Widowed AF

#83 - Anna Bignell

December 04, 2023 Rosie Gill-Moss Season 1 Episode 83
#83 - Anna Bignell
Widowed AF
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Widowed AF
#83 - Anna Bignell
Dec 04, 2023 Season 1 Episode 83
Rosie Gill-Moss

Remembering Rich. Anna Bignell opens up about her late husband, Rich, and the beautiful life they created together and the tragedy of his suicide. 

Anna discusses the importance of keeping his memory alive. She does so through her fundraising  initiatives, 'Ramble for Rich' and 'Pitchside for Rich', which are not just tributes to Rich but also platforms to raise awareness about mental .

Anna shares her experiences of parenting in the wake of her husband's suicide. She offers insights into how she's helping her children navigate their emotions and foster resilience during this challenging time.

Rosie and Anna delve into the importance of mental health awareness and support, particularly in the context of bereavement and suicide.

This episode highlights the power of community support and the role it plays in healing and finding hope after loss.

Don't forget to subscribe to "Widowed AF" for more powerful stories and insightful conversations.

 



Web: (https://www.widowedaf.com)
Instagram (@widowed_af)
Watch on (YouTube)

Don't forget to subscribe !

Show Notes Transcript

Remembering Rich. Anna Bignell opens up about her late husband, Rich, and the beautiful life they created together and the tragedy of his suicide. 

Anna discusses the importance of keeping his memory alive. She does so through her fundraising  initiatives, 'Ramble for Rich' and 'Pitchside for Rich', which are not just tributes to Rich but also platforms to raise awareness about mental .

Anna shares her experiences of parenting in the wake of her husband's suicide. She offers insights into how she's helping her children navigate their emotions and foster resilience during this challenging time.

Rosie and Anna delve into the importance of mental health awareness and support, particularly in the context of bereavement and suicide.

This episode highlights the power of community support and the role it plays in healing and finding hope after loss.

Don't forget to subscribe to "Widowed AF" for more powerful stories and insightful conversations.

 



Web: (https://www.widowedaf.com)
Instagram (@widowed_af)
Watch on (YouTube)

Don't forget to subscribe !

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Hello everybody and a very warm welcome back to Widowed AF. You're here with your host, Rosie Gill Moss. Now, today I am joined by Anna Bignall. Um, Anna is not only a member of this shitty club that we never asked to belong to, she's also in a particularly lonely section of this club because her husband took his own life. These interviews are very, very hard. Uh, they're hard to listen to. They're hard for me because I'm, I'm, I'm looking directly at you. Um, but they are especially hard for the person who is telling me their story. So, um, Listen with care, listen with caution, listen with respect, because the sheer balls it takes to come and talk about this is, is unimaginable. So, Anna, thank you for being brave enough to come on today.

Anna Bignell:

Thanks, Rosie.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

So, your husband, Rich, he died, did you say 20 months ago? I had it as down as, yeah, so 20 months ago. So you're still, you're still kind of reeling a little, I imagine. Now to give the listeners just a little bit of background. Rich, um, and yourself, you had twin daughters. He was seven at the time of his death.

Anna Bignell:

Yeah. Mm-Hmm.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

a, it's a tough age, seven. Monty was seven when Ben died. Um, and it is tough. Um, but as I said to you before we came on, Mike, uh, my child, the child I have now is not the child I had when he was seven. Um, he was very distressed for a very long time, understandably. And, um, but he is now a nearly 14 year old. You know, gorgeous human being who I'm proud of every day. So, um, have hope, um, but anyway, that's enough about me. Um, So I think, to start with, I want to hear about you and Rich. I want to hear how you met and what life looked like for you guys. So just, when you're ready, just tell me as much or as little as you want.

Anna Bignell:

Okay, so, um, Rich and I met in our early twenties and, um, we had a great life. We lived together in London for a number of years. Um, he had a really brilliant job. He was really creative. Um, and, uh, he did lots of travel and actually I was, I was going back to uni at the time, um, to study. So, um. We supported each other a lot. We were quite different in some ways, but, um, essentially our values were the same. Um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

that, I think you get the kind of yin yang thing, but so long as those core values and beliefs are the same, it works.

Anna Bignell:

Um, he was so, so funny, just really, really smart, and just a brilliant, um, dry sense of humour. Um, which definitely came across in his memorial, um, last year. Um, I guess, yeah, I guess when I say we were different, I, I suppose looking back, and it's only with hindsight, hideous, raw hindsight, Um, I think he was quite fragile, really, he was a fragile soul, um, And I didn't really realise until, you know, lastly, there was anxiety, so he kind of worried about things a little bit more than I did. Um, he just found, he found, um, some situations harder. Um, didn't think of anything at the time. Um, what I mean by that is he was a massive planner, so he, he liked to kind of have his... life in order, if that makes sense. He liked to know, you know, have control. And you could say a lot of us like to do that. But, um, he, he worried if things didn't go to plan, I noticed more. Um, and I guess I was always quite spontaneous and, um, but we kind of, um, we got a good measure of each other. And, um, yeah,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

do you think there's an element here because you're, you know, the way you describe him as funny and smart and this lovely dry sense of humor. Um, it's quite common, isn't it, with people, with men, particularly who are hiding an anxiety or a mental health concern or depression, because they tend to, I mean, Robin Wilson is an example, Robin Williams is an example, because The smiling face can hide, well it's the clown isn't it? It's the clown with the tears, it's um, yeah.

Anna Bignell:

Yeah, absolutely. Um, lots of comedians do have depression and, um, I realized actually for a long period of time he did have bouts of depression throughout our relationship and then marriage. Um, and I think, I can't, I can, I can't really pinpoint it exactly. I remember going on a holiday, family holiday and He, he really struggled, um, in terms of he was quite withdrawn, but actually I always gave him time, because I think he needed that. This is when the girls had come along, um, and actually having twin girls, she mentioned they were quite hard having two babies at the same time,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

I can't even imagine.

Anna Bignell:

so, um, I think he, he did say, he, he talked about the fact that he had. He had depression, but only really in that last year, um, and anxiety, for sure.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

And the thing with depression is it comes and goes. So you might not necessarily think of yourself as a depressed person, but you might be prone to bouts of depression. And that's why it's so confusing because I, I, again, I can only speak from personal experience, but when I get low, I think to myself, what on earth is wrong with me? Like I'm happy. I'm a really upbeat, enthusiastic glass half full kind of person. Until I'm not.

Anna Bignell:

Yeah,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

it's, it's, it must be very difficult to live with that because you're never quite sure when it's going to land. I mean, I'm, I'm never sure, to be honest.

Anna Bignell:

that's a good point. I suppose there were times where there were mood swings, um. But, um, and it made, it made at times he was quite unpredictable. Um, but when the girls came along, you know, having children, it makes it, you know, pass on the pressure, doesn't it? And I definitely saw that. Um, but he had a very, very, um, high pressure job. Um, he worked all the hours, um, constantly. I mean, he worked weekends when I first met him. And he... He worked in a, in a pretty corporate cutthroat work environment where, um, mental health wasn't seen, you know, they talked a lot about, you know, how it

Rosie Gill-Moss:

but not walk the walk, necessarily. Yes.

Anna Bignell:

absolutely. Um, so, but we had a lot of fun. He was just a brilliant man. Um, and I just miss him so much. Um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

God, that's got...

Anna Bignell:

yeah. Um, so, We moved out of London and he found our lovely house. I wanted to be by the river and he found a really lovely Victorian cottage. That's what I wanted and he found it. Um, but actually strategically quite placed to, um, near to his, um, his local football team.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Oh, handy, that, yeah.

Anna Bignell:

yeah. Um, so he loved, he loved sport, he loved music, he... He had many talents. He was a brilliant, um, gardener. Just so many more talents than me, actually. And that's why I feel so sad about the girls kind of missing, missing out on, on growing up with him and finding out. But I do, I do, I feel that, um, my girls are a lot like him. They look like him, but they also, yeah, they really do. Um. So, essentially, yeah, so we met, and then, um, the girls were, the girls were seven, and in 2021, um, well just before actually the end of 2021, so 2020, I can think back, he had, um, an accident on his bike, he basically ended up slipping a disc in his back, and he was in a lot of pain, um, And he, I helped him, um, suggesting through occupational health with work, getting support around, you know, the right chair and the right equipment. But actually he was making good recovery, but I remember his mood really changed, like it was really starkly different from, there was no ups, it was more downs, you know. Um, um, yeah, then that, that year. In 2020, just the stress was on. It was, it was on at work really massively and he was, he was essentially put in charge to restructure. Um. and make a lot of redundancies. And he found that really incredibly hard. He was a man of, he had a strong work ethic and he cared deeply. And I think he, he worked in a, in a, in a brutal world really that didn't align with his own values. Um, and I think, you know, as I said, he was fragile. He had, he had essentially imposter syndrome and I just, he found that enormously hard. And one day It was only four months before he died. He, he came back and he said he'd been made, made redundant. They culminated in his own redundancy. And, um, yeah, I've kind of

Rosie Gill-Moss:

been having to make people redundant, which was breaking his heart knowing that knowing the impact this was going to have on families who, I mean, you're talking into 2020, like the weirdest, most terrifying year most of us have ever lived through. And so he's kind of feeling this enormous guilt about taking people's livelihoods away, essentially.

Anna Bignell:

And guilt was, yeah,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

No, you continue.

Anna Bignell:

guilt was absolutely that's guilt. Um, was just a huge part of how he was feeling during that time and I think for a lot of people, you know, lockdown just had a massive, um, yeah, just a really ill effect on him.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Well, they say now, I don't know whether he had COVID himself, but, um,

Anna Bignell:

He never

Rosie Gill-Moss:

of now that it's, oh, he did it. It's, it's now, I mean, re classed as sort of neurological, um, illness as well, I believe. So the, um, not only did we all have this kind of fear hanging over us, but those who did have COVID may be left with kind of. Low mood problems as a result. So, and it was, um, it was like living in a, in a film, wasn't it? When nobody knew what on earth was going

Anna Bignell:

Yeah,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

And then for him to then lose his job, which you describe him being, um, very, very, very dedicated to his job and, you know, working all hours. So it was obviously an enormous part of who he was and his identity.

Anna Bignell:

Yeah, you've, you've hit it on the head really, it was a massive part of his identity, it was how he saw himself, how he, he got his self worth, um, and I think, I think that was a huge part of, of who he was, and without it, he, he didn't know who he was. Actually, it was that massive loss of identity. Um, lockdown definitely for sure had a massive impact on him. I remember having to go to the shops, you know, supermarkets. He, he was, I mean, he used really strong adjectives. I remember like he would say he was terrified of going out and, you know, just the amount of words that would come out like that, I was, I was kind of. Thinking, you know, I was, I was confused at the time, but obviously it's not like I was blasé and just walking around without a mask. But, um, I think his disworry, you know, led to a huge bit, you know, anxiety level that I didn't really realize. Um, so, yeah, it was, it was 21, September 21 when he got made redundant. And, um, I remember he came through the door and, um, He dropped to the floor and he just, he was just beside himself and I, I blindly had this stupid, naive optimism, like I always have done, and I um, I just said it'll be okay. Everything will be okay.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Yeah,

Anna Bignell:

Um, and because, as I said, I, I knew he had so many talents and I said, you know, you can be a gardener, you can be

Rosie Gill-Moss:

yeah,

Anna Bignell:

anything you want to be, I'll, I'll support you. And he was hugely worried about finances, but because of his depression, as well as his anxiety, he was incredibly negative. And that's what I found really hard to be around because he said things like, we are going to lose the house, you know, really over the top dramatic.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

yeah.

Anna Bignell:

things. We're going to lose the house. You're not going to see your brother and sister in Australia. Um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

So sort of immediately going to, you know, worst case, worst case scenario catastrophizing, yeah.

Anna Bignell:

catastrophic thinking, I realized for some time. Um, and that's what was really hard to live with. I think, um, you know, I could, and I feel terrible now because I remember saying to him, I could, I understand, I can understand the sadness, but it's just, The complete negativity and also the anger as well that he was showing, you know, it was real, just those extreme emotions and it was, it was scary to be around, to be honest, at times, um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

can imagine

Anna Bignell:

know, and my girls were hearing it and seeing it. And, um, yeah, he, he then went into overdrive and what I remember and the girls. What I seem to remember is him sitting on the sofa scrolling endlessly, he was just searching and searching and searching for a new job.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

For jobs.

Anna Bignell:

Um, what I didn't realise is I should have been helping him with his mental health more. I mean I was, but I was also sending him, you know, job applicant, job, you know, advertisement. And um, I don't know, I was supporting him in a way that I only knew at the time. And, um, I think he just, every, everything, there was a reason not to go for it. Um, or he would say he didn't have the skill set or, um, his, his job was very unique and he was unlikely ever to be able to get, you know, use his transferable skills, which to me just seemed absolutely crazy because. What I was seeing and hearing, and you know, from many of his colleagues that I knew, they were saying how he would get a job easily because of how skilled he was. Um, so, And I just feel, I, I just, I didn't know, obviously, I didn't know what I now know about depression, how it makes you just so, it makes you inward looking actually, and it, you know, um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

And burn the world down. You know, I sometimes have to have my phone taken away from me if I'm in a bad bout because I will burn friendships or, you know, refuse to engage with my psychiatrist because I don't like the PA, you know, it's um. My bouts are very short and, and, and limited, but I, I really want to, I really want to pull you up on something and that is that you said you, you should have supported his mental health more. All I can hear is a woman who is supporting her husband, who has no clue that That there's a possibility that, you know, ending his life might even be an issue. Of course you're frustrated. Ben had a job he hated for years and he used to come in as a right miserable bastard and I, and I used to send him jobs and say, come on, you know, and in the end he'd set up his own business and he was right. It's, it is difficult to listen to somebody being really negative, but refusing to take any action to. improve and I, I don't want you to feel guilt or shame or anything for that because you obviously loved him and you obviously supported him in the best and only way you knew how.

Anna Bignell:

I did Rosie, I really did, and um, you know, that's why I, I veer from constantly feeling deep sadness, mostly, every single day, um, of my life. But then, You know, shock, disbelief still, and, and real anger, you know, anger at what he's dealing with. And, ultimately, um, the, I want our girls to know that he did try and get better, I know a lot of people with, you know, uh, severe mental health and potentially, I didn't realize at the time, but suicidal thinking, um, go towards risk taking behaviors, but actually he was in the opposite. So he found running and cycling during lockdown and he actually never really done it and he realized he was really good at it. Um, And my friends would say, Oh, I've, you know, I've seen Rich on Strava and he's, he's doing really well. I remember saying it to him and he'd be like, Oh, no, I'm rubbish. It was always met with a,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Always negative.

Anna Bignell:

a negativity. Yeah, absolutely. And it probably wasn't always there. It was always done with a quick, like a quick, cause he was just so funny and wry. But actually it was just constantly, you know, what he wasn't good at. And he was just. I, I, I liked the fact that he was always so humble, you know, that's obviously what attracted me initially because he was, you know, and our values were the same, um, and he cared so deeply. But. Almost to the detriment of him, himself, um, and, sorry, where was I?

Rosie Gill-Moss:

It's okay. No, we were just talking about how, um, basically I've written, the words I've written down here are how humour masks so much. So he would sort of respond with a quip about, Oh no, I'm rubbish. Um, and it reminds me again of that, that sort of the mask, the clown mask, you know, if, and actually. You probably know yourself how much dark humor that widows use as a kind of deflection, you know, even the fact that I call my alive and dead husbands, my alive and dead husbands is, it's my way of kind of deflecting it and making it less heavy for other people, which. Um, and it sounds like he was an incredibly empathetic person, like he took on a lot of, um, other people's feelings and he cared very deeply about how other people felt. Um, which is, it's, it's common with people who suffer with their mental health as well. Um,

Anna Bignell:

yeah,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

In that four months, you say that he was made redundant, and then you've got this kind of four months, um, and did you notice a deterioration? I mean, I suppose what I'm trying to ask is, it seems such a small period of time. It's sort of what happened in those four months? Is that that

Anna Bignell:

know, I, for him, it seemed forever, like I remember he, I, I said to him, um, Because he loved hiking and he was brilliant at it in Yav camping. He, he went for a fishing trip with a friend I remember in early October. He just, his He found also that his capacity to make decisions was really impaired and, um, as well as his memory. I mean, mine's shocking now, my memory, but, um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

brain, yeah? Mm.

Anna Bignell:

me saying, Oh, but I should do this, or I shouldn't do that, or maybe I should come back. And I said, just stay, just stay, just do whatever you need to do, like. Go and have fun, like, go and do Hadrian's Wall, um, walk, because I know he always wanted to do that. But I remember his response was really over the top, it was like, what? Anna? Why would I need, go and do that? I need to get a bloody job. I need to get a job. We need to get, make money. Ah!

Rosie Gill-Moss:

shoulda, shoulda, shoulda, shoulda, mantra.

Anna Bignell:

absolutely just, and he would explode at me, and that's what I then really find hard. Um. But I just, I mean, people have told me I was, you know, nothing but just trying to be kind and calm. And I said, you know, we've got my income at the time I was working full time and not now. I have gone back to work, but, um, I don't think I can go back full time any time soon.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

you work with

Anna Bignell:

Um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

you work with neurodivergent children, don't you, and their families, I notice from, yeah.

Anna Bignell:

no, I do. And I really love my job. But, um, yes,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

But it's a lot to try and go back to work isn't it? I, I'm, yeah, I remember that. So he, even though there was, your income was coming in, I mean,

Anna Bignell:

And I knew, sorry to

Rosie Gill-Moss:

no, no, it's okay, it's okay, you carry on,

Anna Bignell:

thank you. Um, yeah, he, he also had a settlement like, so I knew we'd be okay and we sat down and we looked at it together and as I said he was such a planner but he was saying it wouldn't last for X amount of months and I said well that's okay and I think even, you know, for him six months or It was, he wanted to know that he would have more coming in and to be honest, we were in a fortunate position that we had various family members who were offering, you know, financial support. Um, he had huge amounts of friends. I mean, huge, I can't tell you how many friends he had. And so, and people said to me, I, I didn't realize Rich, you know, knew, had that group of friends and that group, you know. Some of them overlapped over the years, but some of them didn't. And um, but, you know, even then, some of them had offered, offered their support. So, for me, I just, I mean, I wasn't sitting back just totally relaxed, but I just, I wasn't worried. And I, I just knew that... I thought, I blindly, naively thought that he'd get a job eventually and everything would be okay. And, um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

well you can't fathom an alternative, can you, until it happens, you, the world that we now inhabit didn't exist to us until we were plunged into it, so the idea that things could escalate to the extent that they did probably just didn't.

Anna Bignell:

yeah. I just, I just, I just don't understand, I don't, I still really don't understand, um, how that, that hope could go.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

And that's it. It's a loss of hope, isn't it?

Anna Bignell:

loss of the thinking ahead for the future. Um, when I was just so... Constantly, as I said, just optimistic about it will be okay. Um, so, yeah, as I said, he had that trip with his friend, um, fishing trip, and then... He, he went to see lots and lots of friends, I mean he had so many, I mean so much so, I don't know whether this was a sign Rosie, he actually sent me a spreadsheet of all the contacts he had, like with work and outside of work, I can't tell you how big it is, I mean it's absolutely enormous, I don't know whether he sent, he sent it to me like two days before he died,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

So that you could let people know, do you think?

Anna Bignell:

I don't, I don't know, I'm not sure, some, I mean, I, there was an incredible friend, work friend who did a, um, just giving when he died and raised a hell of money and I'm forever grateful and actually I want to say thank you to everyone on here, um, whoever does listen to this who, who knew Rich and may or may not known me and the girls because I never got to say thank you to them, um, really,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

of you because My brother set up one for a Nintendo Switch for my kids, which was very sweet. Um, I'm sorry to just interject a little bit, but This thing about having so many friends, so this is something that I myself, I'm formally guilty of. I'm a people pleaser. I like people. I love to almost collect friends. I love having people in my life. Um, and before I got on the kind of getting sober and fixing my head and all that sort of business, I, my mum used to just say, how do you keep up? Like, you know, everybody. And. I now believe that so much of that was validation, that if other people, enough other people liked me, I must be okay, I must be likeable. Um, and I'm, I'm much, it's a process that I'm working on now, but it does. It, it comes back to that, you know, the vivacious, you know, life of the party, um, and you're almost hiding behind this veneer of, of, you know, well, all these people like me and want to hang out with me, so I must be all right. I must be a decent human being. Um, but yeah, it's, uh,

Anna Bignell:

a good point because I do think that Rich was a people pleaser in terms of, you know, wanting to be liked and, um, you know, comparison is Joy's greatest thief, right? And that is something he was massively guilty of. He just always compared himself to other people all the time. Um, and I should say that, you know, you know, despite him When, when he got made redundant, there was this lots of, I should have done this, so and so would have done that better than me. So, but actually he was in, in, in such a challenging position and he was getting absolutely no support from above. He had a narcissist of a boss and, um, he, for that, you know, and I'm, that's potentially another story, but you know, I'm, there's a claim going on with work as well. Um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

And is that because they were, and I know that you spoke at the beginning of this, that we weren't going to talk about where he worked, so we won't give too much information away, but he was, it's from the sounds of it, you know, bullied at work. Um,

Anna Bignell:

Absolutely. And it wasn't just him. It was so many more people that have come to light, have contacted me and said the same about this particular individual. Um, but essentially it was, it was the The cutthroat, uh, corporate environment that they worked in that had, um, they were out for themselves and ultimately there was no understanding of mental health. And actually if you, if you showed any sign of, as he said, weakness, um, you were out the door. And when he, I actually basically made him go to the doctors finally, just a month before, he had one month off. Sick leave. So this was the August of 21. Um, but he spent the whole month just in absolute fear. And I say fear because he used those words. Genuine fear, being petrified. He wasn't able to relax, that's what he was supposed to do. But actually he was still working from, for half of it. Filling in, you know, what the next person who was going to step in to do. So two weeks he was doing that. And he was off, he was really, really, he was off on sick leave. He actually got... He said he got the doctor to change, um, the sick note to say heart palpitations rather than stress. He was so anxious about that word appearing on there. It says a lot.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

it really does, it really does.

Anna Bignell:

it, I mean, it's, it's huge.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

And that was his fear that they would find out that he was struggling with mental health problems or was it the fear of going back having had time off?

Anna Bignell:

I think a massive mixture. I think he felt that he wasn't doing his job to the best of his ability. Um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

He, I can just feel shame on

Anna Bignell:

Shame, guilt, um. It was just enormous, and it was just eating him up, and it was just horrendous to see, horrendous, and, um, I know lots of people felt the same, but ultimately, because he was so senior, the buck stopped with him, and everybody piled their shit on top of him. They really did, they just went to him. And I remember him saying, but I've got this to do, I've got that to do, and why are people asking me this when I've got all this to do? And ultimately, there wasn't great HR. process in place and he was just given, you know, people management where actually that wasn't his, his, his, I know he'd been promoted into management and, but he'd been given no support or tools to, to deal with that. And as I said, his manager was just a horrific human being. Um, and, uh. It was just horrendous to see.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Yeah, it's a while to watch somebody in any of those states, shame, guilt or fear, is, is distressing and to see that you're, you know, your strong husband who's got this You know, important job and to see him kind of almost like shrink, I suppose, before your eyes. And I'm, I'm prophesying or guessing because I've not seen it myself, but this is what I'm picturing happening is that this man is sort of, um, almost shrinking before your eyes.

Anna Bignell:

He physically did Rosie, he actually did, yeah. And there's, there's new, there's um, because it's in the paper, like, there's news articles about how that, you know, people saw him just months before, or in fact shortly after, when he was made to come back into work to finish things. I mean, how hideous is that? He was already feeling so... shit about himself and he had to go in and finish things. So actually he got made redundant in the early September, but he still essentially was working for another month and people noted how much weight he'd lost. Um, but in those last three months he did something, I don't know, it was this absolute bid to, to try and get, get healthy in his mind because he, he stopped drinking. And he was always. He always liked to drink. He was, as I said, he was a life and soul. A lot of his work revolved around, you know, a deadline to get in. And then there was a massive kind of celebratory, celebration, you know. And he'd, he loved to drink and he loved being around people. He was fun. He was funny. He was smart. He was just brilliant entertainment. And, um, You know, he, he would, you know, he really got into cocktail making in our, um, lockdown.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

down, yes.

Anna Bignell:

Yeah, um, and I've got this cocktail, um, cabinet next to me actually, and I've not opened it since, um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

you were going to just show me a cocktail that you had. Um, it's what time is it? Five past 11 in the morning. I mean,

Anna Bignell:

Yeah.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

we're widows, right? Um, and so he's

Anna Bignell:

where was

Rosie Gill-Moss:

you were just telling me how he'd made this real bit to start to get healthy and stop drinking. So he's, he's obviously trying to take back control, isn't he? He's obviously trying to do the

Anna Bignell:

He was. He absolutely was. And as I said, he wanted this control. He was a planner. He liked to be in control. He gave up booze. He gave up sugar.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Oof.

Anna Bignell:

gave up, um, he actually gave up carbs. He gave up caffeine. I mean... He, he did everything

Rosie Gill-Moss:

But that's everything to excess, isn't it? It's instead of just do Cause I gave up, you know, booze, and I have my giant pack of M& M's next to me because I, I, I didn't used to eat much sugar because, you know, I was on a diet. And I, but then that had sugar, but if you cut everything out at once, that's really, that's really harsh. It's really hard.

Anna Bignell:

And I don't think I realised at the time that he'd done it all at the same time. I was supporting him, but then I was kind of thinking, okay, you know, because he was, despite me, you know, him showing bouts of real. Well, frustration and anger and just kind of a rational thought, you know, he'd say things that were really impulsive and, you know, I realized just thought weren't rational,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Mm hmm.

Anna Bignell:

but he also was, there were signs of just. level headed, fun, normal, rich. And so, I, I don't, I don't really know exactly when he started, um, cutting all this out, but, um, he did start to engage in therapy eventually. Um, I think it was way too... to be honest. Um, it was at crisis point. He, he did some on the NHS and kind of CBT. He didn't find it particularly helpful. He was pretty negative afterwards. Um, it was tons of scales that he had to kind of talk through and he always didn't seem, he seemed worse afterwards, to be honest. Um, I don't think he felt truly listened to. Um, He even tried, you know, mindfulness, but he, he didn't need that. He actually, I think now I truly believe he had PTSD, you know, in terms of how, the impact of losing his job and his self-worth and how it made him feel. Um, and there is a report,'cause I've actually got another claim against, uh, medical negligence claim. And it, it highlights that, um, exactly that.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

So you, the PTSD that you believe came from losing his job and from the pressure that was put upon him from management and the fear of, and I suppose for men, it's the fear of not being able to provide, isn't it? There's a, uh, a

Anna Bignell:

Yeah, absolutely. The irony right

Rosie Gill-Moss:

yeah, well, there is that. Yeah, of course. Okay. So, and I do, I feel, I always feel really horrible dragging people back into it, but I think. That, by talking about it, you do free yourself, so, um, what happened, what, what then happened? Where, where did you go from there?

Anna Bignell:

Um, I, I literally haven't shared this with, I've only shared it with one person, one good friend, because the circumstances were that most, a lot of my good friends knew what happened, so I've not actually had to relay this. Um, so, forgive me if I'm, if

Rosie Gill-Moss:

I, well, firstly, thank you, I feel very honoured, and secondly, if you want to stop at any time, you must, okay?

Anna Bignell:

Um, so we, we shared a lot, but we also were pretty independent. So he, we shared friends, but we had our own friends. He would go out with, you know, his friends. I'd go out with mine. So this wasn't any different really, I suppose. But then obviously now I reflect and think, well, I knew he was really depressed. So why did I leave him? But anyway, I did. It was shortly after the Christmas in early January. I've joined last year. I went to stay with a friend and I took the girls, um, like I did a lot. And, um, I saw him that day. I mean, very recently, pretty awful, but the girls discovered his, his iPad and they were looking back and there are videos of the girls videoing, like them playing and leading on the days right up to his death. And this. They made me, Elfie actually made me the other day watch a video. That morning that he died. And you can hear us in the background talking about, Oh, I'm going to stay with my friend. And he's, he's getting ready because he was going to his local football match. And I believe that was one, one sort of shot at seeing if he felt better or not. But to me, That was, you know, he was on the up because he was going to football. He hadn't been for a while.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Yeah.

Anna Bignell:

Um, so,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

So you felt safe to leave him, because

Anna Bignell:

I did. We'd spent the morning, I, I remember that morning really clearly, in that there was a Sainsbury's, a massive Sainsbury's shop that came, and it came Earlier, I think it was like, it arrived at seven, but I,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

when I do that.

Anna Bignell:

yeah, and I remember he hadn't been sleeping, he'd had insomnia, which is actually very unlike him, he slept really well usually, but he had insomnia after the redundancy, so, you know, I didn't realise, but on reflection, four months of not sleeping, he must have felt like absolute shit, um, and he was really angry because I didn't wake up, and he did, and he had to go and get the Sainsbury's shop. So, I remember him, sort of, waking me up, you know, about half seven, saying, Ah, Hannah, you didn't hear, you didn't hear the Sainsbury's knock, and he was really irate, you know, that was a lot, that's how I would describe him, it was just irate, um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

A real overreaction as well.

Anna Bignell:

real overreaction, and just, kind of, not, you know, not nice to be around, just, you know, and actually, we were, we were living like that for a little while, to be honest, sort of, since then. I felt like I was living on a knife edge at some points really, you know, it was, and it's awful to say, but I remember, you know, he would like, for example, I don't know, stub his toe and it was just so catastrophic his reaction. It was like, ah, my God. And I would just kind of walk on by because I was almost. used to doing that, and he said, you don't care, do you? You really don't give a shit. Um, yeah, there was a bit of that. And, um, anyway, sorry, I digress. So the shop came and, um, but I remember having the morning, a bit of the morning there together, and he then went off to football. It was still sort of Christmas holidays. So I took the girls to, um, my parents house, and we had some family. My brother was over, and their little cousin, and my auntie and uncle. And Rich then came back and met us after the football. Um, and we had some, some, like, early tea together. And I didn't, I didn't... Um, but I've actually got videos, as I said, I mean, horrific now, but of him, like, having fun, like, there were moments of fun, like, we were dancing on the, at one point, just to Christmas songs,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Yeah.

Anna Bignell:

um, there's one, beautiful one of him dancing with Maya, um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

And is that your other daughter?

Anna Bignell:

my other daughter, yeah, um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Which I imagine are quite precious now, but also equally very confusing to look back

Anna Bignell:

Just so confusing. So, um, I left around five, and I remember sort of in the busyness, my brother was also leaving, so we were kind of saying goodbye to him in the driveway. And, um, I remember thinking, but I don't think I said it, I said, why don't you stay, just stay, just have the evening with my parents. Um, and I checked, I said, I checked in on him, and I, I said, you know, is it all right? I'm going. I remember this was a friend, um, who I'd rearranged to see through lockdown, um, a few times.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

So, you, you guys were all leaving your parents house, and you were then going to go off and stay with a friend for a couple of days, and you've just said, so you've had to reschedule, I know what that's like, I am the worst for rescheduling with friends, it's like modern friendships, right? It takes at least four attempts to meet up. So, understandably, you're gonna wanna go see your friend.

Anna Bignell:

Yeah, and she had a daughter similar age to my girls, and we were going off, but I do remember reversing back into the drive and then we kind of had a goodbye, that was, that was the last time I saw him. Um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Oh, I know, I'm so sorry.

Anna Bignell:

and um, he looked really, really, really, really sad, and I just said, Are you okay? And obviously I should have been asking, are you suicidal? But I didn't know at the time. That's what I'd say. Are you okay? Are you all right? Um, and he just nodded. Um, I had a quick goodbye with the girls. Um, I was rushing off and it was just, it was all really quite quick. Um, Which I feel sad about now. And he then drove home. Um, and he'd gotten really well with my parents. He had a great relationship with them. As well as my auntie and uncle. He drove home on his own. And for that I feel so sad because I knew how sad he was and I left him. And I think that was the only overnight one I had left him for since he'd been made redundant. As I said, it had been the norm for him to, and for me, to go and stay with friends.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Yeah, and, and, you know, and,

Anna Bignell:

that poorly. Thank

Rosie Gill-Moss:

but you were allowed, you were allowed to have your own time and, and he had actively told you that he would be okay. Now, in hindsight, he wasn't, but you had asked him the question, he had reassured you that he would be fine. And I just so wish I could take the guilt off you. I wish I could just, I mean, I feel guilt that. Ben and I learned to scuba dive on honeymoon. We, we're, it's very difficult not to feel some element of guilt in any, any death. But with a, when they take their own lives, it, it, it's, I know, I know, it, it really, really piles it on. And I just wish that I could take some of that away from you because you don't deserve it.

Anna Bignell:

you. We wake goodbye. Um, and I remember just texting him. I, I, I didn't phone him that night. I didn't. And I didn't. I wish I did. I wish I'd phoned. I wish I got the girls to, to phone him. But we got there quite late. I hadn't seen my friend in a while. We were having dinner, we were getting, you know, the air bed's blown up. I

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Yeah.

Anna Bignell:

a text about, you know, I'd forgotten the pump. And he was like, oh, sorry about that. You know, and

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Just normal family

Anna Bignell:

normal. Yeah. And, um. Anyway, I didn't mention that he actually was going in to do a day's work the next day, and it was a Saturday, but it was a Sunday, but, you know, the work he worked in, he was just, he was doing a day, basically, to cover, um, for his, I mean, his good friend, work friend had got him the job, the day. Um, but in his mind it was, it was kind of a runner's job, you know, something he did over 20 years ago and he felt really, probably quite demeaned and shamed and carrying all that guilt and he didn't want to do it. And I did say to him, you don't need to do this. You don't need to take these odd jobs. Um, you know, you can do, You can do anything, or you can just get better. I remember I definitely did say that to him. But he said, no, no, no. Um, this friend, you know, he's really good. He's really good of him to get this job. I need to do it. So that was, you know, when somebody's

Rosie Gill-Moss:

pleasing as well, isn't it? It's that, that not wanting to let people down.

Anna Bignell:

Yeah, not wanting to let people down.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

I know,

Anna Bignell:

So, um, yeah, so I sent a few messages and the last one was he was going to have a warm bath and go to bed early. And I said, I love you. And he said, I love you back.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

That was it. Oh

Anna Bignell:

And then, um, the next, I had a really terrible night's sleep, actually. Um, my, my daughter Elsie started to have separation anxiety in the summer of 21 when she fell out of bed. She broke a collarbone and it started this sort of process of her coming into our bed more. And then in the end, um, ultimately a couple of months before, which started going to sleep upstairs, which had become his office, um, was a spare slash. And, um, I thought that was helping him, you know, his insomnia and I was taking the load off him with the girls. Um, so anyway, um, it meant that Elsie was in with me that night and I just remember not sleeping all that well. And, um, Mai had been up a bit in the night. Um, and I texted him in the morning and didn't get a reply. But to be honest, we weren't... Like, it wasn't clockwork, we'd kind of message each other, it was just as and when he could. And I knew he was going into work, so I didn't think much about, anything about it. And I was still with, with my friend, we went out for a walk to the park. Um, and I realised it was sort of, I don't know, midday, even one o'clock, and I got a missed call. From his work colleague, and um, that never happens. I don't, I

Rosie Gill-Moss:

No, why would they ring you, right?

Anna Bignell:

And I rang back and immediately I knew he said, um, Rich didn't show up for work today. And, um, I didn't probably, I just sort of said, Oh, I need to call him. And I just thought he'll be all right. But I didn't give anything else away. I just... I was just a bit surprised. I phoned him several times, didn't get an answer. I messaged him. Um, and then I messaged, I phoned his dad. I said, could you go and check? Because his dad, his parents are only 20 minutes away from us. And, um, I knew in those two minutes that I needed to, um, ask my lovely neighbours. So I phoned them and coincidentally they were in and, um, there seemed to be this long wait where I was phoning them back and they wouldn't reply and I knew by that point John, his dad, would be heading over. Um, I've never said this before. So, um, the way I found out, no one actually said those words to me, but I kind of knew. So John, my father in law, When he eventually phoned back and said, um, Anna, you're going to have to be really, really strong and really, really brave. The bravest you've ever been for your two girls. And I just said yes. And I knew. He didn't even have to say anything. I knew. And I feel so sad.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

so sorry, I've got this movie crying. I'm just going to

Anna Bignell:

And I remember just being outside in the January weather and my friend saying, put some shoes on. And me saying. Piss off Just, I dunno. Just look after my girls. Um, I didn't tell her. And then I think, I can't even remember. I think I handed the phone from my father-in-Law to her. And then she sort of let the strange sound out. And I remember curling up into a ball. Actually, I don't remember shouting or screaming. I remember just curling up, going into absolute light. withdrawal and um, I was texting a friend at the time, my really amazing friend, and Lorian, thank you Lorian. And, she said she'd come over and get me. So she drove over and her husband Sean and um, they had like a baby at the time, one year old. And they were just incredible. Sean basically um, picked my girls up they had another daughter the same age and Sean drove my car back to their house, um, and I think by that time it was late and dark and subsequently without his lights on.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

yeah.

Anna Bignell:

have just been in absolute shock. And anyway, my friend Lorien took Me to my parents, but there was this long period of time and we were just kind of waiting at my friend Joe's house and, um, And then I realized afterwards that my brother, Theo, who'd been called, he'd come over from London, Rich's brother, and my parents, so they were all at my house and police and ambulance were all there and I actually got my messages. I don't remember, you know, you just have so much blanks, don't you? Memory blanks. But I got, I got two messages from school mums saying, I'm a bit worried about you, you've got, there's loads of police cars outside your house.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

So public as well. So you're going through this and it's so public.

Anna Bignell:

Um, yeah, and um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Take your time.

Anna Bignell:

yeah, I don't, I don't actually remember. I don't, I don't remember. I remember coming, going to my parents house, and then I remember basically moving in with them for three months. I didn't go back home.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

I can entirely understand

Anna Bignell:

And my brother and my sister flew over virtually within 24 hours from Australia. I know, and my brother stayed for two months, two weeks, and my sister stayed for six weeks. And they both left their own families, their own, you know, young children. And forever, I'm so forever grateful.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

And on behalf of the widowed community, so am I. Because... When you haven't got support, it's the loneliest place to be. And my family are incredible. My parents, as it happened, were in Cuba and flew back. Um, and without them, I don't know how I would have made it. Um, because Ben didn't die in our house, I was able to stay in my house. Um, and my, but my parents moved in with me for three months and I, you know, they, they helped me get the kids to school and all that. The normal stuff that you have to do.

Anna Bignell:

Yeah, I mean, they were incredible, to be honest, absolutely amazing. And I, yeah, my parents, amazing. We stayed at their house. The girls didn't go to school for three weeks because I just couldn't function. I just, I couldn't do a lot.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

No shit, right?

Anna Bignell:

Um, yeah, and as I said, I had amazing friends. incredible that were just kind of rallying around me and um, bringing food, shops, and also lots of supplies, you know, gifts for girls, um, and

Rosie Gill-Moss:

I'm just out of curiosity, the girls at that point, did they, cause I, just, just only because people did, lovely, exactly the same thing for me, I was, so, I just remember my friend emptying my bins, it's just that one, the acts, the little acts of

Anna Bignell:

Yes. Oh, yeah.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

But the, again, people would bring gifts for my, not for the baby because she was so young, but for the boys. And I remember my eldest saying, Mum, why, um, are people giving us presents because Dad died? And, like, it was almost as though it had taken on a, a, like a circus or a, like almost, oh look, here's a gift. And he found it quite odd. Um, and I, I'm just wondering if that's a, if that's a common theme or if that was just something he experienced. Yeah.

Anna Bignell:

remember that time we got loads of presents? And she's, it was all, it was sort of said with a bit of confusion, but also looking back with, you know. understanding that it was a tough time but actually being grateful for

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Enormous gratitude, yeah.

Anna Bignell:

yeah, and um, so essentially I stayed at my parents and they were incredible. We, we took the girls to school and they were over an hour away, um, so it was a bit of a schlep really and I started getting back to school. I, I didn't go back to work for 10 months, I just couldn't, um, and I feel really incredibly grateful because my work have been incredibly supportive, just really brilliant. Um, so I'm now part time back and I really enjoy my job. I really love my job, but um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

But full time on your own with two kids, right?

Anna Bignell:

Yeah. Yeah. So, um, I also, I should mention that I had I had, like, I was completely cushioned with support, um, when I did eventually move back in the April. I, um, I had, like, a rota of these women, my amazing friends. It's just incredible. Rachel, Laurie and Jo, um, another Jo, and my friend and neighbour Lorna. And they all stayed with me, um, or Rachel was there in the day. But all these, yeah, I had all these amazing friends and we called them, like, Hippie commune that basically I would, the girls would be like, who's staying tonight? And it was kind of fun as well because some would come with their, with their own children and stay over. And I think it was just because I just couldn't function in my house. I knew that I needed my own space and to be back living near the school and, you know, in my community, my kids normality, my, my friends. Um, we're near my, near me, but um, I just, because of the trauma in my house, because I just couldn't be here on my own, and um, I, it's just incredible that I had that for a whole year. Um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

I think this is so kind. I've never heard of this happening, actually. In all the stories I've spoken to, where your friends would just make a road trip and stay with you. What a kind and loving thing to do.

Anna Bignell:

absolutely bloody amazing. I mean, just. Incredible. And, um, yeah, we just had this rota going on and it was kind of, sometimes they turn up with, you

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Anna's army.

Anna Bignell:

yeah, what's like that? Um, and they were just incredible emotional support to me. And they're still incredible friends now, you know, it looks a bit different now as it should, you know, it's 20 months in. But, um, I, I'm forever grateful, and I just, I can't believe, you know, I was able to have that support. And I do feel really fortunate, in the shitty dark days, because there were many, many of those.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

and you feel so isolated, don't you, but the fact that you're the, the women, it's always the women, created a village and, uh, like, and, and just sort of formed this fortress around you. And I'm, that sounds just so comforting and, and, but, and I am going to ask you, um, and it is a difficult one, but. Do the girls know that he took his own life, or have you sort of fudged, fudged it a bit? Mm

Anna Bignell:

they know he had an illness called depression, and it made his brain poorly and think differently. Um, and have very sad feelings, because they saw that, right? They saw him being sad all the time. But they know that it's different from a sadness like me. They will ask me still, particularly Elsie, will say, are you depressed like Daddy? Um, but they know I keep saying it's an intense sadness, different to. a sadness that

Rosie Gill-Moss:

just through a feeling of

Anna Bignell:

Daddy's gone. Yeah, and we've talked, spoken a lot about different emotions, um, and they're pretty good at expressing their emotions now, and we've had incredible support from, um, Somebody I'd consider a friend of mine now through a local charity I found. I mean through a friend of a friend I got her contact. Um, you kind of think naively in bereavement like a load of posts that falls at your doorstep and you get loads of kind of, you know, forms to fill in and you get all the support offered but you kind of don't. You have to reach out and be really proactive yourself.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

And there's a lot of doors slammed in your face in the process, and I, this is why I'm very loyal to a charity that helped my kids called Holding On It And Go, because they were the ones that said to me, we will help you, you're not alone. And because I rang, you know, my son was having what sounded to me like suicidal ideation because he wanted to be with his dad and now, I don't believe now looking back it was, but in that time of terror, obviously I took him to the GP, you know, what can I do? And they sort of, well, you know. He's in until he turns 17, not very much, and you feel so utterly, utterly helpless.

Anna Bignell:

nothing. Cams don't get involved really at

Rosie Gill-Moss:

No.

Anna Bignell:

Um, yeah, so,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

And having to, so I had a friend around who you probably will have heard her episode, Liz Towner. Um, and she, cause she lives quite close to me and her husband, um, took his life. And I actually asked her just as, you know, over coffee, I says, as widows do, we have these, you know, we don't really talk about the weather, do we? And I said to her, how my, the comfort I've been able to offer my children is that their dad didn't. Choose, you know, that lots of dads choose to live away from their children, even, and that he wouldn't have left them. And she said, really said she kind of flipped it around and I really liked the way she phrased it. And I don't know whether you've heard you've thought of this or if I'm teaching you to suck eggs, but, um, and she said, what I told them is that he fought with his mind for 10 years because he didn't want to leave them. And I thought, okay, yeah. That, that really changes it, you know, that they fight, you know, and he had obviously been fighting for longer than four months, you know, this has, this has been in him his entire life and that dark, dark creature that lives in, in most of us to some extent, but in others, it, where it just, it takes over, but I thought that was a really kind of beautiful way of describing it when you, yeah,

Anna Bignell:

Yeah, I mean I do definitely believe Richard was fighting, absolutely. He didn't want to leave, he didn't. He just, he, he loved us, he loved the girls. More than anything, he was a brilliant, brilliant dad, um, I can't tell you, he was very much present, you know, he wasn't a part time dad, he wasn't a shit dad, he was a,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

It feels so unfathomable that he would, because he must have felt that you were better off without him. And,

Anna Bignell:

I know

Rosie Gill-Moss:

so unimaginable.

Anna Bignell:

would say things like, I know I'm a burden to you. You know, and it's only with hindsight I look back and think, Oh, I can join the dots now. There were so many

Rosie Gill-Moss:

hindsight's very clever, hey?

Anna Bignell:

He would say, you know, who, who, you don't, you deserve better. He would say that to me and I would look at him just confused thinking, What are you talking about? Like, that's just really strange. Like, we're married. I'm supporting you. I'm here for you.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

So, the words, I'm a burden, you deserve better, these, in hindsight, of course, are, are signs that somebody is struggling and feels like the world genuinely would be better without them, which, from the man that you've described to me, the world absolutely is not better without him. Um, did he leave you a note?

Anna Bignell:

So, when he started therapy, he was encouraged to write a mood diary. So he did, and he wrote, he wrote a diary, handwritten one, and that transferred onto his phone. And actually, I think he started just writing on the phone for the past, for the last two weeks of his life. And I know that he wrote two entries the day he died, because my sister read it. I asked her to, and she told me not to read it at the moment. And I've chosen not to read it. I just can't go there at the moment. I don't want to read about how sad he felt and how,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Darling.

Anna Bignell:

how desperate he felt and how, you know, I, I can't, I, that would be too painful for me. Um, maybe one day I will think differently, but right now, yeah, my sister was quite shaken up because, as I said, she, she literally read it two days before she went back to Australia in, you know, early February of last year. And, um. She, I went to Australia at Christmas, um, to see her, my brother, for a number of weeks and she did tell me a little bit more about what he said, and I know a little bit more. Um, it's just so hideously sad, um, I can't share it, it's out loud, it's just, um, yeah, he just felt all those feelings had just mounted up and he just felt completely... Empty, like he, like you said, he, he didn't, he wasn't worth being here anymore. Um.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

the hope's gone, isn't it? This, this, this feeling of, of hope. Um, we all need it. We thrive on it. It's, it's the only way we get through every, you know, when we're, you and I, we're going through these, these enormous traumas is the hope that it will get better. Um, which is kind of what we're doing here is really, is trying to show the, that, that life will get better for you. But of course, you're still very, relatively, Fresh, for want of a better word. Um, and I can kind of relate, I mean it's different but I still haven't watched videos of Ben because I don't want to see him alive like that. I don't, I think it'll be too painful. But um, my sons are asking too so I think I gotta put my big girl pants on and do it with them.

Anna Bignell:

the girls, actually, my girls really want to see videos of their dad. Um, unfortunately, I didn't realize it was gonna be the very, the video that I saw was on the day he died, because they came up to me like, I'm like, mommy, look at this. Um, and I just, I just, it was so painful hearing his voice like I've seen. I'm okay with certain photos, but hearing his voice is just on another level of pain.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Yeah.

Anna Bignell:

Um, so I can't do that. Um, and there was some beautiful things given to me, like, a group of friends did this beautiful photo album, and I haven't been able to open it and look at it. Um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

it will be so

Anna Bignell:

but it's there. Everything is saved for me. Yeah, I've got this memory tree, all these notes, people at the memorial. You know, that's all there for the few, you know, at

Rosie Gill-Moss:

I forgot my jar and paper for my vow. I still kick myself for it. Mmm. But it's... I have, the boys each have just a really old fashioned, you know, the old fashioned slide in photo albums with pictures of their dad and Tabby, my youngest, has asked for one, so, but the thing I find really, really difficult is I probably have about five photos of her with her dad, whereas the boys have so many more because they're a baby, right? Yeah, they're a baby. Um, and how, I mean, I know this is an awful question and I, I know the answer, but. How, how did you tell them and how did they react? Did they do the sort of traditional, traditional, typical reaction of the initial grief and then kind of behaving almost spookily normally?

Anna Bignell:

Absolutely. I just remember it was the worst conversation like everyone, all of us have to go through. Um, I decided my both sets of grandparents were around, they said do you want us to be there? I, I chose to just tell them by myself. I thought I just, I just couldn't predict what might be said and I wanted to kind of have a little bit of control in the moment, but I kind of rehearsed it. I've even got the note on my phone. I haven't looked at it again, but, um, Yeah, I told them basically straight away that he had an illness called depression but we didn't know how ill he was, um, and it made him brain, his brain not work. But they don't know any more than that. I mean, I can say the word suicide out loud. For many, many months I couldn't. I used to use the word took his life for a long time. Um, and it's died by suicide, not committed.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Yes, yes. I'm always very careful with that one.

Anna Bignell:

absolutely, you know, he didn't, it wasn't an act of choice. It was a compulsion, you know, an impulsive, catastrophic one. But, um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

friend of mine who is, I won't name her because of her own privacy, but you may have encountered her throughout support groups, um, she described it as a, um, a, a, a momentary decision a lifetime consequence or something to those, to that effect, that was a permanent solution to a temporary problem. And that was it. And it, and it's that frustration with them that you, you believe, or you initially at least believe that if you, if we'd just known sooner, if we'd just, if we'd managed to keep you going that bit longer, but

Anna Bignell:

I think he wanted to get rid of the pain and he wanted to get rid of it for that night. He didn't want to, he didn't want to die. He wanted to die that night, not forever.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Anna Bignell:

and I, yeah, I, so that's coming my way, all the discussion with the girls at some point, but I've got really good support from a charity, Neuroharmony, um, and Gemma, who supports the girls, is just, just amazing. Um, and we've got quite a few links, sort of, coincidentally, in other ways. Um, so yeah, she's become a good friend of mine, really, and she sees the girls most weeks. So,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

really good

Anna Bignell:

for them,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

that in place for

Anna Bignell:

yeah, I think so. When it happened, I just thought, how the fuck are the girls gonna be okay? You know,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

I remember the same thing. It's the thing that is used in Disney films and kids books as the worst possible thing that can happen to a child. And it happens to yours. And, like you, it happens suddenly and you just think, their lives are over. All of our lives are over, they will never ever feel happy again. And somehow against the odds, you do. Um, and you start to rebuild. A life that is very, very different to the one you anticipated. Um, did the girls, um, you talked about your daughter having, um, quite, uh, strong attachment issues prior to his death. Did that exacerbate afterwards? Hmm.

Anna Bignell:

but they are so different. Um, I mean, so yeah, they're just, they're processing their grief differently as well. Um, Maya has to have a little unicorn toy with her everywhere she goes. Um. Up in bed and to school, tucked under her arm. Um, but actually she, she still can sleep by herself, she said sleepovers. Whereas Elsie... Um, was very much attached to me, she didn't have a toy, but she, she needed me much more and actually she,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

was that?

Anna Bignell:

she had her very first sleepover just a week ago with a very good friend and, I mean, mum was amazing, she basically ended up having to sleep on a mattress next to her, um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

She did it, but

Anna Bignell:

but she did

Rosie Gill-Moss:

spent a night away from you and that

Anna Bignell:

she

Rosie Gill-Moss:

an enormous

Anna Bignell:

I mean it is enormous and lots of children without trauma, um, You know,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

They find it hard enough, right?

Anna Bignell:

So I'm really hugely proud of them. I'm just, I'm just so proud of my girls. Um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

is the thing. There you are, but you, you really wish that they hadn't had to do it. It's like I, yeah, you watch your kids walk through hellfire and come out the other side and you know that they are going to be. incredibly empathetic and kind and wonderful human beings, but they are made to grow up too fast, aren't they? It's like their innocence is stripped

Anna Bignell:

And they worry overly about us, don't they? Now that

Rosie Gill-Moss:

yesterday on the way to school, Mum, he was saying to me, um, you know Hector's autistic and so very, he likes And he likes to know what's happening. Um, so mum, realistically, you could live for another 50 years. Well, yeah, hopefully. And, and he was, and I'm sort of having to say to him, I can't promise you, darling. I do everything that I can to stay healthy and well, but I cannot promise you when I'm going to die. Like, or how long I'm going to live. And he. And I'm a little bit obsessed about it initially and it's the first time he's mentioned it for a while but they, they, I couldn't leave them particularly at all. It was, and I feel guilty saying it, but you feel almost trapped because you can't go anywhere and you do need your own space sometimes to grieve. But you're having to be this constant strong presence for a little person or little people that need you. And.

Anna Bignell:

Yeah.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

It's hard to find the space to do your own grieving.

Anna Bignell:

Yeah, I mean, I've, I've, hopefully I've got the balance right in that, you know, there were times they didn't want to do certain after school clubs, but I kind of made the call because everything stopped, right? It does, doesn't it? When everything, you know, your life just grinds to a halt. And, um, they didn't, they didn't do anything for a while after school. Um, but then I, I started, you know, getting them back into. To after school clubs, gymnastics and, you know, um, brownies and swimming and stuff. But um, and they are, I'm really proud that they are doing, Elsie's doing stagecoach and it's great for her ability to express herself. Um, and I'm just trying to create normality, but

Rosie Gill-Moss:

But their lives won't ever be normal, will they?

Anna Bignell:

they just, they won't and it's so shit. It's just so unbelievably shit.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

There's an expression we use quite a lot, and I think Lori and I talked about it in the episode we did together, and it's about this idea that your children, um, You don't want them to go through life being the kid that's dad died, or mum died. And, but you also kind of want people to know, so that they can grant them the empathy and the kindness. Because, so, like my eldest is at secondary school now, and I'm, I don't know whether he discusses it with his friends. I've told the school, so they're aware. But, um, when they're little you sort of have a bit more control over who, it's... It's like it, you want them to, people to be aware of it. You don't want it to be the defining thing about them. You want, it's something that has happened to all of us. It's something that has made us, our lives shatter, but we're still here. Aren't we? Right. And I think what you did by, or now doing by bringing back in the normality in the clubs and, and astonishingly a sleepover, well, bloody done. Um, You are giving them this idea that life. Tragedy, it does go on and it is still a beautiful life if you can find it.

Anna Bignell:

I say to them a lot, you know, when they see me, because I have, you know, everyone has shitty days as widows and, but I have really good days too. But when I have down days and they, I say, you know, we can be sad, but I don't want to stay in the sadness. You know, we've got a good life to live and I want to, and I also am very mindful of modelling that for my girls. So I talk a lot of. Even if I don't feel it, I've talked positively about myself as well, about my strengths, what I'm doing.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

That's interesting.

Anna Bignell:

actually I think that's hugely important in terms of, you know, because I know that They are susceptible to be, you know, having anxiety now for life and also just looking upon themselves with self, you know, a critical eye. They're very,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

hmm.

Anna Bignell:

particularly Maya, she's very critical of herself, just in general, even about the way she looks. I know it's the age,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

I know, it's

Anna Bignell:

you know, I'm very... conscious of saying, let's, let's talk about, you know, not blindfully, let's talk about gratitude as in, gosh, when, you know, this most monumentally horrific thing has happened to us all, but also just to, to find the joy in life because there is joy and my counsellor always says, um, I know you're not depressed, Anna, because you always say something You know, on the whole, not always, but you know, that you do find joy in life. And there are so many wonderful things ahead of us. And I want that for my girls. And I want that, you know, for all of us.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

It's made me go goosebump because it's something that I wrote in my speech at Ben's Memorial. And, um, I can't create it verbatim. I did learn it verbatim. But, um, and it was, you know, I promised to show the children that there is still a wonderful world out there. And it's something that I do try to do. And actually, um, David Kelly said it was the idea of modeling good grief. So, I show them, I used to hide the real. Uh, from them because I felt that that was too much, but I, I show them that I cry. We talk about Ben a lot. Um, we talk about Sarah a lot, just called the wrong husband, the wrong name, uh, John's wife, Sarah a lot. And we, we try and keep them very much part of our world as it were. But I guess with having lost somebody in such a, Awful way. You must then have a fear that there's a hereditary

Anna Bignell:

Yeah,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

and things, and that must, that must concern you and I Hopefully I haven't just put that idea in your

Anna Bignell:

no, not at all. I mean, I'm just, all the stats are there, they're as clear as day, you know, there's an increased likelihood of self harm or, you know, um, risk taking behaviours, you know, potential mental health, poor mental health, particularly girls eating disorders, so all of those, sort of, I just was seeing all that, the stats when I was Googling about, you know, when

Rosie Gill-Moss:

you can just see it playing out in your head, can't you? This, this, you almost, you almost end up catastrophizing their lives for them.

Anna Bignell:

I know, it's crazy, I don't want it to break them, you know. It could, and I want it to, I don't want it to define them. You know, the twins that this happened to, you know, the dad. Um, and I just, I want them, To grow up with, with resilience, because essentially, I'm not, it's not as clear as black and white to say Rich had no resilience, but he certainly was a fragile soul, and I just, I want everything, more than anything, that the girls to be okay, and I know it's important from all my reading and, you know, talking to other widows that I know, um, you know, it's, we need to be okay, so, um, I'm doing lots of things for us, you know, I just went on a weekend Widows Retreat, where I did some yoga and they got to do some cool adventure sports with other children who lost a parent.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

awesome! Was that through

Anna Bignell:

It was, it was originally through Wei, but then it was, um, subsequently, um, a woman, another widow. Um, but she's, it's not actually lined to Wei. I'll send you the details. Yeah, she's brilliant. Um, and

Rosie Gill-Moss:

But you find strength in

Anna Bignell:

yeah, I absolutely do. I've just, every opportunity out there I take. So I've been on lots of, um, bereavement support groups. Um, less with Way, but I'd like to. I, I think I've, this hasn't been that many local to me. But, um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

You've got to find your tribe in my iPhone. I find that I found the major group was too much and then and ended up in some quite dark, humid offshoots, which are out there.

Anna Bignell:

Yes, they are. Um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

But yeah, taking every opportunity is, is, is really positive to hear you say that is a really good positive message because you are. You're modelling good grief, you are taking opportunities and I think because of the awareness that you will have about mental health, you will, you will be on kind of high alert

Anna Bignell:

shortly after I got back from Australia, I'd reached out earlier last year to, um, to something called the Museum of Happiness and, um, I spoke to the facilitator there and, um, they were offering basically courses about how to be happy, the science of

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Okay. You

Anna Bignell:

and she gifted. a free course to me, which was amazing, incredible. I went in January for two days. I do really wholeheartedly recommend it. And it, it taught, talked about the science of happiness, the science of gratitude, the science of mindfulness, the science of acting, um, accepting and letting go. And obviously you can't come to it when you're in such trauma and just thinking, okay, if you do all these things and everything's, you know, I can't.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

can't work those five steps in

Anna Bignell:

And I was, I was the only person who did. who'd experienced that. You know, I was the only widow there. There were other people with their own challenges and who'd experienced adversity of some sort. But, um, for me, I just kind of wanted a toolkit and I actually, I, um, delivered it, some of it to my work and then subsequently in my girl's school. Um, so I'm, I'm kind of, I don't know, maybe that's a platform that I want to, you know, do more of.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

You'll end up with a bloody podcast, you wait. This is where it ends. But, but I've spoken, um, to, at some corporate events, webinars about, um, return to work after grief. And it's really made me think about schools and the way that they deal with. I'm going to be reading a book about a child that suffered a bereavement, because there were just some, I mean, they, they meant well, but there were just a couple of clangers, you know, like my youngest was in reception and he came home with a book that was about a dad that went missing at sea and then came back, you know, not in any detail because it was the sort of cat stage of reading. I just gave it back and I went. Why would you give him this? And

Anna Bignell:

that appropriate?

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Yeah, and I feel like maybe just more awareness of the fact that their developmental age may be stunted a little bit. You know, they may be stuck at the age the parent died for a little while. And they may need, they may be, not necessarily academically, but they may be emotionally behind their peers. They may be more susceptible to being bullied because they perhaps don't have that cushion of resilience yet. And...

Anna Bignell:

Yeah.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Yeah, and, and also, I mean, the horrible fact of it is that kids do get bullied because their parent died, like, this is how mean other kids can be. So, you just don't want that for them either, do you? It, it's, it, but it's like you say, I, I kind of think of it as like stacking, you know, I, I have to stack my dopamine when I'm struggling, and I think with the children by just, you know, the reassurance that they are loved, that they were cherished by their dad, and, It, it's like you, you, you, you paint a layer of resilience onto them every time you reassure them. And I, I'm further down the line than you are and, and I lost my husband under in different circumstances, but I can tell you that my children are happy. Um, I, I can tell you that only one of them is still in therapy. Um, and they are flying, they're blossoming. They are. Achieving things that I so desperately wish Ben could see, because that's the other side of it, isn't it? You know, you want them to, to recover and succeed, but you so, so badly want your husband and their father to be able to see them doing it. And, of course, you must be really pissed off with him.

Anna Bignell:

Just constant range of emotions and so many triggers, you know, all the time.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Oh gosh, yeah.

Anna Bignell:

Um, I mean, I was determined to do quite a lot in his name. I mean, I want, I want an apprenticeship set up in his name. Um, potentially we're looking at that. I've also, we've done Ramble for Rich, and we've done Pitchside for Rich, fundraisers for the last year. Um, so I want that to be a yearly thing. And eventually, you know, maybe the girls will... take a lead on it. Um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Yeah.

Anna Bignell:

but I don't know, I'm kind of, I feel like I'm doing all these things and these memory days they've had with two different charities which were really, which is, you know, so supportive. Um, but I'm just, I'm kind of, I'm kind of still searching, I'm still wondering, you know, what's, what's next for me. But I have high hopes, you know, I, I, I still have a lot of life, life to live and.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

You do, you do, and that, that is the thing, we are, you almost don't take life for granted anymore and it's not always easy and I've been in some pretty dark places over the last five and a half years, I, I, I, I can't deny that, but when I'm able to be, you know, to, to realize that. Gosh, yeah, I do. I have so much life to live, and the children have so much life to live. And for me to spend the rest of my days staring at a wall or, or veiled in black, and, I always picture, because there's those widow's walks in, in um, seaside houses sometimes, where they, traditionally they would wait for their lost souls to come back from sea. And I, that's all I could, I could, is that what I'm meant to do? But actually what I am doing is I am honouring Ben in the greatest way possible and, um, he wouldn't, I'd probably love the idea of me having another man in my bed but I know that he would love the idea that my children are being raised by a man who adores them and that we are giving them every opportunity and encouraging them to take every opportunity. And it's... It's tough, it's really tough, and some days just putting one foot in front of the other, it does feel like it's too much. But I really love your attitude, I think that you are incredibly positive, and I think that your girls are going to be alright, you know? I

Anna Bignell:

really, really,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

to be alright.

Anna Bignell:

really, really hope so. Um, yeah, and I should say, yeah, like, in grief, some friends become strangers, but some strangers become friends. And I've now got really good, deep friendships with lots of, you know, other widows. Um, sadly that I never thought I would know, but, um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

But you also realise, like, how kind of awesome we are. Because you don't imagine that you'd have so much fun with other widows.

Anna Bignell:

yeah, absolutely.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

well I'm very much hoping that we're going to get you to Woodstock

Anna Bignell:

Mm, that sounds really fun.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Because if, if, if, if not before, it's an opportunity for people to meet up in person and, and much like you for Rich, you know, wanting to kind of keep this is like a, um, like a memorial for everybody that we've lost, if that makes sense. I really, I really like the sound of this course that you did on learning to be happy. Actually, I think I quite like the idea of going for two days and being taught to be happy because being happy is. It's such a luxury, and it's a luxury that so many people just kind of take for granted. I did. I, I'm grateful now that I said to my mum, you know, mere days before Ben died, my life's really perfect. I never thought it would turn out like this. But of course, now, every positivity comes with that caveat of books. What about, what if, you know, what might happen and I think that's what's left me with the anxiety is I can't let go of this fear that no matter how perfect, because I'm afraid that's who I am, I try and make the life around me and my kids with one phone call, with one knock at the door, with, you know, one, it could all be, anything could be taken from you and I think until that happens to you, you just have no idea, it's, I miss, I miss the innocence. Transcribed

Anna Bignell:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It's just, it's definitely the before and after. And, um, Donna Ashworth, um, you know, the poet, she has a,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

I know the perp.

Anna Bignell:

specifically. Yeah.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

She's on tomorrow.

Anna Bignell:

She's got an amazing book and she's just got a new one, hasn't she?

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Wild hope,

Anna Bignell:

Yeah. Oh

Rosie Gill-Moss:

actually speaking to her tomorrow. Yeah, I know. Um, I'm really pleased. We've sort of built up a, like a... Like my quaintanship, I suppose, via Instagram because of, I've reached out to her because of how many widows have found solace in her words. And sometimes she just gets it so bang on, doesn't she?

Anna Bignell:

really does, massively. Yeah.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

So, life for you and the girls now, you know, you're back in the home, do you think you'll move?

Anna Bignell:

I may well, I thought I would immediately, um, The thing is, where I, where I live, I mean, I really, Rich and I loved our house. Um, we're just perfectly positioned for school and for my work, everything really. Um, and I have amazing neighbours, but good friends. They aren't just more than neighbours. They're just very, very good friends. Um, And they don't want to move. Um, and I think I've just been using my energies in lots of other ways. I just, I don't have the energy to move at the moment. I think it takes a lot of, um, physical and mental strength.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

It, it certainly does.

Anna Bignell:

It may well happen next year. Um, yeah, I've got a, I've been looking. I haven't found any particularly that I really, you know, I've got to sell them a dream and get them really excited. The girl's excited about it. And at the moment I don't know where

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Australia sounds quite enticing to be honest.

Anna Bignell:

Yeah.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Um, I would.

Anna Bignell:

does want me to come and

Rosie Gill-Moss:

I bet she does. I bet she does. I bet she just wants you close. Yes. I was the same. I immediately wanted to move out of the house and just because it was the house that not came out, um, I replaced the front door initially and then gradually, I couldn't, I worked out the. And with stamp duty and everything, I would actually have to move into a smaller house. And I thought, Oh, this, this is silly. Um, and I had parking and, you know, everything useful things. Um, but it wasn't my forever home. It was our, the house, the house that we were doing up to sell to be able to afford a bigger, our forever home. And so I didn't feel the same emotion and attachment to it. Um, the house I live in now is my. It's my forever home. It is my heart and soul is that we bought an old house and renovated it and I, I couldn't move. I wouldn't want to move out of this house. Oh God. Now I'm predicting John. No, let's not go there. Um, but I can see how if it was this house that you had brought together and created this one, you know, this dream home that you want to. Be able to give your girls that home still, if that makes sense, or am I now rambling?

Anna Bignell:

Yeah, no, you're not at all. And absolutely, we've only done the knock through. So we've made the downstairs much lighter and open plan, you know, like a lot of people do and, you know, rich and he saw that for nine months. I can't believe it. Um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

I Wish Ben had seen what I did with the kitchen, my kitchen. It was, we'd had this conversation, because we were planning to move to Dorset actually, and I said, oh, well, if we don't move What we'll do is we'll knock through here. We'll put some big dry files on it. And so As I was doing it, not literally, I didn't lift a paintbrush, but um, as the builders were doing it, I was thinking in some way I'm realizing his dream here. And although I don't live in that house anymore, the memories I have of it are full of love now and happiness because we were so happy. It's the home that my last, our youngest daughter was brought home to. We laughed, we loved, we, we lived a happy life in that house. But I. I'm rebuilding a house in a new, you know, in a new marriage and, and we wanted a fresh start anyway. We wanted to both move into a fresh house together and, um, and it's worked for us.

Anna Bignell:

Yeah,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Um, yeah, it's a tricky one. Some people just never want to leave the house and many just cannot wait to get out. It's, once again, there are so many similarities in grief, no matter how you lose someone, but they're also individual.

Anna Bignell:

yeah.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

it's, it's, um, it's, it's still very unpredictable. No matter how much you think you know, or how much you think you learn it, there is still unpredictability in grief.

Anna Bignell:

And I think just because of, you know, if it was just me, I probably would have moved, but I just, you know, with children, you have to consider, and they love this home and they're not, they're not ready in the position to move. Um, so I, I kind of really, I'm kind of going at their pace,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Yeah. You, and that's all you can do is one day at a time. You know, it's a bit like being an AA one day at a time. Well, and I am gonna thank you now because I'm aware that I, it was a tough one for you today, and I, um. I'm very honored and privileged that you spoke to me because I know that you are quite a private person when it comes to telling this story. Um, but mental health and the catastrophic effect that keeping your mental health a secret can have, um, needs to be shared, it needs to be told, and I'm really proud of you for doing it. And I hope maybe one day when you maybe your girls listen back when they're older, they'll be really proud of their mum too. Um, so. All I can do for now really is just wish you every happiness as you try and navigate through this strange new world that we've landed in. Um, we are, we are here. You have my number and, um, you are now part of the WAFF family as it feels because something about bearing your soul like this brings you closer. And I, I do hope that you will get to meet some more of the guests that are in the future because, um, Where it's, I don't know, something magic happens. And, um, and I hope it works a little magic for you too.

Anna Bignell:

Thank you so much. Thank you so much for having me today. On today. It's been really cathartic and I, yeah, I look forward to meeting you, Rosie, in

Rosie Gill-Moss:

And if you, you just make sure you've got a nice, easy day this afternoon, go and go sit on the sofa with a cup of tea if you can. And for anybody else listening who has experienced something similar to Anna, um, you know where we are, we can signpost you to support and, um, just sending the biggest of love to everybody out there listening. Um, and also thanks for listening because. Without you guys listening, we'd just be speaking to dead air, really. Oh, God, dead air. Thank you, Anna. And, uh, and goodbye.

Anna Bignell:

Thank you again.

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