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I lost my Dad in April 2010. He had gone into hospital to have an operation which was supposed to make him better and he never came home. I didn’t get in touch with Cruse until several months after he had died, insisting to everyone I was “fine”, although I clearly wasn’t.

After a complete meltdown one afternoon, I went to see my GP, who initially referred me to a general counsellor, who in turn suggested I speak to Cruse. I was put in touch with a lady called Hillary, who I never actually met, as my counselling was all done over the phone. In many ways this was better for me, as it meant I was able to speak to someone sooner and I felt more able to be completely honest over the phone. Despite the fact we never met, Hillary is one of the most important people I have known, and helped me to understand my grief, and, in a way, she helped save my life, by allowing me to be “me” again.

Cruse, via Hillary, helped me and allowed me to grieve. So many people around me (whilst trying to be helpful), kept telling me to “be strong” and that “things get easier in time”. The last thing on earth I felt was strong. Hillary gave me permission to be sad, to cry, to be angry and to miss my Dad – all of the things that hardly anyone else wanted to deal with. But she also told me it was ok to laugh too, which was one of the things I found hardest and felt guiltiest about. Although she never knew my Dad, she helped me believe and understand that he wouldn’t want me to be sad forever, he would want me to laugh and to be happy.

I could say anything to Hillary, tell her anything and everything about how I felt, however silly it seemed. I didn’t need to protect her feelings in the same way I felt I did with my friends – I could speak openly and honestly about my pain and anger, about how much it hurt and how much I missed him. Sometimes I shouted, sometimes I just cried and sometimes we used to laugh when I told her stories about him. And Hillary listened and asked questions and she guided me to where I need to be, but she never judged, or told me to “be strong”. Cruse and Hillary helped me through the most difficult period of my life and I will always be grateful and thankful for the support I had during that time.

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