No matter how often I think about it, the fact that suicide wasn’t decriminalised in England and Wales until 1961 never loses its power to shock. Barely believably, in a world of passenger jets, space exploration, television and pop music, one which in many ways appears not so different to our own, those who failed in an attempt to take their lives were still, at least theoretically, liable to prosecution and imprisonment. Even if criminal proceedings were increasingly rare, hospital staff continued to meet their obligation to report cases of attempted suicide to the Police – and the Metropolitan Police’s own guidance of the time was unequivocal; "an attempt to commit suicide is an attempt to commit a felony, and therefore punishable with hard labour’.
Saturday, 15 April 2017
I was halfway through my lunchtime sandwich when I suddenly felt the disapproving stares from those squeezed in around me at the crowded cafe tables. I had sat there dozens of times before doing the same thing, but it was only now that I suddenly realised how it must look to others; a middle aged man swiping through dating profiles on a phone, his brazen infidelity revealed by the wedding band on his ring finger.
Saturday, 14 January 2017
I stared into Louise's eyes desperately searching for signs that she was joking, even though, deep down, I knew that there would be none. Just days before she took her life she was telling me that if she was dead I would be free to meet another woman, somebody who could give me more than she was capable of. My mind was in overdrive. Panic at further confirmation of the darkness and hopelessness gripping Louise was mixed with desperate sadness that in her confusion she couldn't see exactly how much she meant to me. But there was also a chilling glimpse into a future where I might once more be alone and forced to start the search for love all over again.
Thursday, 15 December 2016
I opened the box of Christmas decorations as carefully and as nervously as an archaeologist might approach a long lost haul of Anglo-Saxon treasure. This, to me, was much more precious; a collection not of gold but memories, a time capsule of the way things used to be, before.
Saturday, 10 September 2016
Every year the Samaritans publish a grim document; an annual review of suicide statistics in the UK. The latest edition reveals that there were 6,122 recorded suicides across the four home nations in 2014. Globally, the World Health Organisation estimates that around 800,000 people die by suicide each year.
Numbers of this magnitude are hard to relate to without being broken down into a more meaningful scale. Put another way, we can say that Louise's tragedy is repeated across the country approximately 16-17 times every single day and around the world every 40 seconds. In the time it takes you to read this blog post another four or five people will have killed themselves. But even these statistical devices do not begin to convey the real impact of suicide. The raw numbers represent thousands of individual stories of despair, thousands of lost hopes and dreams. Thousands of people who did not want to die but felt that they were unable to live any longer.
Friday, 12 August 2016
I'd been trying all summer to leave work early enough to enable me to catch some Friday evening cricket at The Oval and now I had finally managed to do so. Sitting bathed in the mid summer sunshine, absorbing the laughter and high spirits of 23,000 spectators all around me, out to enjoy themselves at the start of that rarest of things, a sizzling hot weekend, I was overcome by a sense of liberation, even elation. 18 months almost to the day since Louise's death, my head was clear of the constant churn of thoughts that has occupied it for so long now. The tinnitus of grief had abated. In that moment, at least, I was relaxed and happy. More than that; I no longer felt such a separation from those around me. Their world was, once more, mine too. I could enjoy it as they were. It felt like a profound re-connection with normality.
Saturday, 9 July 2016
Even as I stood staring up at Louise's body, numbed, bewildered, shocked and silently screaming in despair, I somehow found space in my brain to recognise the irony of the situation. In the course of her professional career Louise had seen, examined and dissected numerous dead bodies. Death was, to her, an unremarkable commonplace. While I returned home from work on an evening and talked over the dinner table of office politics, Louise might casually mention a death certificate she had signed or a patient with a terminal diagnosis as if it was no more important, and possibly less so, than my trivia. I came to understand that this normalisation of death and tragedy was not callous disregard for the suffering of fellow humans but a necessary coping mechanism common to all doctors. But now here was I encountering death close up for the very first time - and it was on a far more personal and horrific scale than anything Louise had ever witnessed herself. Now it would be me that needed to develop a similar coping mechanism.
Friday, 29 April 2016
'Just Carry on Breathing - a year surviving suicide and widowhood', containing the collated content of the blog and much new material is available to purchase online now, in paperback and ebook form (It is also available in the US on Amazon.com)
The book is raising money for two worthy causes close to my heart. All my royalties will be donated to WAY Widowed & Young, a charity which supports those widowed under the age of 50 and the Louise Tebboth Foundation, the charity established in my wife's memory to assist doctors at risk of suicide.
Saturday, 2 April 2016
As I sat huddled in a foetal position on the floor of the ambulance the night that Louise died, I had no conception of what the future held. Everything that I knew about it, without exception, had been stripped away from me. I was staring into a void, both bewildering and terrifying for its complete lack of form. Five minutes was an impossibly distant and unknowable horizon. I had no clue what was going to happen once the paramedics and police had finished speaking to me, never mind where or how I was going to live from now on.
Friday, 26 February 2016
For a brief moment the dull but ever present ache of loneliness abated. Standing embracing a fellow widow in a prolonged hug of mutual understanding and support as we said farewell after meeting for coffee, I allowed myself to become lost in the sheer warmth and reassurance of the physical contact, momentarily snuggling into her and remembering all over again the pleasure of once more holding and being held by a woman, even if only platonically. Embarrassingly, the relief was so strong that I let out an involuntary low groan of sheer contentment.
Saturday, 23 January 2016
My Sweetheart, it's now exactly a year since the fog swirling around in your mind became so dense that it obscured all hope, a year since you took what you saw as the only practical solution open to you in order to ease the pain. It's a year since we cuddled up to each other in bed, a year since I heard you tell me that you love me, a year since I saw your smile, felt your touch or shared your presence. It's a year since I last read to you, made you your favourite cup of mint tea or massaged away the tensions of your day. It's been the longest year of my life, one in which I have hurt over you more than I ever thought it was possible to hurt, cried over you more than I ever thought it was possible to cry and loved you more than I ever thought it was possible to love.
Sunday, 3 January 2016
The beat of the music from open air concerts on the trendy Waterfront district was interrupted by fireworks soaring into the air against the awe inspiring backdrop of Table Mountain and the drunken cheers of the sweltering crowds of locals and tourists densely thronging the streets and packing the quayside bars and restaurants. Cape Town was celebrating the arrival of the New Year with a carnival vibe and I found myself wondering whether or not to join everybody in welcoming it in or to regret the passing of the old year.
Saturday, 12 December 2015
I bought a mug last weekend. An unremarkable, cheap souvenir of a short continental city break. The kind that can be found in kitchens all over the country. But this particular mug represents something profound, something of incalculable value, something so unexpected that it has almost floored me. It symbolises the creation of new memories and in doing so marks the first genuine proof that this new life can still be worth living.
Tuesday, 1 December 2015
Take a deep breath and keep on walking. Focus on the far side of the bridge. Don't glance at the spot where we had our photo taken after one of our first visits to the theatre together and where others are now posing for the camera. Don't think about the Whitehall Gardens immediately behind me, where we decided to give things another try after a short break up in the early days. Try not to look at the glittering night time panorama of London, sweeping across the Thames and taking in St Pauls Cathedral, the distant behemoths of the Square Mile and across to the Shard, the Oxo Tower and the South Bank. Our skyline. Our city. Ignore the couples walking hand in hand, huddling together against the cold. Hand the beggar a pound because Louise would always do so. Choke back the welling tears and make it across.
Friday, 20 November 2015
Saturday, 14 November 2015
I had resisted the temptation for months until finally I cracked. Sitting under the trees around which Louise's ashes were scattered, in a moment of desperation I choked back the tears for long enough to ask her for a sign, an indication that she was in heaven and that she was happy.
Sunday, 1 November 2015
When we moved into our current home the one luxury purchase that we allowed ourselves was a large and ever so slightly stylish dining room table. This was the house we were going to live in for the rest of our lives and we envisaged many years of entertaining large gatherings of family and friends. The rooms would be full of people we loved and admired and the walls would ring to the sound of their conversation and laughter. Now, even while the hopes and ambition mock me, that same dining room table is something of a symbol of my determination not to collapse into chaos.
Friday, 16 October 2015
Its not often that I compare myself to a Roman God. In fact I am reasonably certain that I've never done so before, nor will I ever do so again. But at this particular moment in time there is something of a connection to a classical deity, albeit a rather unheroic one.
Wednesday, 7 October 2015
I remember the snow so vividly. I had been waiting impatiently for it all winter and now, as I stood in the middle of the road outside the house listening to the approaching emergency sirens draw ever closer, I noticed it had finally arrived. Just the lightest of flurries but nonetheless beautiful and mesmerising as it fell gently and silently. Even in the very moment that my world was falling apart I somehow managed to register the irony that it should do so in conditions which on any other occasion, on any other day, would have given me so much pleasure.
Thursday, 24 September 2015
I haven't written to you Sweetheart since my reply to your farewell letter. The tear soaked one that I somehow managed to read out to you while sitting next to your coffin in the undertakers, stroking your hair for the last time. The one that accompanied you on your final journey. I haven't really needed to write. I can talk to you at any time, no matter where I am. But today is special. This time four years ago we were walking on the clouds. It was the happiest moment of our lives. The day that we became man and wife. Our East End wedding.