"It’s actually nice to go back to Wheatfields and see the staff, and I think it’s helpful for Sylvie to visit the place where her daddy died; it helps her to remember him."
Rebecca Messenger-Clark lost her husband Fraser to cancer when their daughter Sylvie was just two years old. Here, she explains how our Wheatfields Hospice looked after Fraser at the end of his life, and how our ongoing bereavement support has helped them come to terms with their grief.
"I knew of Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice long before accessing its services. Actually I have very fond memories of this place when I was a kid; I used to come with my granddad to the garden parties held in the hospice grounds. My granddad was a treasurer at the hospice for almost 20 years.
I never imagined one day I would come back to the hospice for another reason.
"Our daughter was only seven months old when Fraser and I found out he had a malignant melanoma. This was at the beginning of 2014 and a long journey was ahead of us."
"We never talked about the 'after'"
"The truth is that, during all of Fraser’s illness, we never talked about the ‘after’. Fraser just wanted to lead as normal a life as possible as a husband, friend and proud dad of Sylvie.
"Unfortunately, it was an aggressive form of cancer; it soon spread to his lungs and none of the therapies Fraser underwent helped him.
Towards the end of 2015, he started becoming really ill.
"I still remember vividly an episode while we were at the hospital and he was hallucinating. I just thought, if he dies now, what a horrible way to go, surrounded by medical equipment and people he doesn’t know. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
"Instead, on 19th December 2015, Fraser was admitted to Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice."
Fraser's time at Wheatfields
"After only two days he looked much better – more serene and lucid. I had lots of conversations with the nurses at the time about how I would understand when Fraser was dying; how the drugs he was taking would affect him; and what would ultimately make him die. They simply answered any questions I had. They were really wonderful.
"They were there for me whenever I needed them and really took care of me – I especially remember them asking, near the end, if I was OK explaining things to Fraser’s parents or if I wanted them to do it. I wasn’t sure that bringing Sylvie to see him was a good idea, but they reassured me he would be pleased to hear her voice.
"We didn’t know if Fraser would reach Christmas, but he did. I was with him when he died. I woke up and heard birds singing outside, and he was gone: it was Christmas Day."
"The bereavement group keeps me sane"
"I now attend the New Horizons Cafe bereavement service for widows with young children, which is organised by the hospice once a month.
"It’s actually nice to go back to Wheatfields and see the staff, and I think it’s helpful for Sylvie to visit the place where her daddy died; it helps her to remember him and allows me to open up a conversation with her about it.
"The group really helps to keep me sane. It’s like therapy without a therapist. I've met some lovely people and made some good friends. We have even created our own Facebook group to keep chatting to each other and sometimes we meet socially."
Being among people who really understand
"It’s so important to have a support group because you are amongst people who perfectly understand you. No matter how much your friends and family try to be there for you, you are more careful about what you say, especially about how hard it sometimes is, and how lost and separate you can sometimes feel, because you don’t want to worry them.
"During the sessions, we can be really open and honest about our feelings. Sometimes we make jokes about what happened to us that our friends or family wouldn’t understand. It’s a way to let go, to try to move on.
"This January was really hard for me. I was so low; almost like Fraser died again. But I was able to speak about my feelings openly in the group, and I know I can do this over and over if I feel the need to and no one will judge me.
"They know why; they have been there as well."
More about Wheatfields Hospice