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We were married for over fifty years. Keen walkers, Irene would fly up the hills ahead of me. It was two months after our last hill walking holiday that Irene experienced the first symptoms of the disease that would take her life within six months..

My daughters and I, with amazing help from the City Hospice, Marie Curie and district nurses were able to care for Irene at home. This took its toll. My adrenalin fuelled, twenty-four hour role of carer, rushing for medicines, calling doctors and nurses stopped immediately on her death. I was numb. Suffering from a number of what I now recognise as symptoms of shock, I was referred, by my doctor, to the City Hospice.

Initially I had one to one sessions with a counsellor, Sarah. Many tears were released which may have been symptomatic of the transmission from shock to grief. These sessions helped me understand the guilt I was feeling by allowing Irene to die whilst in my care. A totally irrational emotion as I knew that we had done everything possible, but rationality and emotions do not necessarily conform.

Besides my two wonderful daughters I was fortunate enough to have a wide network of friends. A recurring problem was although they were sympathetic and tried their best to help they didn’t understand the enormity of the impact Irene’s death had on me. Trying to make a life for myself I tried a short break with a walking company Irene and I had used often. Sadly I felt marginalised as I don’t think couples knew how to approach me.

After a number of counselling sessions, my Counsellor, Sarah introduced me to a group she had formed with fellow bereaved people. I was among people who really empathised with me. Sessions were free talking and open with no concerns, fears or limits for our discussion. Some talked, some cried, some listened but all contributed and benefitted. After a number of sessions, Sarah encouraged us to continue in a less formal way by starting a regular “Friendship Group”. Our group meets once a week and is a forum to share experiences, problems and mutual support. This has had the effect not only of helping us regain confidence but to open up new experiences. Some attend choirs, some paint and some go to events. Quite often we laugh together; which six months ago would have been unimaginable.

With support from the group and the City Hospice counselling team, I am starting to revive my interests in rambling, painting and have thankfully banished the feelings of guilt I felt at Irene’s death. I now realise how privileged I was to be able to help Irene pass with little discomfort, in her own home, in the presence of her family.

Thank you City Hospice,

Maurice Prendergast

This year we are launching our brand new City Hospice Sparkle Walk. Join City Hospice and celebrate the life of those who we have lost at this special first time event. The Sparkle Walk takes place on Saturday 21st September at Insole Court. For more information and to register please visit www.cityhospice.org.uk

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