Losing a loved one is undoubtedly one of the most difficult things to deal with in life.
The feelings of sadness, shock, loss, bewilderment, depression and even anger can be completely overwhelming.
For many bereaved people there is little support and it’s a case of swallow the grief and get on with it.
That was the case for Helen Hamilton-Southward until she was offered support from a grief specialist at St John’s Hospice in Lancaster.
Helen’s beloved father Claude had died at the Oakhaven Hospice at Lymington on the south coast of England but St John’s provides care for anyone who needs it.
Helen says the one-to-one sessions at St John’s have changed her life and in the summer she was strong enough to marry the love of her life, Rachael. Helen was hit so hard by the loss of her dad that getting married would not have been possible without the help of grief specialist Christine Townson from the hospice.
Helen, 30, a youth worker who lives in Lancaster, said: “My dad passed away last November and my mum was accessing bereavement support at Oakhaven Hospice.
“I was struggling to get my head around losing my dad. The hospice rang St John’s and they said it would be fine for me to receive support. I started seeing Christine in February and I’ve been going ever since.”
Helen was a little hesitant at first but now she is glad to have taken up the offer: “It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s the best hour of crying I ever have!
“It has helped me massively. It has given me the space and the time to think about my dad. When I am at work in Blackpool there is always a million things going on whereas at the hospice it’s a really safe atmosphere.
“It’s safe to off-load everything. It gives me time to process what is going on.
“I had never experienced anything like it before; I was crying all the time and I could not get out of bed.
“It was good to be able to talk to someone who didn’t know my dad. It has enabled me to understand what I’ve been feeling. Earlier on I couldn’t put into words how I was feeling.
“I didn’t understand it. It has taught me to see that it is ok to feel like that. I realised that although I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, it might happen tomorrow. I realised that there was nothing wrong with me – I was just very very sad and that was ok. It was a natural bereavement process.”
By the summer Helen was feeling much stronger and on July 14 she married Rachael.
“We got married at Lancaster Golf Club. Christine was a massive support. There was that huge hole left by my dad not being there and I felt a sense of guilt for feeling happy.
“I’d been very fortunate to have an amazing relationship with my dad. We chatted about everything including about what happens when you die.
“I also realised that he wouldn’t have wanted me to be sad. We had a big wedding – it was fab.
“My brother did a speech instead of my dad. Even though my dad wasn’t there, he was in a way. He’d written a letter to be read out and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Rachael and I had an amazing wedding.”
Helen now feels able to move forward and adds: “The support I’ve had from the hospice has been unbelievable.”