For Dying Matters Week, we have been sharing Emma’s story on her experience with losing her beloved mum. She was supported by St Helena Hospice in the last precious moments of her life. Emma shares how St Helena Hospice we on hand to support even after her mother’s passing.
“Much later on, I called up because they had said they have a counselling service and help with grief, and I had struggled probably for the first year afterwards. At the time, where we were living came under another hospice, so they gave me all the details and got me in touch with them for counselling. I would definitely recommend counselling to anybody because I think it just helps you decompress and talk about things. My dad and I liked to talk about my mum a lot but he found it really hard and upsetting, as we all did, and you certainly don't want to talk about it to the point that you're upsetting someone, so it was nice to have someone else to go and talk to.
Looking back, the Hospice doesn't feel like a sad place to me, it feels like a positive place and it was always so beautiful outside. It doesn't look like a hospital so I don't really associate anything negative with there even though Mum died there, she was always going to die, and actually for it to have been in such a nice place just makes me kind of pleased really.
It took a few years but now I like talking about my parents. They were so involved in the Clacton Beer Festival; they have a little bar there called the Three Rivers Bar because there were three of us; my mum, my dad and me. I love all that.
They would have loved my son Kit. It does make me sad but I've been quite surprised actually that I don't say every hour of every day, oh no, my parents aren't here to see this. I think it's all that part of having spent so much time talking about it and doing the counselling. I can't change things and can't regret things, it's always going to be this way so I just kind of go with it.
We’ll talk about them a lot because I want Kit to be aware of them, so we will also have a Eurovision party and every year we go to the beer festival, we’ll keep doing that. I want him to associate them with fun things, not let's go to a graveyard and put some flowers down. For me, it's not a true representation of them. It's going to be much more him getting to know their personality by doing the things that they enjoyed, not that I'm going to encourage him to have a pint anytime soon! Doing those kind of things is a much nicer way to keep my parents’ memories alive.
Everybody is different and everybody needs different things but the universal thing is that the Hospice will help regardless of what you need. If you need emotional support, then they were great at that. If you need it to be a place of laughter and enjoyment with your loved one, then you can have that. That's what my mum needed but equally when it was coming to the end and we needed support and help and a shoulder to cry on, it was that as well. The Hospice needs to be about death, but it doesn't need to be all about death, it doesn't have to be sad and depressing. With all of the things that the Hospice does, it's about living well as you're dying as opposed to just being about death and dying.
The people the whole way through made a really big difference from right at the beginning when the Hospice nurses would come to the house. Everyone is very good at reading what people need because while you're sitting in the ward you can see other people were not in the same sort of headspace; the nurse would come and have a laugh and joke with my mum and give her what she needed, and then you'd see them go across and just almost completely change and just be what that other person needed as well. That's a talent and a skill that you probably can't really teach, but they've acquired very good people at St Helena that are able to do that and I think that's worth a million.”
Dying is a part of life. A sad part that can be difficult to come to terms with.
Emma had to accept death at a very young age. But, in talking about death in an open way enabled her to normalise it, which helped her when things got tough.
By speaking up about death, we are making the subject less of a taboo. It is something we all need to be aware off, because at some point in our lives we will all have to face death. So, it is important to make sure we are able to be open about it.
If you know anyone in North East Essex that is struggling with a life limiting diagnosis or has lost a loved one, visit the St Helena Hospice website to see how they can help you too.