Coping with bereavement: ‘SLaM helped me understand’

22.02.12 Categories:

South London and Maudsley help Elizabeth and her daughter deal with a difficult bereavement

It took me quite a long time to realise there was a problem. My family – our two twin girls, their older sister and younger brother - had always been close. Our home was a happy one.

Then, in 2006, the children’s dad was killed in an accident while we were on holiday in Nigeria. My husband was just 59 years old. Of course we were all completely devastated but, as time passed, I thought we were all dealing with the grief in our own way.

Perhaps I should have noticed the change in one of our twins, Deborah. She’s always been a very caring person and at the time of the accident was happily living at home and working for Marks & Spencer. But it happened very gradually…

Looking back now I realise Deborah, 29, was withdrawing. She would spend hours alone in her room. She stopped looking after herself and became more and more unkempt. For a while she stopped talking. Then she began shouting and being aggressive, which was very unlike her.

It was hard to cope. My whole life stopped. I had to give up work. I couldn’t plan, I couldn’t move on. Deborah was constantly on my mind. I felt mixed emotions, everything from hate to love. It’s such an unpredictable illness. The impact was terrible.

Deborah was initially diagnosed with depression, then with psychosis. In February 2009 she was referred to the South London and Maudsley (SLaM). Since then she’s been able to go back to work temporarily and we’re hoping for the best. She’s getting there slowly.

Importantly though, SLaM doesn’t just treat the person who is ill, they support the whole family. They’ve helped me understand mental illness, and Deborah, better. We’ve been given family therapy and home visits and SLaM allows me to have breaks, including a long weekend where I met others in the same situation. I no longer feel alone. SLaM has helped make life bearable again.

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