When planning this book, I hoped to be able to interview between forty and fifty people, although several people had expressed doubts as to whether that number of people would be willing to talk about such a difficult issue as suicide. In fact, nearly a hundred people contacted me; there seemed to be no shortage of people wanting to talk about their bereavement. In the event, I saw fifty of them, and it is their stories which are told here.
I have used the word 'stories' deliberately. Although I set out with a tape-recorder and notebook, I decided that, as far as possible, I wanted people to be free to relate their stories in the way that they felt most comfortable. I had a subject guide to hand, but even this was frequently discarded as people began to tell their stories-on some occasions for the first time. I saw my role as listener rather than interviewer, and my decision not to undertake formal, structured interviews reflected Cain's comment that, 'given the clamorous needs of many survivors for psychological assistance, survivor research will often acquire a strong action research flavour' (1972:24).
Contact was made with survivors through a number of different channels. The single largest group contacted me as the result of letters circulated by two national organisations: CRUSE Bereavement Care; and The Compassionate Friends, a self-help organisation of bereaved parents. Other survivors responded to a letter in the now-defunct weekly magazine New Society. The remainder were identified through personal contacts, and through other survivors.
It was not my intention to conduct a formal and methodologically rigorous research study and the fifty people interviewed were not selected in any systematic way, so how representative are they of survivors in general? Do they represent a range of survivors in terms of their circumstances, reactions and coping abilities, or are they a group with particular problems? Only a small proportion had used specialist sources of help and unlike some of the groups of survivors studied by Cain (1972) and his colleagues, they were not part of a clinical group, identified through a hospital or other treatment setting. The common denominator was a wish, maybe even a