Vital help with bereavement Counselling you through the loss of a loved one
Sally’s husband Peter died in the Hospice in August 2013.
Here she describes how Hospice care and bereavement counselling helped her to come to terms with the changes bereavement brings to those who are left behind.
I thought I was prepared for what was to come. My husband was much older than I. He had overcome several major illnesses in the 12 years before his death and in the last 9 months we knew he was dying. As a fighter, dying took him a long time. After the first penetrating moment when loss is realised, there was momentary relief that his suffering was finished, but I was totally unready for the utter emptiness and isolation that, with his last breath, became my world. I continued to work, to be cheerful with my wonderful children who had supported us through the dying years, but in a moment my life had passed from being needed 24 hours a day, to being necessary to no one. I felt traumatised by the process of having had to keep going for so long, and having no one to share it with. Not only emotionally, but socially, the life we had together had vanished with him. It, he and us, were no longer relevant to anyone.
I knew I was not depressed, but for many months I could not muster the energy to make new connections. I felt as if I carried a health warning, which had the opposite effect of what I needed, which was simply companionship. I did not feel like a widow, but I did feel as if I existed in a bubble detached from the rest of the world. I felt embarrassed about seeking help. Coming from a professional psychology background I entered bereavement counselling wary of analysis or over-sentimentality. I found instead a place to talk; a place to share the thoughts that no longer had anywhere to go, and in talking I started to find alternative solutions, and a right to exist again, not just as a wife, a carer, career woman or parent, but simply because I still am. The Hospice provided us as a family with a place where for the first time in the journey through dying, we felt cared for. Not just a number on an NHS list, another admission or discharge, but a family “carried” through the passage from life to death. In the loneliness that is the hidden sickness of the bereaved, I found a place where this was understood.
This service provides essential support for those who feel as if they are facing the loss of a loved one alone. In the year following Peter’s death, Sally wrote a series of personal letters to him. A collection of these letters, entitled “Because you were there” will be published by Austin Macauley in October 2015.