Michelle Markwell's Hospice 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, between January and September 2022 alone, more than 338 people have been supported by this service

One person who received support from the hospice’s emotional and wellbeing team in 2022, is Michelle Markwell whose mum, Brenda Markwell, received end-of-life support from the St Elizabeth Hospice community team, at her home, in June 2021.

Michelle (pictured above, taking part in the Big Hoot Ipswich 2022), who lives in Ipswich, said: “I had been told Mum was ‘end of life’ so knew this day was close and the signs were there, but you are just in denial and think your parents will go on forever, especially as she was a very strong and determined lady.

“After Mum passed away, I felt numb for the first few days. There was so much to do and very little time to waste.

“I received one week’s bereavement leave from work and I was adamant I was fine to return to work after that week. However, when the Monday morning arrived, I was in floods of tears, realising I was not ready yet and my doctor signed me off sick for a month.

“When I did return to work, I still found things hard and I was just going through the motions of working, eating, sleeping and trying to do the best I could. It did help though getting back to some form of ‘normal’ although felt surreal that everyone else is carrying on with day-to-day life, while your life has been turned upside down.”

Michelle became aware of the hospice’s LivingGrief service provided, when the St Elizabeth Hospice community team, who were caring for her Mum at home, explained there was further hospice support available to loved ones.

“I had been offered emotional support by St Elizabeth Hospice when Mum was receiving care from the hospice at her home but, with working full-time and providing the level of support she needed, I declined because I just couldn’t see where I could fit it in,” added Michelle.

“I knew some of the feelings I was experiencing would pass, as I had been through the grieving stage previously with my father, but this felt different because I was Mum’s carer for 11 years.

“However, a few months after Mum’s death I reached out to the LivingGrief team, as there were a few issues I was experiencing which I couldn’t shake – such as feeling angry, confused and frustrated.

“The LivingGrief team really made a difference in helping with my grief. My counsellor was absolutely amazing, I felt lost as I spent a lot of time caring for my mum and was very worried about what the future held, especially as I was also going through a breakup with my partner at the same time.

“The LivingGrief team showed me coping strategies, how to move my life forward and think differently to how I did before.

“Through LivingGrief I also joined the hospice’s ‘Walk-On Bereavement Group’, which I cannot recommend enough. We meet fortnightly around the Ipswich area, go for a walk and then have conversations over tea and cake.

“I have met some amazing people who have lost loved ones but have shown such character and strength in how they have dealt with their grief. It is now over a year since the group was formed and I would like to say they have become ‘friends’.

“Walk On is a safe space where you can talk about your bereavement, if you wish, with people who have been through the same experience or just go along to meet new people who are there to chat about other topics.

“I’m sure many people think like I did that we all go through bereavement at some stage in our life whether it is a spouse, other family member or friend.

“The first year is the hardest with all the anniversaries, but then it gets easier, and you think more of the fond memories. I personally think each person’s bereavement process is different and it is not a weakness to seek support, in fact I think it is a strength to say, ‘I need help’.

“LivingGrief can help you through the most difficult time of your life and give you the confidence to enjoy life again.

“You don’t have to go through bereavement alone. The hospice provides a holistic service for the patient and the whole family. If you feel alone and lost in grief, reach out to the LivingGrief team and take advantage of such a fantastic service. They are here to help.”

For more information about St Elizabeth Hospice’s LivingGrief services visit www.stelizabethhospice.org.uk/how-we-can-help/information-and-support/bereavement-support/.

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