In 2022, Julie Andrews, 57, was given a terminal diagnosis out of the blue. She spent 11 days in our hospice before she died in May. 

Her partner of 29 years, Paula, felt “completely lost” after her death and didn’t know who to turn to for support - but group counselling at Mountbatten changed her life. A photo of Paula and Julie.

“As wonderful as my friends are, they couldn’t understand what I went through with the loss of my life partner. Even the little things, like the feeling of walking through an empty house where she once was.”

“The Mountbatten group counselling changed everything for me. Everyone has their own story, but everything they say clicks with me. It’s a relief to just sit, talk and cry with people who get it.”

“As well as the emotional support, I’ve made lifelong friendships and welcomed new experiences – it’s opened up a new world, really. After attending for a year, I now feel like I’m able to live life to the full alongside my grief.”

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Paula and Julie's story

In 2022, Paula and Julie were both feeling fit and healthy, planning a retirement filled with socialising and travel.

A photo of Julie, laughing.One day while travelling to work, Julie started having sharp chest pains. She visited her GP, who referred her to Southampton General Hospital, where doctors suspected a blood clot in her lung. Instead, they found masses on her kidneys, lungs and chest walls.

Three weeks later, they went to operate – confident they could get all the cancer out – but found it had spread again and attached itself to a major blood vessel. Different treatment was then planned, but couldn’t go ahead.

Eventually, Julie was referred to Mountbatten and spent 11 days in the hospice before she died on 3 May 2022.

Paula said, “The hospice team were fantastic, and they looked after me as well, always lifting my spirits and encouraging me to eat.

“They set up a bed for me to sleep in, and I raised it up to the same height as hers so we could hold hands. Because of them, I stayed by her side the whole time until she died.”

“After Julie’s death, I was completely lost and my head was just mush. I didn’t know what to do or who to turn to.

“Everything I tried just wasn’t right for me. It wasn’t helping, it was only making me worse.”

Paula then decided to join some local bereavement groups, hoping to talk to others in similar circumstances.

“It was so refreshing to talk to people have gone through the same thing, because they just get it. They understand when you’re talking and all of a sudden, you burst out crying.

“I finally felt like I wasn’t going mad, because there were people going through the same thing as me."

“I also used a website called Way Up, where people across the country who have lost their partner share their stories. The things that I read on there just kept clicking, like when someone said the first few months are like wading through treacle – that’s exactly what it felt like.”

“I started private messaging with someone else who lived locally. They asked if I’d had any counselling, and I told them I didn’t get on with it.

“It was through them that I learned about the group counselling at Mountbatten. This changed everything for me.

“The group is led by a trained counsellor, Claudine, so it’s a bit more structured than other groups I’d been to. Claudine is so warm and caring. She remembers the things you’ve said in the past, and she always notices interruptions or people who might want to talk and makes sure everyone feels included.

“There’s no pressure, you can talk or not talk or just cry if you want. There’s such a mixture of people who all have their own story, but so much of what they said clicked with me.”

“I’ve made a lot of new friends and now that I’ve finished the 12 months of group counselling, we still often meet up for a coffee and continue to support each other.”

“Now I live my life the way Julie and I wanted to; always out seeing friends and going places. I am still grieving and always will be, but I know I have people I can talk to who understand. It’s changed my life.”

Your support helps people like Paula, who attend our group counselling, face life after bereavement. Thank you.

Our individual and group bereavement support is available to anyone who has experienced a death, regardless of whether your loved one was cared for by Mountbatten. To self-refer, call our team on 02382 548840 or speak to your GP.

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