Grace’s father, Austen, was cared for by our hospice partner St Helena Hospice until he sadly passed away earlier this year. Grace, age 12, and Rose, age 9, continued bereavement counselling with counsellor Julie and Sue from St Helena’s family support team so they could talk about how they feel.
Grace recommends bereavement counselling to anyone whose loved one is dying or has died, and here she shares her experience:
“My dad was 45 years old, too young. It still doesn’t feel real. He had brain cancer. He told us last Christmas that he had cancer and that was his last Christmas alive.
When my dad first told me, I couldn’t sleep for the first two nights, all I could do was cry my eyes out and spend time with my dad. After then I had 2 weeks off school. I could not go away from my dad, but when I did go to school, I would just find myself crying every day. So many people in my school supported me, some people are just so supportive it’s unbelievable.
I’ve been making videos about my dad with pictures of him, and videos to respect his death and to make memories of him. I’ve got videos of him when we went to the zoo saying ‘oh, they’re beautiful’ about an animal, so I can hear his voice again. If I ever want to hear his voice, I’ve got that, and the things my dad gave me, and a picture in my room with my dad and me.
He went into the hospital before the Hospice and he was there for about four weeks. We would go into the hospital to see my dad; there’s a garden and they would bring him down there.
He had a hospital bed downstairs at home. We had to get rid of one of the sofas, but we did not care as long as we had my dad home, that’s all I wanted really. My mum would sleep on a mattress on the floor next to him just because she was so worried about him, but he barely got any sleep, neither did my mum, but she was there to care for him.
And then, she was out in town while Nan, me, Rose and Granddad were looking after dad, and she tripped over on the pavement and ended up breaking her ankle and still had to come home and look after him. So, then that’s when I stepped in and helped clean, and a few times I would make food, help out, really clean my room, spend a lot of time with my dad before school and after school.
I would be busy making my lunch and then look over my shoulder and see my dad look at me so proud and I would just run over to him and give him a hug.
Some days, like when he first came home from the hospital, I thought this would be the end of all cancer, he would be OK, but honestly, it’s just so sad he couldn’t make it because there’s so many people that have and I was just really hoping he would be one of them.
One morning, his last morning alive, he was at home at about 3 o’clock in the morning and he couldn’t breathe; he had to have oxygen and he was rushed to hospital. From hospital he went to the Hospice and that was when we saw him for the last time. It was like he was asleep; he couldn’t talk but he could hear everything we were saying.
It was very hard to say goodbye knowing that he couldn’t say anything, but his last words he said to me were ‘I love you so much and I’m so proud of you’.
I try to be strong but it’s so hard sometimes.
Before then, I did have some chats with Julie saying how I was worried that he would die, but I thought, well, if he does die, I really, really, really wish he’d die peacefully; which he has. I’m so grateful that he died peacefully but I just did not want him to die.
Sometimes in the sessions with Julie, we’d design things and create things about memories of my dad. She’d get me pieces of paper to write memories of him. She’d get me a plant pot and I would plant forget-me-not plants and make loads of memories of my dad. When he came in here, I remember Sue was helping us design a card for my dad and that was the last thing he saw, memories of us.
I felt so comfortable with bereavement counselling because it’s really helpful. I would recommend it to others because if you want to speak about anything, it’s just so helpful. It’s a good way to talk and let your emotions out and I just think counselling is amazing really, especially with a nice person to talk to like Julie.
When I went through counselling before and after my dad died, it was emotional; a little bit happy because it’s making good memories for him, and sad trying to talk as well. I do sometimes feel quite angry that it’s happened.
Someone my age or under my age – like my little sister, she’s 9, and my little brother is 7 and he’s autistic – they are so young, and for people who have to deal with this at all, it’s horrible for them. If they’re the person with the cancer, it’s horrible for them to go through. No one should have to deal with this.
I can talk to Julie and if I didn’t have counselling, I would bubble up and then it would come out so easily and it would just be so upsetting, and I don’t want it to get to that, so I have to talk to someone.
If one of my friends said their dad was going into the Hospice, I would tell them that I will support them the whole way. If they ever want to hang out with me and just talk or they can come here and have counselling sessions. I would just really, really listen to them because they’re going through a hard time as well, and no one deserves to.
The counselling is absolutely amazing, everyone is so supportive. They’re so kind. The second I see St Helena Hospice where my dad was and the counselling place, I just immediately smile because I love to be here. It’s so supportive and I just love being here, talking to people. It’s really helpful.
We’ve got a lot of memories of my dad. He was such an amazing person. He was so bright, so kind. He was known by so many people, it was like he was famous. He was just amazing. He worked so, so hard. He would always bake with me, so that’s something I inherited from him, baking because I love to bake. I can bake cakes, bread, all types of things. So I got that from him. He was just absolutely amazing.”
If you are struggling with bereavement and are looking for support. Head to St Helena Hospice’s website for more information on the services they offer.