A couple on holiday smiling at the camera

Doug shares his experience of bereavement counselling at Treetops, and the difference it made.

"My wife, Kate, got breast cancer in 2014. She had an operation and was told that they had got everything.

As Kate recovered, she wanted to try and achieve one of her goals in life which was to run a marathon. She completed the London marathon in 2017 and went on to register for the Great North Run in 2018. She really struggled throughout as she was getting pains in her ribs and chest. The doctors initially said that she had exercise-induced asthma.

Unfortunately, it was later diagnosed as bone cancer. The cancer had come back after she had previously been given the all-clear.

Kate sadly passed away in December 2022.

I needed to talk to someone

After Kate passed away, in the words of my kids, I was ‘useless’ for a couple of months. I just bumbled by and returned to work in the New Year.

We'd always been in contact with Treetops in some shape or form, where in the last two years of her life, Kate had spent a lot of time.  

I wanted to give something back and organised a charity concert for Treetops which was well attended and raised over £1,000. It was just after that I thought, I need to talk to someone outside the family.

Woman at the end of the London Marathon hugging son and daughter

A haven for me to be able to go and talk

Counselling at Treetops was like a little golden haven for me to be able to talk and to try work things out. It really helped as I was able to open up.

It was draining at first and it was physically demanding. I’d leave the sessions thinking I’d done a few rounds with Mike Tyson!

My counsellor really helped me to understand that life's a journey for everyone. She helped me think of life as a road, and whilst Kate’s journey may have been shorter - in some respects her being 5ft4 and me being 6ft 4 is a little bit funny - my journey continues.

I might just have pulled into the Services a bit longer than most people, but my journey continues.

Societies’ Expectations

My counsellor also helped stop me thinking about societies’ expectations; that ‘I should do this, I should see this, and I should behave like that’.

I was trying to appease everybody, my family, and friends. I needed to recognise that the most important people in all this, are me and our two kids. It should be about putting myself first.

Appreciating the good times

I started appreciating the memories of the 35 years that Kate and I had together, rather than getting upset at everything; pictures I’d hidden, or memories I’d put away, because I didn't want to break down again.

Now I can look at a picture of a holiday, laugh and remember the good times, cherishing them with a smile on my face.

Happy memories

With Kate dying early December, and the funeral being a few weeks later, that Christmas just passed us by.

Like every family, there are certain things you do on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year's Day. Suddenly you think, 'this is the first one without Kate'.

Then there were family birthdays in January. We got through that and then it was Valentine’s Day, then Easter and then our wedding anniversary. You think you're getting over some days and then the next lot comes along.

The second Christmas, the kids and I sat and chatted about what we did on previous Christmas days and enjoyed reminiscing.

So, we were celebrating Kate’s birthday and celebrating our wedding anniversary, rather than dreading it, and mourning it. Just having the happy memories and bringing them to the fore on the occasion.

Living life to the full

The counselling really helped me to put things into perspective and not let cancer spoil another life. It had already taken one life very early. It was almost like if I didn't start living life to the full, I would be doing Kate a disservice.

I know she wouldn't want me to just sit and vegetate doing nothing.  Her sister and her close friend told me, ‘Kate wanted you to live a full life after she'd gone’.  

Being the surviving person almost seems harder. You can be told to live your life, but actually doing it is another thing. The counselling enabled me to start living.

I haven't got all the answers. I don't think anyone ever has or will have. But counselling made me pull out of the Services and start my journey again.

It doesn't mean you can't look back in the rearview mirror, smile and laugh. But I look out the front windscreen more than I did before, and that's what counselling's helped me do."

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