Stacey received help from Cruse over the phone a year after the death of her father, during the lockdown period of the coronavirus pandemic.
The hugely sudden nature of her Dad’s death led to Stacey suffering from anxiety, 'Because it was so sudden and there was no build up – I was then thinking, what if I wake up one day, think I’m fine, and then die? It frightened me how things can change so fast.'
Stacey dealt with it on her own for the first year, including supporting her Mum and her husband who was with her Dad when he died.
I kind of put myself aside a bit, and it got a bit forgotten. But the anxiety was building and building and I decided that I couldn’t do it anymore, I need to speak to someone.
How did you feel in that first year, and how you were processing your grief?
I assumed because of the shock, and all the things you need to do in the first few weeks, that all of the grieving was then done. As if it was a tick box like ‘okay I’ve grieved and now I’m done’. I’ve never grieved before so I didn’t quite know.
Once the funeral was over I thought that was it, that I’d got through it. So I turned my attention to my Mum because she was still struggling. I thought I had done my bit. It was only at Christmas and the anniversary, that I realised I wasn’t quite there yet. The anxiety hit me and I knew it wasn’t dealt with.
How did you first hear about Cruse?
I’d heard about Cruse from when my Mum lost my Nan, a long time ago. She had used them and said how good they were – so I thought I’d give it a go. That’s where I met the lovely Tina. Tina is amazing and I don’t think she realises it, even though I’ve told her many times!
What were your initial thoughts about receiving support from Cruse?
I wasn’t sure at first, I’ll be honest. I was in such a rut that I knew I had to do something about it. I’d done some research, and spoken to my Mum and thought ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ I questioned whether a stranger would understand how I feel.
It completely changed my perspective. After the first week, I came off the phone and couldn’t stop talking to my husband about it. As emotional as it was, I felt like a weight was lifted.
How did Cruse, and support from your Bereavement Volunteer, help?
Tina helped me to bring out some questions that I had, but hadn’t had answered. I didn’t get to say goodbye to Dad, and I had a lot self-doubt around this. Things like, ‘should I have made Mum ring him back and asked to speak to Dad directly?’ Just loads of guilt.
We spoke about everything, just how I felt about it all, and how it made me feel on a daily basis. She then gave me some strategies to help me alleviate that a little bit. We came to the understanding that my Dad’s way of thinking is the answers to the questions – as in, even if I had have been able to speak to Dad he would have told us not to worry and to go home!
I had a lot of physical pain, as well as a bit of health anxiety. Tina talked me through a book about the physical impacts of grief, and how to let it in rather than put a barrier up. That helped me to understand why my body was feeling that way.
She took it from being a negative to a positive, which I never thought was going to happen. She made me feel like I was able to talk about it a bit more, which I wasn’t doing because I knew that everyone I was speaking to was going through it as well. She got things out of me that I hadn’t expressed before – and she made me feel able to do that.
There were no boundaries – which isn’t the same when you’re speaking to family, or people who are also grieving. The Cruse Bereavement Volunteers are a blank canvas – which makes it a lot easier.
She listened, she sympathised, but didn’t patronise – which is so important. She made me realise it’s okay to hurt, it’s just what you do about it that matters.
She also helped me to help my son, and help him understand what had happened. He was only 18 months when Dad died but they were still very close. Now we have a memory jar, and we talk to Dad’s photos – and it’s really helped him.
How did you find receiving support over the telephone?
At first I assumed that because she was on the phone she wouldn’t be listening as much. But again it changed my perspective of how it would work. Even though I didn’t see her face-to-face I got everything I needed to get out of it, definitely.
I would tell people to give it a go, because actually, it doesn’t matter. Over the phone you’re in the comfort of your own home. I had photos of Dad around me – and I was more relaxed. We talked for ages!
What would your advice be to someone who is considering contacting Cruse for help?
Obviously 100% do it! As scared and as apprehensive you might be – just do it. Once you start and you have your first session, it gets easier. I know how hard it is to admit that you need help, but you need to get over that step, for yourself. It was all about change for me, I needed to change what was going on – and that was the way I could do it.
I’m really surprised at where I am now. A few weeks ago I was in a completely different mind-set, and I thought that was how I was going to be forever. The sessions and what they’ve done to the way I think, have changed everything. To have that change in such a small amount of time just shows how amazing Cruse are. I’m more appreciative of what happened to Dad and I don’t get as sad talking about it anymore. It’s made my life a much more pleasant and bearable one.
I’m even considering becoming a volunteer! You’ve done so much for me that I want to give something back.