When Eileen’s husband passed away after 65 years of marriage, it took some time to re-adjust to life. Now, after nearly 3 years without him, she has decided to write about some of the services and organisations that helped her cope with her grief and rebuild her life.
Eileen Bullimore met her husband Ron more than 70 years ago and when he became ill she found herself taking on the role of a carer and doing more of the day to day tasks that Ron had always taken care of.
A former journalist, Eileen says that although she met a lot of people through her work, when Ron died just over three years ago, she found she was spending a lot of time at home alone and was becoming more and more withdrawn.
Fortunately Eileen, who lives in Stamford, was able to talk to healthcare professionals about what she was going through and she was overwhelmed by the services and organisations that came forward to support her.
She said: “I spent a lot time of time trying to explain to the doctors how I was feeling and they were helpful as much as they could be.
This help started even before Ron’s death with the involvement of Bloomsbury Home Care, St Barnabas Nurses and Age Concern UK, which stayed in touch after his death to help Eileen change her will.
Eileen confesses that memories of this difficult time are a little hazy but says that any suggestion that she took up a hobby to help fill the void were met with a sullen reply of “I don’t want to”.
She said: “I feel that I may have been a stroppy child as well as a stroppy adult, but I had begun to find that when and if I did go out on my own anywhere or on my own, all I wanted to do was get back home as quickly as I could.
“I went to my niece’s for a meal but no sooner there and I would ask to go home. I hasten to add, that did ease after a time but then only for slightly longer periods.”
But then Eileen was told about a bereavement group run by St Barnabas, which met in Bourne each week for two hours. Eileen was initially resistant and doubtful she would enjoy the group but now believes it was one of the best things she ever did.
She said: “The three people who were there to greet me on the day could not have been more friendly and helpful.
“Immediately it felt reasonably easy. It was a mixed group of people who had, or were still, in the position I was in.
“We sat and chatted and. I found it very comforting and met many really special people.
“I went to Bourne for about three months and then realised it was time for new people to take advantage of this opportunity.”
As Eileen started to rebuild her life she also received the help of CRUSE bereavement counselling and regular sessions with a counsellor from the Steps2Change NHS Talking Therapies for Lincolnshire.
She also was introduced to Silver Lining, a helpline for older people started by Dame Esther Rantzen, which Eileen found helpful as she could ring day or night to talk to someone. Silver Lining offered her a consistent telephone befriender who still rings her at the appointed hour each week for a chat.
The Evergreen Care Trust has been invaluable in Eileen’s recovery and they organised a weekly befriender to visit. They also realised that Eileen’s faith was important to her and introduced her to their Lay Reader who still visits regularly.
Eileen was now able to use her contacts to organise a private cleaner to help out with housework and a gardener who has become a firm friend and is on hand to help out with any other handyman-type jobs.
Getting involved in a group held at Stamford Methodist Church each week has also helped to get Eileen out of the house and meet new people and the drop-in nature of this was a great help as she didn’t feel she had to go when she didn’t feel up to it.
She said: I feel now that I must express my gratitude to the many doctors, nurses, consultants, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and many of the others behind the scenes who have done a great deal in assisting me with their caring to try to help with my great loss.
“I know I am only one of many, many cases in the same situation. However, each and every one – be it a consultant, doctor or nurse – have listened with patience and caring.
“I have felt very privileged on several occasions even by just leaving their room and feeling somebody understands. I am very grateful for all the help shown. It always seems to have been a quiet but responsive effort from them all.
“I have been very fortunate with help in dealing with his passing and learning how to cope with being on my own again.
The visit from the Social Prescribing service was one of the more recent interventions following a referral from her GP who was concerned that Eileen was not going out.
Eileen said: “Social Prescribing was useful because it helped me to see how far I have come over the last few years since Ron’s death and helped me talk about and appreciate all the organisations that I have connected with. Things were very black back then but now I describe things as not being black, but shades of grey.
“The Social Prescriber was able to listen to me and suggest other organisations that might help me such as exercise groups for my COPD, strength and balance exercises and helped me consider different mobility aids.
“Through Social Prescribing I have recruited another befriender from Under My Wing and I have tried some home relaxation therapy from a Yoga Practitioner working with sound therapy using gongs.
“I am now much more aware of activities that I could try if I wanted to.
“During my time with Social Prescribing, I have found out that my Mormon church visitors are also keen long-stitchers like myself, so we have formed a weekly long-stitch group at my home and can have a chat whilst working towards our sewing project.
“I do not know if any of this is going to help anybody in their loss but I do want to impress on them that with some of the things I dealt with and places I have made myself go to, it has become NOT easier but bearable.”