and couldn’t comprehend what was being said and was reeling from the shock. Michelle’s Mum had been doing some cleaning for an elderly lady. The lady had gone out and a man had entered the unlocked house and had killed Michelle’s Mum with a knife.
Michelle’s Dad went to see his wife in the mortuary, but Michelle and her sister decided that they wanted to remember their Mum as she was when she was alive. Family members and friends visited the house and offered a great deal of support. Michelle’s GP prescribed Diazepam for a few days, which had a calming effect. Sometimes Michelle just wanted to be alone and to rest and cry. She felt great despair, shock and horror about what had happened.
The family organised the church funeral, which was very well attended. Michelle wanted everyone to come in colourful clothes to lighten the sad situation. Michelle’s Mum was buried in the cemetery, just up the road from the church, and then people met near the beach for a reception.
Michelle’s GP referred her to the mental health team so that she could find support. A community psychiatric nurse provided support on about four occasions, but had to stop work because she broke her ankle. Michelle had another community psychiatric nurse for a while, but he changed jobs, so she lost his support too. Michelle also saw a psychologist for a while, but he focused on her obsessive, compulsive disorder, her obsession with locking doors and windows, and her fear of knives, which was not what Michelle felt she needed at the time. She saw him for a while, but then he retired. All this support was paid for by the NHS.
Michelle really wanted to talk to someone else who had lost a loved one due to murder. She was put in touch with a woman via Support after Murder and Manslaughter (SAMM), but the woman had lost her mother 20 years ago, and Michelle wanted to talk to someone who had lost someone more recently.
The trial took place a year after the murder. Michelle went to court on one occasion, because she felt she had to see the man who had murdered her mother, the man responsible for tearing her family to pieces, and causing so much anguish and devastation, and the man responsible for robbing the life from one of the kindest, sweetest, and most giving people you could ever wish to meet. The jury found the man guilty, and he was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Michelle has been offered art therapy, which she would like to do one day, but at the moment she is too unwell to start therapy, due to her illness, ME (Myalgic Encephalopathy/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome), and another condition called Ototoxicity. Michelle also suffers with nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder due to the murder of her Mum. She keeps having flashbacks to the police officers arriving at her door and keeps picturing her Mum being stabbed to death.
Michelle still feels very sad and traumatised and will miss her Mum for the rest of her life. Not a day goes by when she doesn’t think of her and speak to her. Sometimes she feels that this is all too much to bear but draws on her inner strength to keep going. She finds it helpful to write down her feelings in a journal. She also writes poems to her mother.
Michelle’s spiritual beliefs have been a great comfort to her. She has visited a medium on more than one occasion. The medium has had contact with her Mum, who says she is very happy. Michelle is convinced that her mother is with her in spirit. Michelle tries to think positively and she takes one day at a time.
Michelle and her family have had a memorial in the form of a birdbath made and placed in the church grounds. Michelle has found this a source of comfort.
Michelle will always have a special place in her heart for the police, who dealt with this tragedy. They were absolutely amazing and were so sensitive and compassionate at all times. They did much more than their jobs. Michelle couldn’t have asked for more. They were outstanding.
Michelle was interviewed for Healthtalkonline in 2009.


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