Suicide Awareness: Griffyn’s story
To mark Suicide Awareness Month/World Suicide Prevention Day, we are sharing the stories of some of our members who have been bereaved by suicide – as well as sharing tips and advice about how they have coped with their devastating losses.
We share the story of Griffyn, a member of WAY’s LGBTQIA+ community and WAY volunteer, whose husband ended his own life in 2021.
When did you first join the charity WAY Widowed and Young and why?
I first joined WAY
in the autumn of 2022, a little over a year after my husband made the decision to end his own life. I was 27, he had just turned 48, and we’d been together for seven years. We had the sweetest pet rabbit named Foley, who I adored. Through lockdown, we’d been making plans to move from renting our flat to finally buying our own place.
The funeral director I hired recommended I join the suicide support group Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS). A year later, someone from that group told me about the peer support network WAY Widowed and Young, that supports people who’ve been widowed at a young age.
How has WAY helped you through your bereavement?
WAY has helped me by connecting me to a community of other people who have had a partner die, including other widows bereaved by suicide. I’ve met other members at very welcoming in-person events and online subgroups. Before WAY, I knew very few people who had experienced the death of a partner, and none whose partners died by suicide.
WAY has also given me access to practical resources around all the legal complications with his death. Members have access to a telephone helpline. And maybe most importantly, WAY has given me a chance to take some of the emotion from my grief.
What are some of the specific challenges you’ve faced being bereaved to suicide?
There is often a stigma around suicide, especially with men and with people in LGBTQIA+ communities.
I’ve had my own struggles with mental health over the years, as well. In fact, it was my husband who found me during my own suicide attempt in 2016 and saved my life. After that, he and I made an agreement that neither of us would attempt it again. Although he couldn’t keep his end of the promise, I believe that, on most days, and especially his best days, he truly believed in working to prevent suicide. So that’s the job that WAY has given me the chance to continue now.
And what are some of the challenges of being bereaved and LGBTQIA+?
Suicide rates are much higher in LGBTQIA+ communities, due to the various difficulties and exclusions we can face. Most studies conclude that the highest attempt rates are among men who identify in that group, and younger trans people.
I wasn’t notified when he died, despite him having left – in his suicide note – my name, details, the fact I was his husband, and a request to contact me. I found out from a colleague eventually, and had to call the police to request a visit.
When the officers did arrive, one asked, “What even are you – a man or a woman?” I’ll never forget those exact words, especially from someone who was supposed to be trained in bereavement.
Do you have any advice for others about how you coped?
For anyone of any identity, I can only share what I’ve tried to use to cope with a death that’s hard to understand.
- The best thing I’ve done is to try to find people with similar experiences. I felt very alone initially, but there are many more people who have had a partner die by suicide than I had realised.
- I told my GP and we talked about a way to have my bereavement in my notes in a sensitive way. That’s made it easier for me to ask for help when I need it.
- If there is media attention, I’d recommend taking time to talk to some friends about it first and to be clear on what things you are and are not comfortable sharing. It’s OK if you don’t want to share anything publicly. Don’t let anyone tell you that not sharing your story will be a detriment to suicide prevention.
- And I work on accepting that there are times I feel I failed him as a partner, because I wasn’t there to save him from himself. And when I have those days, I don’t isolate – I tell someone who will understand.
Griffyn uses the term “widow” as an inclusive term for anyone of any gender identity who has experienced the death of a partner.
People prefer different language in describing suicide, and may have strong feelings either way about terms like “committed,” “lost,” “made a choice,” etc. If you’re here because you know someone whose partner has died by suicide, try to use whatever language they use and seem the most comfortable with.
Other organisations that can help:
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) available 9am-9pm Monday to Sunday on 0300 111 5065
Samaritans available 24 hours a days, 365 days a year on 116 123 or via email@example.com
Cruse Bereavement Care helpline available weekdays and weekends during the day on 0808 808 1677 (check website for exact opening times)
WAY Ambassador Diane has also shared her story to raise awareness of the support to those who have been bereaved by suicide and to anyone who has been widowed young.Read Diane's story