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"To feel alone especially at Christmas with your thoughts and feelings is not something that anyone should have to struggle with - so there is a way forward and Cruse Scotland helped me to deal with something that I truly believe probably, and quite literally, saved my life."
December 05, 2022
My wife Tracy had suffered from Type 1 Diabetes since diagnosis aged eight years old which had led to several health issues over her lifetime but was generally able to lead a fulfilling life, and after we met and fell in love, we were blessed to raise our two children. Tracy's health issues resulted in admission to hospital to stabilise her diabetes, normally about once or twice a year usually for about a week each admission in a High Dependency Unit.
As Covid-19 spread its pandemic, we were careful to ensure we played our part to keep ourselves and others safe especially as Tracy was considered at higher vulnerability. As Christmas 2020 drew close, Tracy began to suffer from further unstable blood sugars and some of the longer-term complications of her condition which required emergency admission to hospital on 22 December.
As a family, we experienced our first Christmas apart as visiting conditions were so strict that only phone or video contact was allowed. It was a most worrying time. Some hope was restored as by New Years’ Eve, Tracy was discharged from hospital so we could start 2021 better than 2020 had ended.
Within the first week however Tracy developed a cough which became more frequent and persistent and within days she had become very fatigued and quite breathless. After liaising with her GP, I took her to the clinic and as I sat outside in the car park due to Covid restrictions, Tracy messaged me to say her oxygen levels were low and her GP had called an ambulance for her. Thirty minutes later I was able to see Tracy as she was settled into the ambulance and with a snatched, short kiss and hug and a look between us of mutual reassurance despite the obvious concern and fear, Tracy was driven off to the High Dependency Unit.
Again, with no visiting allowed, we were left with just text messages and the odd video call as Tracy was placed on forced oxygen treatment. Our greatest fear was confirmed - Tracy had contracted Covid-19. A week later Tracy messaged me to let me know she was being moved to another hospital, this time to the Intensive Care Unit so she could be put on a ventilator. Her text read "I love you so much and I miss you so much xxx." I replied "I love you too - we will be back in each other's arms very soon and I will cuddle you forever my love xxx"....
Tracy couldn't tolerate the Ventilator under sedation, so they actually had to anaesthetise her shortly after which meant no communication was possible. Things began to deteriorate uncontrollably for Tracy as she spiraled deeper into complications.
Less than three weeks after being re-admitted to hospital, my beloved wife Tracy died in my PPE covered arms as all the life-support equipment was turned off.
Cruse Scotland’s Bereavement Support was recommended to me as I could not find a way forward. I buried my thoughts, feelings and emotions during the daytime and would then sit at night and ruminate, aimlessly and almost paralysed during the night hours in a continuous and perpetual cycle of hopelessness.
The support I received from Cruse Scotland and their bereavement counsellor, Sally, literally saved my life. Sally was able to support me to focus more by breaking down my experience into "bite-size" chunks that I could work through in a safe and structured manner rather than "choking" on everything all at once.
Painful thoughts and feelings such as guilt and shame and remorse were lessened as I was able to discuss with someone who was not within my circle of family and friends and who I trusted as they wouldn't judge me or my frailties. For me, it also became about understanding grief and how different it is for everybody and that although I would often wear a mask-of-coping with others. It would and did get easier as I worked through my journey of learning to live without Tracy and being able to cherish the joy she brought to my and others lives. Although there are times of sudden and overwhelming sadness and tears, I am able to come through it and have once again found a sense of purpose in my life that I didn't think I would ever find.
Christmas and the first anniversary of my Tracy's passing was looming like a cloud over me affecting most of my thoughts. This Christmas would be different as we were missing such a key family member and as a family, we would focus on it being a time of quiet remembrance and reflection rather than festivity.
On Christmas day I lost count of the times I noticed at least one of us just staring off into the ether from the emotions of memories of happier times.
We are now approaching our second Christmas without Tracy and I have tried to make the memories of Tracy much more part of ‘normal’ life - whatever that is. One of the greatest things that Sally helped me to absorb was that there is no ‘normal’ in grief, it’s so individual - but I have found ways to ‘cope’ and celebrate what Tracy gave to us all rather than just focus on what we don't have anymore. I am also able to accept my own humanity more and that its "ok not to be ok."
As a family and for myself personally I think that Christmas had become a time of consumerism and festivity. Something that I have learned and now am able to use to help me cope is that it is a time for remembrance too - to cherish how lucky we were and still are to have fond memories and that whilst loved ones may not be there in person with us, in spirit they do stay with us in our thoughts and in our hearts and what better time than Christmas for us to give thanks, either together as a family or in quiet moments of solitude that we are all the richer for having had their grace in our lives.
To feel alone especially at Christmas either with your thoughts and feelings is not something that anyone should have to struggle with - so there is a way forward and Cruse Scotland helped me to deal with something that I truly believe probably, and quite literally, saved my life.
Richard, North Ayrshire.
Across Scotland, 300,000 children, young people and adults face their first Christmas without a loved one. No one should struggle alone.
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