Leanne Mann - a daughter's story

Every year St Elizabeth Hospice cares for more than 3,000 patients and their families throughout East Suffolk, Great Yarmouth and Waveney.

This care sees the independent Suffolk charity providing free services – whenever and wherever it is needed, whether at home, in the community or at the hospice – to those living with a progressive or life-limiting illness.

As well as clinical care, the hospice also provides a range of emotional and wellbeing support through its bereavement support service, LivingGrief. Via face-to-face consultations or phone and video call support, in 2021 alone, more than 225 people have been supported by this service.

One person who was supported by the hospice’s emotional and wellbeing team in 2020, is Leanne Mann whose mum, Lorraine Brown, was cared for by St Elizabeth Hospice until her death in January 2020.

“I had my first counselling session in December 2019 with the hospice, after mum recommended their support to me,” explained Leanne, who lives in Ipswich.

“I found the session helpful but didn’t go back for a while, although I knew the service was always there if I needed it. Then a few months after mum had passed, my husband and friends began to notice I was not myself anymore.

“After two years of supporting mum and having adrenaline to keep me going, her death hit me and I just didn’t want to talk anyone and I had become a shell of the person I had been. Mum and I had been very close and I was unable to get over the fact she wouldn’t be there anymore.

“Whenever I felt low or lost in the past, mum was always the first person I went to but I was no longer able to do this. However, after speaking with my husband, I decided to go online and refer myself to the hospice emotional support team and within 24 hours I had a phone call from Sandy (a member of the St Elizabeth Hospice team) who made me feel at ease and would then go on to support me for the next year or so.”

Over the next nine months, every week or two weeks, depending on how Leanne felt, Sandy and Leanne would have support sessions. Taking place over the phone, due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, these sessions saw Leanne and Sandy have general conversations about life as well as her experiences, her mum and how she was feeling.

Leanne added: “Every session just felt so normal and we developed a great relationship, in fact after only a few sessions my friends commented how empowered I sounded and that they felt the old Leanne was coming back.

“The biggest difference for me, was feeling able to say everything that was in my head and knowing Sandy would listen with understanding and compassion but without judgement. Before counselling, I was drowning but through Sandy’s support I now feel a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

“I learnt so much about myself as well and when I felt I no longer needed to attend the sessions Sandy allowed me to decide when I was ready. The whole process worked so smoothly, without any pressure and gave me a new lease of life.

“Without Sandy I wouldn’t be in the position I am now and I know mum would be so incredibly grateful for the support the hospice has given me. For ages, I thought every time I got upset about missing mum that this was a step back, but Sandy taught me this isn’t the case.

“It only proves what an amazing person mum was and that people will continue to know mum through me as she taught me to be the person I am, so she will always be a part of our lives.”

A former occupational department practitioner at Ipswich Hospital, Leanne’s mum, Lorraine, received support from St Elizabeth Hospice between November 2019 and January 2020. During this time, staff enabled the family to enjoy Christmas together as well as help Lorraine attend Leanne’s wedding.

“When mum went into the hospice’s Inpatient Unit in November, it was the best thing that could have happened,” explained Leanne.

“She always said she never wanted to die at home and the hospice made sure her wishes were met. Through their support mum was able to attend my wedding and have Christmas together as a family, which was so special for her.

“The hospice staff even helped mum get ready, doing her hair, make up and nails ahead of the wedding, they are all incredible and feel like family to us. After the wedding, I brought photos in to show the nurses, the cleaning staff and the receptionists, as you get to know them all so well.

“She was an incredible mum and friend to everyone she knew. She loved cooking and being around people, she loved my brother James and I so much and I know it deeply affected her knowing we would be going through so much pain and hurt and she wouldn’t be here. This is one of the reasons she was so keen for me to talk to someone at the hospice.

“Mum wanted me to live positively and that is exactly what the hospice has enabled me to do. I would recommend anyone living with loss or grief to contact the hospice team.

“For a while I thought I was never going to get over my mum dying but speaking to Sandy and having such amazing support from my family and friends, I realised that I didn’t want to be a victim of this grief, I wanted to survive it and live the life mum would have wanted to me.

“Sandy helped me see this, she helped me realise that life moves forward but that doesn’t mean she isn’t part of it anymore, she helped me find peace.”

For more information about St Elizabeth Hospice’s LivingGrief services click here.

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