Hospice softens Kate’s path through grief

Kate and Husband.jpg

Thanks to the United Way and other community partners, Cowichan Hospice is able to offer palliative and grief support services to anyone in the Cowichan Region, free of charge. These programs cannot survive without your donations to United Way. Your help is needed now to ensure that every individual and family has access to free hospice support when they need it.

Here’s Kate’s story:

Three years ago, on a Friday morning, Kate said goodbye to her husband while she and his son, Ethan, held his hands. After struggling with multiple health issues for many years and relying on dialysis to survive, Frank made the decision to stop all interventions. He faced his death with dignity and bravery, with his wife by his side.

“On Wednesday morning when we woke up I asked, ‘is it dialysis or not?’ and Frank said, ‘No, it’s not.’” Two days later, at age 72, Frank died.

The following Sunday, Kate’s home filled with friends and family who celebrated Frank’s life. After the dust had settled, Kate felt as if her whole system had been thrown off kilter.

“I was crazy, in quite a few ways. I’ve always been very sure of myself, pretty capable, and suddenly things that would not have bothered me caused me huge anxiety.”

The palliative care nurse who assisted the family at the end of Frank’s life suggested that Kate reach out to Cowichan Hospice for support. After her initial intake, Kate was matched with one-to-one volunteer support person, Beryl.

“I remember the first time I came here, Beryl asked, ‘is there any unfinished business?’ and I said, ‘No, it was fine – we were okay.’ I thought it was a brilliant question.”

Beryl remembers their sessions fondly, reminiscing on Kate’s candor and sense of humor:

“There were many memorable moments of tears and laughter during our sessions. Kate has an indomitable spirit that gets her through life’s many challenges. I was honoured to have been a companion with Kate during her sessions at hospice. We still keep in touch from time to time.”

After working with Beryl, Kate attended two grief support groups, one focused on the early stages of grief and then a ‘what’s next’ group that helps clients to explore the ways their life has changed following lossKate found comfort in the groups and in knowing she was not alone in her journey with grief.

“I really felt I could just be myself, I didn’t have to put on an act. I could fall apart and be put back together again. They’re not going to judge you, I felt safe.”

Through the year and a half they spent together in grief group, Bereavement Services Coordinator, Lisa de Lusignan, enjoyed watching Kate’s understanding of grief shift dramatically:

“I have seen Kate shift to a deep understanding that she will always grieve and miss Frank. She is honouring that part of herself while also taking care of her emotional needs by connecting with others in an authentic way.”

Though the concept of a “good death” may sound like an oxymoron, for Kate and her family it holds true. The ripple effect of her husband’s peaceful journey, coupled with support from Cowichan Hospice, softened her path through grief.

“I don’t know how I would have been without hospice but I am so grateful for hospice.” 
- Kate Newman, Cowichan Hospice client