Martin, 47, from Chessington, shares how his children were supported during, and after, their mother’s illness, and how he too receives the support of the bereavement team.
‘My wife Sarah’s 40th birthday should have been a time for great celebration – we were the proud parents of our twins Ellen and Sam and our youngest child, Harry. As a family, things were going well for us. However, August 2010 was the beginning of a very sad time, as Sarah was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She had to have a radical hysterectomy and a course of radiotherapy.
The nurses did the caring so we as a family could talk and share our memories and continue to make special memories.
‘In February 2011, we were beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel; the treatment had been deemed a success but at the three-month visit in May we were told the cancer had come back. The tumours were close to Sarah’s kidneys so treatment was more difficult and she had to have surgery.’
Sarah and her family were referred to Princess Alice Hospice and introduced to the social work and bereavement team, where they met Mo.
‘Mo from the social work team supported us, not just with advice, but by giving me the guidance and confidence to be a vital part of my children coming to terms with the illness and death of their mother.’
Martin and his children had one-to-one and family group counselling sessions at the Hospice. Through craft and writing, Martin’s children were able to express how they felt and the sessions enabled Martin to answer some very difficult questions.
‘Mo continued to be a great support; the news that Sarah had only months and she might not get to Christmas rocked my world. Nothing can prepare you for having to say goodbye to the one you love. I asked Mo “what am I going to do, how do I tell the children?” She replied “keep it simple and honest”. That was the best advice she could have given me.
‘I began to prepare for the future. Mo takes things slowly, at the pace you want and as well as giving excellent advice, she also has the ability to listen and allow you to come to a decision on your own. No judgement, just advice; no rules, just respect.
‘When the time came to tell the children that their mum would not be going back home and that she would die in the Hospice, I was ready – thanks to Mo.’
‘Sarah came into Princess Alice Hospice on 11 November. We stayed with her, I slept in the chair in her room and was able to talk to her – and be her husband and friend again, not just a carer. The nurses did the caring so we as a family could talk and share our memories and continue to make special memories.’
‘When Sarah died 11 days later, we were all with her; the nurses were fantastic, they allowed us to grieve. The children went into the garden and picked some flowers and when we all came back we had tea and some sandwiches. I was numb and kept questioning myself, was this right? Should we be having tea and cake when Sarah had just died?
‘We laid the flowers on Sarah and celebrated her life and the part she had played in our lives. I remember that along with the flowers Sam placed a bourbon biscuit on Sarah’s hand.
They were his favourites, he would not normally be so happy to share them – that was one of his final gifts to his mummy.
‘It was only with hindsight over a year after Sarah had died, that I realised what a special thing the nurses had given our family on that day.’
The Hospice bereavement and social work team continue to support families after the death of a loved one, providing advice on practical and psychological matters.
Last year 3,661 support sessions were provided by our chaplaincy and bereavement team, giving patients and loved ones time to talk. Please consider sending a donation today and help provide care when it matters most.
- £5 could pay for art materials to support a family bereavement session
- £10 could pay for a book to help a bereaved child
- £25 could pay for one hour of in-patient care
I know that the Hospice doors are always open to us. It might seem strange but when we visit it is like visiting friends, good friends who can be relied on unconditionally.
However large or small your donation, it will make a huge difference to someone like Martin and his young family.
We would like to thank Martin and his children for sharing their story.Back to top