Saturday, 13 June 2015

The Post Mortem; To Know or Not to Know

Death brings with it a succession of intensely painful ceremonies and events which have to be endured before we are finally left alone to grieve in peace; the farewell visit to the undertakers, the funeral, the memorial service (two in Louise's case), the scattering of the ashes. Now, after months of frustrating delay the very last of these hurdles is finally in sight; the inquest. This presents me with possibly the biggest and most distressing dilemma of all. How much do I want to know about the way Louise died?

Currently sitting in my email inbox, just a couple of clicks away, are copies of all the relevant papers held by the Coroner ahead of the inquest. This includes the toxicology report, the Police Statement and, most explosively, the report on the post mortem. I didn't need to have them. The official from the Coroners Office asked if I wanted this level of disclosure. Many relatives don't and I understand why. I wish that I myself could have declined.

I found Louise. I know how she killed herself. I don't need to know the detail or extent of her suffering or the nature of the injuries sustained in the act itself. Every day since I have tried hard, with some success, to suppress thoughts of Louise's final moments. Its been a step too far, the one thing that I cannot cope with. On occasions when I have found myself speculating  I have broken down. And looking back is becoming harder as the days go past. I used to read Louise's farewell note almost every day. Now I cannot bring myself to so much as glance at it. Its as if my brain is telling me that its had enough. It needs some respite.

I fear the potential destructiveness of the knowledge contained in those email attachments. I need to protect myself if I am to make the recovery and lead the life that Louise would wish for me. Once I have opened the document there can be no going back. What is read cannot be unread. The pictures that it will conjure up in my mind will remain with me for the rest of my life. It does not have to be this way. While I am obliged to attend the inquest to give evidence I have the option of leaving the courtroom at the point the post mortem is addressed. I can choose to remain in ignorance.

But the freedom to choose is an illusion. I feel compelled to know. Not for me but for Louise. It is my duty as her husband to share in what she went through. Our marriage vows did not only apply to the good times. Just as it was right that it was me who found Louise's body and not a stranger, an unknown Policeman or paramedic, I must even now be there for her as far as I humanly can. I hope that somehow, in some way, my sharing in the knowledge of what she suffered will make Louise feel less alone. It is the closest that I can get to being there with her in the moment of death. For the same reasons I know that I will not be able to leave the courtroom to avoid hearing the evidence. To do so would feel as though I am abandoning Louise and I cannot contemplate that. I want her to know that I am with her, that she is not alone. I know that I am risking my mental wellbeing for the sake of a gesture but gestures are the only way in which I can now show Louise my love and commitment and they are therefore deeply meaningful. 

I will read the report and know. I must.


  1. Gary I'm still listening - you're torturing yourself, for how much longer! Louise was very ill as you are well aware. You need to move on for your own sanity. You were not to blame, on the contrary - look how happy you were together. Stop torturing yourself - find some respite, whether it be sport, outings, hobbies, culture or even going out with friends. It's difficult but you need to think about YOU! There isn't a cure Gary - but try to help your sanity. I'm listening. ....

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  4. Thank you for continuing to read. I really appreciate the support. Five months is a fairly short time in this journey and I think that on balance I'm doing OK; I'm coming close to reaching my normal capacity at work, looking after my disabled mother, reaching out to people in the online and real world self help groups, developing a charity in Louise's name. In fact I'm pretty proud to still be standing. I think that you are right though about the need for respite, to think about something else and escape for a while into another world. Its something I'm very conscious of. At present my whole life outside of work revolves around processing what has happened and dealing with the consequences - and that's exhausting (the subect of a blog post to come, I think!)

    PS In case anybody wonders why posts were deleted - they were just duplicates of the first.