Every suicide or murder is tragic. After 30 years as a cop I can remember every one; HELPING PEOPLE DEAL WITH GRIEF AT CHRISTMAS Ex-officer supports bereaved families.
Byline: | Craig McDonald
He spent 30 years chasing criminals and comforting their victims during his time as a police officer.
But the memory of one incident early in Jim MacDonald's career influenced his entire life.
As a rookie, he was shaken to the core when he saw a young man who had taken his own life.
Nothing could prepare Jim for the emotional journey on which he would embark after being haunted by what he saw that day on patrol.
Now he's using his experience in dealing with such tragedies to help people hit by grief following the suicide or murder of a loved one.
The 59-year-old works with FAMS - Families and Friends Against Murder and Suicide - whose other volunteers include a mum facing her first Christmas without her former partner and twins who lost their mother when they were infants.
Dad-of-two Jim, who went on to become a sergeant at Govan police station, said: "Back in 1980, I was sent to my first suicide.
"I was just a wee boy. We found the young man hanging by a railway line. I couldn't help ask why he had done it.
"There was a look of desolation on his face and it didn't leave me.
"When I retired six years ago, I felt I could perhaps use my experience to try to help. The issues relating to murder are better known although still very challenging and upsetting. There can be a stigma attached to suicide - and to those left behind."
FAMS will hold an open-to-all, non-denominational Christmas Gathering at Motherwell South Parish Church on Wednesday from 6.30pm to 9pm.
There were 728 suicides registered in Scotland last year, compared to 672 the year before, and 58 murders.
It's estimated at least 10 people can be directly impacted by each death - leading to about 8000 people being affected by traumatic grief in a year.
FAMS co-founder and volunteer Ann Marie Cocozza was sexually abused as a child, then suffered the devastating loss of a nephew who was murdered in 2004.
She said: "The numbers affected by traumatic grief are very high but people are not statistics.
"These are mothers, fathers, children, siblings, friends and colleagues facing the aftermath of such devastation - often in isolation.
"When someone you love takes their own life, or has their life taken, grief is compounded and is traumatic. The brain struggles to deal with it. Closure is difficult.
"Christmas can be difficult. We're here to help."
Fellow volunteer Claire Gaunt, 35, a mum of two from East Kilbride, said: "My ex-partner sadly took his life last December and this is my daughter Kayleigh's first Christmas without her dad. It's been a hard year but the group have been brilliant for us."
Twins Philip and Michael Muir, 27, of Hamilton, were just 18 months old when their mum Jacqueline took her life aged 29.
Michael said: "This group is a force for good and we try to intervene if people are struggling."
force for good Jim MacDonald. Above, Kayleigh and mum Claire
lending a hand Jim MacDonald is still helping people after quitting force