Bereavement due to traumatic death

Terri - Interview 19

Female
Age at interview: 43

Brief outline: In 2003 Terri's son was stabbed to death in his home. His grandmother was attacked too. Three men were involved in the attacks. Terri was away. News of her son's death was very traumatic. Counselling, Compassionate Friends, family and friends have helped.

Background: Terri is a Health professional. She is married and has 3 children and 1 who died. Ethnic background/nationality: White British.

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In June 2003 Terri and her husband were on holiday in Cyprus. They had left their children at home with their grandmother. On the first morning of the holiday the police arrived and told Terri that their son, Ben, had been killed. He was just 16 years old when he died. This was a terrible shock. Terri howled, and fell to her knees, before finding her husband.
 
The airline managed to get Terri and her husband onto a plane within hours and they returned home to hear that Ben had been stabbed three times and that his grand-mother had been attacked too. She had facial injuries. Apparently three men, aged 17, 27 and 35, had chased Ben into the house, punched and kicked him and then stabbed him. The ambulance had been called, but he was dead when he arrived at the local hospital. Terri thinks that the 17 year old was jealous of Ben because he wanted to go out with Ben’s girl friend. It was this 17 year old who stabbed Ben to death. Ben’s young sisters, who were aged 8 and 4 at the time, were also in the house, and were shocked to see him bleeding to death.
 
Terri hardly slept for three days. She was worried about her mother and her daughters. She went to see Ben, who was in the hospital mortuary. The family liaison officer took her there. Terri spent some time alone with Ben and cried and cried. Later she also went to see him when he was in the funeral parlour.
 
After that there were numerous visitors, the police, the local priest and others. Terri felt that she was on auto-pilot. The coroner’s officer phoned to explain what would happen. The family liaison officer called every day to keep the family up-to-date with the police investigation.
 
Ben had two post-mortems. His funeral was a month after his death, on 12th July. It was held in a local Catholic church. It was a lovely funeral. About 550 people attended the service. There was a police escort and Ben’s headmaster from school gave the eulogy. Ben was buried. Terri is a spiritual person and believes that she will see Ben again. Criminal injuries compensation helped to pay for the funeral.
 
After Ben died Terri found it very hard to sleep. She found she could only get to sleep by drinking heavily. She was worried that she was going to die and got palpitations in the morning and felt agoraphobic. She realised that her heavy drinking had to stop so she went to the GP. He suggested sleeping tablets but Terri refused to take them because she was worried that she might find it hard to stop taking them. She managed to stop drinking but still finds it impossible to sleep all night.

Terri has had help and support from many different people, including family and friends. She saw a bereavement counsellor for 12 weeks. The counsellor used cognitive behavioural therapy and visualisation techniques to help Terri relax. Terri found it very helpful. This was all provided free. The police organised it.

Terri’s 8 year old daughter also had some one to one counselling. She also found help via Winston’s Wish. More recently Terri’s daughter has had some more counselling through the NHS. Terri has also attended weekends run by The Compassionate Friends, which have been wonderful. She has met other bereaved parents and has shared her experiences with them.
 
People from Support after Murder and Manslaughter (SAMM) also called at the house. They were also helpful and explained what Terri should do if she was not satisfied with the result of the court case.
A woman from Victim Support also called, but Terri did not think she acted in a professional manner and so asked her to stay away.
 
There was a short inquest, which Terri did not attend because she did not know it was taking place. The death certificate was issued, which stated that Ben had died from a stab wound to the left side of the chest.
The trial started in February 2004. At first the three men pleaded “not guilty”, but then, after some plea bargaining, the 17 year old pleaded guilty and was convicted of murder and the other two were charged with grievous bodily harm. The one convicted of murder got 12 years minimum. The other two got four years in jail and were out in 18 months. Terri was horrified at the lenient sentences and so she appealed to Lord Goldsmith, but she did not succeed in changing the men’s jail sentences.
 
Terri still misses Ben very much indeed, and sometimes cries when she sees his photo. However, she says that as the days go on the pain does get a little bit less. She is sure that Ben is with her and that he is proud of all the family.
Terri was interviewed in 2008.

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