Support with grief and loss

Patricia Phyland is the bereaved wife of Peter, a former banker and businessman, who died of prostate cancer in July 2017. After his death Patricia, 77, found herself in an empty house asking, ‘Where is Peter? Where has he gone?’

Patricia had been Peter’s main carer at home throughout his illness. Eastern Palliative Care assisted with specialist nursing home visits and family support for four months prior to Peter’s admission to hospital for end of life care. A trained volunteer also worked with Peter to record his biography as a legacy for his family.

For two years, Patricia says, she knew he was going to die but when it actually happened she was incredibly lost.

“I lost a soulmate, the love of my life, the carer, the arm around me, the shoulder to lean on.

“I had put my heart and soul, and every minute of the day, into caring for Peter. Then after his death, when I wasn’t doing everything for him, I asked the question, ‘Well, where is Peter?’

“A beautiful thing happened soon after Peter died. One day I was putting the bin out and a beautiful butterfly followed me as I did so. Another day, the butterfly was on my front door. My sister, Jennifer, who was with me said, ‘Look, Peter’s here again!’ He was around often and Jennifer would say, ‘Peter is still here!’”

In putting her “heart and soul” into caring for Peter, Patricia admits she had forgotten to care for herself. “I felt like a magnet had zapped the innards from my soul and I was walking in a mist,” she says.

Patricia accepted the offer of individual counselling sessions to help with her grief and loss. These were provided on a monthly basis during the year following Peter’s death by Paula, a psychologist at Eastern Palliative Care.

“Paula helped me to step forward. She helped me to open my heart and to talk about how I was coping with daily life. I felt she was listening and helping me to move on.”

Patricia also accepted the offer of a trained volunteer from Eastern Palliative Care during the most difficult early months after Peter’s death.

“This beautiful volunteer would come and we’d go out together. It was wonderful.

“The care and support I received from Eastern Palliative Care has made a big difference to me in my grief,” says Patricia.

“Step by step I am getting better. I have changed my thought patterns. I heard Peter saying, ‘Please be your happy, normal self and get on with your life.’ That helped. I thought to myself, ‘You’ve got to pick yourself up.’

“At times, when the loss of Peter is really hurting, I sit down and read his beautiful love letters to me and that helps.”

Patricia joined an exercise class and made new friends. “I dress up and look the best I can. I say to myself ‘Who knows what my future holds.’”

Patricia has taken up old hobbies and learned some new ones. “I love craft, clothes, and visualising interior designs,” she says. “In my work life I was a buyer in giftware and kitchenware. I loved decorating and interior design. I enjoy junk shops and finding pieces for the garden. I know I am getting better in myself.”

Now, two years on from Peter’s death, Patricia holds on to special memories. “The memory of our love is the most important,” she says.

“My faith has made me stronger. It helps me to think of others. The Lord has taken away my husband but he’s given me other things.”

Patricia has become a poet and kindly shares one she wrote:

“I want to be a butterfly; I want to come out of my cocoon and flap my wings. I want to have glorious colour on my wings. I want to set myself free; I want to flutter around.”

Patricia says she’s almost ready to become a volunteer. “If I can help someone, I’m there to do it. I would like to get involved with helping people with cancer.”


Written by Roberta Shaw

Eastern Palliative Care

At EPC we provide specialist palliative care to people who have been diagnosed with a terminal condition, and for whom the primary treatment goal is quality of life. We also work with their carers who may be a family member, or significant support person.