Last updated: 4th September 2023
To shine a light on how having conversations about death, dying and grief can make a difference, we spoke to Brian Slade, a widower who has accessed support from St Margaret’s Bereavement Team about how it made a difference to him after the death of his wife, Carol.
“When my wife, Carol, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) 11 years ago, it was a difficult day to say the least,” Brian said. “We were told that she had two to four years to live and when we came home, we just buried our heads in the carpet. We just couldn’t believe it.
“Carol was supported by St Margaret’s nurses and at home as her MND progressed and the team were an amazing support to us both. If I had a problem, I would call the Adviceline, they were absolutely brilliant and would pick up the phone day or night. They helped us so much during what was an awful time.
“About two years after Carol’s diagnosis, I was sadly diagnosed with bowel cancer which was really difficult for us both. I was lucky, they caught it early and I had surgery to remove part of my bowel and treatment, but I did struggle to care for Carol as well as myself during that time.
“One night I passed out at home and when I woke up, I was in a lot of pain. I’d just had minor surgery done and when I came to, I called St Margaret’s Adviceline for help and they called an ambulance for me. I was adamant that I didn’t want to go into hospital as I didn’t want to leave Carol on her own and that’s when nurses from St Margaret’s and the district nursing team stepped in to help. They made arrangements so I could go into hospital and get the treatment I needed, and Carol had the support she needed at home. I was so grateful to them all and it made the world of difference to us both.
“The way the St Margaret’s nurses and the district nurses worked together to support me, and Carol was just phenomenal. If we needed anything it was sorted out so quickly which was brilliant as Carol’s condition could vary from one day to the next.
“Carol died in February 2020 just before the Covid pandemic hit and I was devastated. I started having bereavement counselling from St Margaret’s in 2021 and it was such a comfort to me. I initially had telephone support from one of the Bereavement Team for over a year which was great as it was a safe space for me to talk about my feelings with someone who would just listen to me and guide me through my bereavement.
“Then in March this year, I attended the Bereaved Partners Group that the hospice’s Bereavement Team puts on in Taunton which was really helpful. I got to meet a group of lovely people who were in a similar situation to myself, and we had open discussions about our feelings in a comfortable environment. We all helped each other to get things off our chests as during bereavement your emotions can weigh you down at times.
“We still stay in touch and meet up regularly which is really lovely, we all help each other. It’s nice to share how you are feeling so you know you are not alone in bereavement as it can feel like a lonely place.
“I find it difficult to talk to my friends about my grief as I don’t want to burden them with it. But I found speaking to the Bereavement Team at St Margaret’s easy as they don’t know me but are trained and experienced to support me.
“I feel positive about the future and know I always have support from the hospice if I need it.”