Shortly after my father died the palliative nurse from St Gemma’s contacted me. She’d seen the set-up. There was only me and dad and she knew that because I was totally involved in my Dad’s care and I had given up my job to be with my Dad; I would have nothing else to keep me busy, other than feeling the full brunt of the grief and the loss.
I didn’t know what was out there in terms of me for support because my dad hadn’t even come into St Gemma’s. But she picked up on the fact that she knew I would struggle. She just said to me, I’m going to arrange for you to have bereavement counselling.
In the first few days you don’t know what’s happening to you, and you feel like you’re going out of your mind. There’s nobody else to say this is normal.
For a good two years my Bereavement Counsellor was there, my constant contact, I would have a chat with her and she’d see me in my rawest form. It was the first time that somebody had actually validated what I was going through, and that was very important to me.
If you can imagine hitting rock bottom, in an earthquake where buildings have collapsed, you’re not protected from the elements, you’re exposed completely and you’re on the floor and you can’t get up. That’s where I was. The counselling helped me to crawl my way to just get on my knees in order to stand up. It was the most painful experience, but I would have struggled if I hadn’t had the support from St Gemma’s. Because there was nobody who could understand my journey and walk with me.
I never saw my Dad as an old man. He was my dad and he was always there for me. And even when he was frail he still had my back, and suddenly the person who had my back wasn’t there. So suddenly you realise you’re completely on your own, it’s at that point that you need someone to hold your hand and that’s where St Gemma’s came in.
What St Gemma’s does is that it understands very acutely the journey of the person who’s dying and the journey of those people close to that person, and it supports them. The journey would have been a lot harder if it hadn’t been for the support, and the quiet place I’d come and just be me.
It’s been 4 years, 4 months, and I still feel like St Gemma’s is there for me.