Bernadette’s husband Johnson died in Strathcarron Hospice a year ago in May. We would like to sincerely thank Bernadette for sharing her story. 

 “Johnson was my best pal and one true love.” Our friends referred to us as a true Love Story.    

He asked me to marry him within 2 weeks of our first meeting and we were together for 15 years. We had a wonderful life together. Suddenly the devastating news of his cancer changed how we would continue to live our lives with his terminal illness.  

We lived with cancer for three years and neither of us was remotely ready for him to die. Johnson described it as ‘the descent into hell’ and I agreed! We lived through incredibly tough times and reached what I now refer to as the ‘Crisis Point’ of our journey. The treatments weren’t working, so hope was now in short supply. 

As Johnson’s wife, it became overwhelming to watch his deterioration in the last months of his life. It was torturous and damaging! It was at this time that our GP referred us to Strathcarron Hospice. Their nursing, social work, bereavement and care teams supported Johnson and I emotionally and physically. They were there for us on every level, at the worst time in our lives. 

People say ‘keep busy’, but I don’t agree with that! 

In my view, you need to be busy for a purpose; if you aimlessly busy yourself, eventually, you just end up anesthetising your feelings. 

You need time for reflection, and resting your mind and body. I’ve read that if you busy yourself too much you are more likely to suffer depression in the long term, so it’s important to be kind to yourself during the grieving process. 

David Hall, Patient and Family Support Manager at Strathcarron was a significant support, both when Johnson was alive and now, in my grief. He managed very successfully to calm Johnson, talking to him and listening to what he had to say with a great deal of understanding and empathy. This was invaluable to us both, so why didn’t we get support quicker from the hospice? This was because we thought ‘we could endure the trauma’ but we were undoubtedly wrong! 

David has supported, listened and challenged me. He has made me realise that I have to be the architect of my own health and trust the next chapter in my life because I am now the author of that. He has given me ‘hope’ which includes setting myself small realistic goals, achieving the goals and therefore ultimately becoming able to have self-belief again, which had been utterly destroyed during the ‘crisis’.  For example, cooking my own dinner for the first time since Johnson died.  

Going to Strathcarron Hospice was absolutely the best thing to do.  

One of my regrets is that I wish we had linked into Strathcarron much sooner. Ideally at the point of his diagnosis. I think I would have coped in a different way. I sometimes ask myself if there would have been the same level of crisis or trauma if we did. I certainly don’t think so. 

I am not saying our ‘Crisis Point’ wouldn’t have happened, but with the help and support of the teams in Strathcarron, it could’ve been shaped in a different way”.