A man from Chorley in Lancashire who attends a local hospice’s bereavement group says the support he receives has helped him find his smile again, following the death of his beloved wife.
He’s been attending monthly bereavement drop-in sessions at St Catherine’s Hospice in Preston since 2016, after his wife spent her final days being cared for on the hospice’s inpatient unit. She had been diagnosed with liver cancer in May that year, which quickly spread to her lungs and brain, and she spent around three weeks at the hospice that August.
“St Catherine’s has been a huge support for me, and they’re still in contact now, thinking about me and asking how they can help, which is so reassuring and good to know” he says.
“I felt a difference as soon as my wife arrived at the hospice – I could stop being her carer and just be her husband again. It allowed us to spend quality time together which was so important.
“While we were there, someone from the charity’s support team told me about the bereavement group and I’ve been going ever since. It’s helpful speaking with people who know what you’re going through. It’s very informal; you can talk about your grief and experiences, or you can just have general conversations, it depends how you’re feeling.
“Sometimes they have speakers who offer practical advice and ideas, such as cooking for one or organising a holiday by yourself, and other times it’s just a coffee evening where you can socialise and get that peer support from others, or speak with the St Catherine’s support team. It’s a very welcoming environment.
“It’s taught me that there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. It’s given me courage to carry on and not feel guilty for laughing and smiling, or enjoying myself. Life does go on, just in a different way.
“I’ll be forever grateful to St Catherine’s for helping me to see that, and for caring for my wife and helping us to be a couple again in her final weeks and days.”
Many services offered by St Catherine’s are being affected by the Coronavirus outbreak, so staff and volunteers are working hard to keep in contact with members of the community to provide support remotely where possible, with counselling, bereavement and befriending support via phone and video calls.
As the hospice is not currently able to host its monthly bereavement or carers drop-in sessions, wellbeing calls are being made and practical help offered instead, such as a shopping service for those who are vulnerable and socially isolated.
Cheryl Scott, Support Team Manager at the hospice, explains: “One of the special things about St Catherine’s is that our care and support extends far beyond the death of a loved one. Our staff work with the whole family to plan a person’s care and identify what is important to them, both in terms of their health and social wellbeing.
“We help the people we support and those close to them to experience quality of life and enjoy quality time together while they are able. So, when the time comes, we continue to be there for their loved ones in a range of ways, including hosting remembrance evenings, providing one-to-one counselling, and inviting them to attend our monthly bereavement support group which is open for everyone; not just those known to St Catherine’s.
“In response to the changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, we are embracing technology and doing all we can to continue communicating with those we support and identify the best way to continue services during these challenging times.
“For example, bereavement volunteers have been recruited to make phone calls, with wellbeing phone calls made to those who usually attend our bereavement and carers drop-in sessions, and a shopping service is being offered for anyone who needs it. Telephone contact is being made with relatives of patients being cared for on the inpatient unit who are unable to visit due to the restrictions, and we’re continuing to meet with relatives following the death of a loved one to identify those in need of bereavement services.
“It’s a very difficult time for everyone, but we’re all pulling together and we’re so grateful for the incredible support and encouragement from our communities, supporters and volunteers, without whom our vital work would not be possible.”
For more information visit St Catherine’s Hospice