The beginning of October marked 6 months since Dad died. Alan, or Dad, was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in February 2014. He was the bravest man I have ever known.
In 2015 I got married – Dad was there to walk me down the aisle – I was ecstatically happy. And then, the icing on the cake; I told him 2 years to the day since he was diagnosed with cancer that he would be a grandad that September. He was so excited. However, over the next few months he became significantly weaker. Dad was eventually admitted to hospital for a week. My daughter was born the following day and was named after her Grandad: Alana.
Dad spent 6 months living for Alana. He spent 10 days being cared for by the wonderful team on the In-Patient Ward. Living up to his reputation as a joker, he died surrounded by Mum, Alana and me on April Fool’s Day.
So, that was it. Were we just meant to get on with life without our kingpin? How were we meant to?
When Dad was first admitted to Hospice in the Weald, it was recommended that Mum and I take advantage of the Counselling Support Service available. We were now asked if we wanted to attend bereavement counselling. Thinking that it could only help, we both did. About 6 weeks after Dad died we started our individual sessions. We both approached it differently. I am an open book whereas Mum is a private person. However, the 12 weekly 1 hour sessions helped us both. I looked forward to seeing my counsellor. It was like visiting an old friend who I could tell my deepest thoughts to without being judged or be in fear of my words being repeated. I recommend this service to anyone who has lost someone. Initially if you find it difficult, bear with it. Three months of exploring your feelings makes a big different to your well-being. It also meant that the Hospice became a place of comfort for us to go to and was not viewed as a distressing place; it was NOT just the place where Dad had died.
We felt, in a way, almost empty when our counselling was over. There was a gap each week in our lives. However, the Hospice’s aftercare did not end there. It was one of Dad’s wishes that his Hawaiian shirts be made into teddy bears for Alana. The perfect opportunity to do this is at the fortnightly Creative Fabric Group. We have attended a few workshops now. The pace at which things are made is immense. Mum made a cushion from Dad’s onesie in one session! It feels so therapeutic sharing your creativity and watching others take pride and love in their creations. The lovely people we have met at the Group are a joy to have in our lives – from volunteers to Hospice Day Service patients to grieving loved ones just like us - we look forward to seeing them all.
There is no need to feel alone in the aftermath of your loved one’s passing when you have the support of Hospice in the Weald. I cannot imagine what it would’ve been like if Dad had died at home or in a hospital and to put it bluntly, if we were just left alone to get on with life. I am so very thankful that the Hospice was there for Dad in his time of need and then again and still for Mum, Alana and me in ours.