Discussing loss and trauma in interviews

Discussing loss and trauma in interviews

August 2021

I have lost a very good friend to suicide.

This happened whilst I was working on my post-doc research, and of course had substantive impact on my life and who I am. It also had an impact on my work: it is tremendously hard to be interviewing very excited university students about the time of their life, whilst thinking about a memorial speech, or writing a statement for the coroner's court. I was fortunate to have had very understanding colleagues, who gave me space to grieve, as well as a great network of friends I could rely on especially in the early days, weeks, months.

Further, at some stage over the research I shared some of these formative experiences of loss and trauma with a participant, in what amounted to one of the most rewarding discussions I had thus far in an interview context. Here is an edited extract of this between myself and "Lily":

Lily: It’s still very difficult and especially because it’s coming up to a year. I’m finding it very tough at the moment but I don’t know, I’m getting there.

Rita: It does take a tremendous amount of time. Just find a way to, I don’t know... do something that remembers [them], and do something for yourself. It does take a lot of time, I’ve been talking about this with a lot of friends and it just takes years and years and it will come back whenever something you know… something odd happens or something just reminds you of [them], or…

Lily: Yeah exactly. There is little reminders but also something good happens, and you just want to pick up your phone and tell [them]. They’ve just put up a memorial for [them], but I haven’t yet been to see it.

Rita: It’s always the first, isn’t it, there is the first Christmas without them. It’s the first birthday, without them. And then the anniversary of their death....

Lily: Yeah... it sounds like you’ve been through it too, I’m really sorry…

Rita: Yes, similar circumstances (...). I think it will be a long term process.

Lily: Absolutely. I can’t see this ever leaving me. I wouldn’t want it to. I wouldn’t want to forget the significance of [them] in my life.

Rita: It’s really interesting to see how you're going through similar cycles of grief really. Later today I’m going to Filey which is near Scarborough. And it’s a place that kind of to me reminds me of her because we’ve been near there on holiday together. So it’s always a place that I kind of reserve for her in a way. And it’s just nice that I’m going to do that later and I’m just thinking about the fact that I’m going to go to the sea and spend time there and kind of remember her, how she would have loved that place and the sea there. So it’s not..., it’s odd 'cause it kind of it does become normalised in a way, I know it’s weird but it does just become a thing in your life, like one of the aspects of you. And I think I’ve got, I’m getting to that point where it’s just something that I am.

Remembering V. before her birthday later this month...

Bike polo