Every month, a bereavement group meets at South Bucks Hospice in High Wycombe. Below, one group member describes the help and hope it provides people in their hour of need.
Grieving Charlotte Launder says South Bucks Hospice helped her with the ‘regret and guilt’ of not being at her father’s side when he passed away.
Charlotte, 31, from Speen, regularly travelled and stayed in West Sussex to be with her Dad, John, after he was diagnosed with a terminal illness in November 2016. But when he died the following February, she wasn’t there because she had thought he had a little bit more time left.
“I had thought he had a few days left so travelled to my mum’s who lives nearby to go first thing in the morning, but I received a call first thing to say he had passed away,” she said. “It was a real regret and I did struggle with quite a lot of guilt because I had wanted to be there for him.”
Charlotte says the bereavement group run by nurse Carole Hildreth at the hospice in High Wycombe has helped her to come to terms with this regret and given her some peace of mind.
She said: “I think of the last phone call with him and he told me not to come. The last thing I said to him was 'I love you' and he said 'I love you too'. Our family are not very emotional, but we said this a lot more towards the end. That is peace of mind because that's the last thing we said to one another.
“Carole helped me through this. When I first came to the bereavement group, I didn't know what to expect and thought are we all going to hold hands and sing a song? I was shocked at how beneficial I found it. Carole has this perfect side where she really understands and puts words in a simple way, and really understands the grief process.”
The monthly group also helps her with the loss of her sister, Hayley, 22, who died from cystic fibrosis when Charlotte was just 10. She says it has helped her come to terms with feelings of grief that she wasn’t able to fully understand as a child.
Charlotte, a training manager at a horse charity, joined the hospice bereavement group in the summer of 2017 after the death of her father left ‘a huge gap’ in her life. John, 72, a farrier, had suffered from lung cancer, pneumonia and then brain cancer.
“I had gone through the whole process of him having cancer, helping to look after him, going to medical appointments with him and going down there every weekend, and visiting him staying nearby to visit him every day in hospital. I had to be his real support because he really struggled with the diagnosis and was very scared. When he died, I was the one who needed support.”
She said the time from the first diagnosis flew with ‘one thing after another’. “He got the lung cancer, then the pneumonia, then went into a home and then got a brain cancer diagnosis. It was about three months. We didn't have time to think. You just have to live it.
“It was a huge gap in my life when he died. I tried with one-on-one grief counselling and it didn't really work for me, so I thought I would come here and be in a group environment with people who really understood what families go through when they lose somebody really close to them.”
Her older brother Daniel offered the support he could, however was living in Dubai for work so she was her divorced dad’s next of kin and support system.
Charlotte, who now lives with her father’s seven-year-old whippet Mac, is full of praise for the hospice and its free bereavement group which she describes as ‘brilliant’.
“It's a support system for me and it makes you feel better. People here really understand what you are going through. I don't think anyone would ever regret coming here. Carole is so welcoming, there is no pressure and it is free.
“The fact they give such support for people when they are dying and the after-care for the families following death - it is outstanding. Grief doesn't care how old you are or what the person was to you.
“I honestly cannot speak higher of the hospice. Everybody here, wherever the bereavement group or not, is so friendly and helpful. It's a welcoming place to come but although people may be very sick, they make it not feel like a hospice. If I had a loved one here, I know they would get the best care possible. It's a really nice place to come for support.”
To find out more about the bereavement group, which meets the first Tuesday of each month, contact the nurses’ office on 01494 552755