Marie Curie

“I’ll be thinking of all the people I love who’ve died”

“I’ll be thinking of all the people I love who’ve died”

Allan Scarlett is a retired headteacher and lives near Hull. In May 2020, his wife, Teresa, died from terminal cancer. He’ll be remembering her on the Day of Reflection.

“My wife Teresa was lovely. It would’ve been our 28th wedding anniversary in August 2020.

“Teresa was amazing, she had the diagnosis just over two years before she died, yet she was told she only had eight weeks to live. She fought it all the way and we had two years of lots of memories.

“On the night Teresa passed away from pancreatic cancer, Michelle the Marie Curie Nurse was with me and she was just wonderful. She was like an angel.”

A difficult time

“Teresa's funeral was on her birthday, 12 June. She would've been 67. And with covid restrictions at the time, we could only have up to 20 people. It was what it was, but we did her proud.

“I had five close family people die, including my mum, my dad and Teresa, within an 18-month period. I didn't feel I could properly mourn my mum, particularly with knowing Teresa's diagnosis and that she didn’t have very long to live. It was very difficult.

“When I was talking about this with Nurse Michelle on the night Teresa passed away, she recognised I needed support and suggested I contact Marie Curie's bereavement support service.”

Feeling stronger

“Bereavement support helped me, without a doubt. Charlie, the volunteer I was paired with, phoned at exactly 8.30am, which I really appreciated. She was always right on time. And the first time she asked me to ‘Just talk about whatever you want to talk about,’ so I did.

“I particularly remember session four, when I mentioned I was feeling guilty and Charlie asked me why. I said: ‘Well, I'm 66 but I've got a lot to offer and I don't want to be on my own. I don't like living on my own. I've never lived on my own, my whole life. I don’t want to sit around and mope and obviously I'm still grieving but I'm looking forward to doing different things.’

“And Charlie said, ‘That's inspiring.’ And I really didn't know what she meant because I was feeling guilty about feeling like that. But Charlie helped me begin to understand that I was actually feeling strong and able to carry on.”

Sharing feelings

“I’ve always been open about my feelings with the people closest to me, but I think the lockdown situation made me share personal feelings and thoughts with even more people. I realised that sharing with others – those comfortable with me getting upset and emotional – is not a thing that makes me look weak, but actually strong.

“Teresa's pride and joy was her garden and I promised I would look after it for her. I’ve done that and it makes me feel sad and happy and proud, all at the same time.

“Nearly four years on from Teresa dying, I’m now feeling strong enough to have taken on the role of being a Marie Curie Bereavement Support Volunteer myself. It’s very rewarding, listening to others and giving them that important space to explore their feelings. The experience also helps me to reflect and move forward on my journey of living and coping with grief.

“I think that it helps to have a Day of Reflection put aside for everyone. Whatever stage of the grief anyone’s going through, it doesn't just go away; it changes and alters as time goes on. Everyone has birthdays and anniversaries of people they’ve lost and they’re hard days. It's a comfort to know that there are other people on that day thinking of their loved ones. It's a sort of invisible support.”

A special day

“For me, it’s become an important day as it wasn't just my wife who died in that short period of time; there was my mum, dad, two aunts and my stepson.

“That day has become a special day for me because then I'm thinking of all of them, whatever level the grief and love I’ve got for them all. The day brings it altogether.”

If you, or someone close to you, has been bereaved, Marie Curie is here to help. Call us on 0800 090 2309 and ask for information about bereavement support.

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Allan Scarlett
Allan Scarlett
1 February 2024

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