My father-in-law died just over three years ago in the October and then my very close friend died in the March, so within five months we had lost both of them and spookily in the same room at the hospice. It was all very close together and it hit me like a bolt of lightning. I knew it was going to be hard, we had nursed my father-in-law right to the end, so we were there with him all the way through. I saw my friend about nine days before she died
I knew I wasn’t dealing with it very well, but it’s easier to pretend, to gloss it over. We had a coffee morning to raise money for the hospice within those few months after my friend had died. I was just distraught the whole day and just couldn’t stop crying. Her parents suggested that I might want to think about talking to somebody, I just said “yeah yeah yeah” and brushed it off. I then had something happen at work and I think I just overreacted to the whole thing. I didn’t have an argument with a colleague, but I know I overreacted, I went over to apologise to him and I just lost the plot in the office. I bumped into my two bosses who both said at that stage “do you think you need to talk to someone?” and I said “I think so”.
I had completely withdrawn from all my family, apart from my husband and my two children. I had withdrawn from everybody else, I wasn’t talking to anybody at all. So, I sat down on a Friday night and sent an email to We Hear You, saying “I think I need to come and talk to somebody.” It all got too much, it was too overwhelming, and I just couldn’t see any way through to get out the other side.
I had an initial consultation here at We Hear You, which went really well, although I spent most of it in tears. It’s that place you can go, and I felt I could say all those things I couldn’t necessarily say, even to my immediate family about how I felt, my feelings about everything. I felt like I got everything off my chest, in an environment where I wasn’t being judged or being told it was right or it was wrong, I could just get it out.
I had never been to counselling before. My mum had done it many, many years ago, so I kind of knew that I would be in a room and talking. But I didn’t expect to delve into all areas of my life, all my relationships with family members, even back to when I was a child, my relationships at work and I felt that I got literally got everything out and off my chest. I didn’t expect to do that. I thought it would literally focus on what had happened, surrounding losing these two amazing people to cancer and actually there was so much more that was tied into it as well. It was like this huge cathartic release. I would go home and talk to some people about the counselling and some of their reactions were interesting. I haven’t been able to talk to everyone about my counselling, which is fine because I got to say what I needed to in my sessions.
My counsellor would explain things to me and say have you thought of it like this? and I would go “oh no I hadn’t thought of it like that at all”. She made sense of things. There were a lot of times I put a lot of blame on myself for how someone had reacted to me or how I had reacted to a situation and she clarified that for me and that made things easier.
I had 11 sessions in the end and during that last session we both, by mutual decision decided to stop there. It felt like the right time, I thought I would initially be done in about six sessions but I remember getting to that point and we both agreed I should keep going. I had started in the November and coming up in the February my daughter was leaving to go to university. My first child was leaving home and it was coming up to the first anniversary of losing my friend and I was distraught. I actually couldn’t have got through my daughter going to university and that first year if I hadn’t have come here. It gave me the opportunity to get all my feelings about everything out, and I could say it all in this environment without someone saying “you shouldn’t be saying that” or being judged.
I almost felt was this the right thing to do? I assumed I would come to talk purely about the cancer and the effect that it had. But it was so nice to be able to talk about all the other things. My family were all going through it, my husband and son clammed up, my daughter was distraught, so we were all trying to deal with it. I would feel like they, particularly my daughter, were having to be the person listening to it all the time and it wasn’t fair to add to what they were going through. Whereas I could come here and it was fine.
I finished counselling just over 18 months ago and I definitely feel like I can cope with things better. Just over a year ago I just couldn’t have coped, if my husband worked at weekends I would sit at home on my own and just cry, I wouldn’t go anywhere, I wouldn’t do anything it was just too much. So, to go through this process and come out the other side has been fantastic. Now a year later, I feel like I can cope, I don’t feel like I have to sit on my own and cry on my own, I’m not holding it in and although I don’t chat about it loads, I know I’m not holding onto it like I was before. My daughter is probably the one person who I will chat to and we talk things through.
This sounds like such a little thing, but I have struggled for two years to listen to any Coldplay song, I found it too much. The song played at my friend’s funeral I couldn’t listen to at all, I would be distraught the minute it came on. I listened to it last Thursday, it’s the first time I have listened to it since her funeral and it was fine. I could cope with it, I could listen to it, I felt this was a big change and it’s only a tiny little thing, but I feel very affected by music. I remember going to her son’s birthday after he lost his Mum and him saying “play that song Daddy, I love that song” and he put it on. I had to walk into the kitchen because I was distraught and I thought this is ridiculous. I remember thinking there’s her son and her husband and they’re fine and her mum and her dad and there’s me just distraught.
I felt guilty, she wasn’t my wife, she wasn’t my mother, she wasn’t my sister or daughter. But her death in particular, the impact it had on me was so huge. I didn’t feel I had the right to be so upset about it. Which is daft and that’s what coming here did for me. It said, she wasn’t any of those things to you, but she was such a close friend. We spent a huge amount of time with them when she was having a bad time and we would be there, just being there for her. I had a feeling that her death would have a huge impact on me, I think part of that was grieving for what she is missing out on, not watching her child grow up, not getting to do all the things a young woman should do, so it’s grieving for all of that as well and you just need to get your head around it all. By getting it out it’s the best thing, the worst thing is to keep it all tucked away as it just eats away at you. Talk to people, definitely.
Here at WHY, these people aren’t going to judge you, they don’t already know you or your background and that helps. They have no emotional attachment to you or your story, they can see things logically and you can’t see the wood from the trees. By the end I could see the direction I wanted to go in. Some people can’t talk about it, they just can’t, we’re all different and deal with things in different ways but if you don’t know about it then how do you know? I think people need to not attach a stigma to counselling or asking for help, I wouldn’t hesitate at all because it’s worth it. The fact that you also offer a free service, for people who can’t afford to pay for it, makes a massive difference.