Ellen's Story - The Impact of Losing a Loved one during lockdown
Ellen first joined the hospice family earlier this year in July after losing her beloved partner, Gilbert.
Whilst grieving for Gilbert whom she lost in tragic circumstances in March, she contacted her GP for help and advice and was referred to East Lancashire Hospice and introduced to Karen one of the Bereavement Counsellors. Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult experiences anyone can go through and Ellen describes how at the time she felt as if she was in a huge whole and she didn’t know how to get out, but that talking with Karen, with whom she continues to receive counselling, really helped her start to come to terms with her loss.
Karen was also able to introduce Ellen to her colleagues Liz and Vicky from the hospice Support and Wellbeing Team and along with Karen, they have also been able to provide Ellen with additional support at this extremely difficult period in her life. Both Liz and Vicky have bene able to visit Ellen regularly in her own home and Ellen recalls the first time she met Liz “When Liz first came to my house, she talked to me about all of the different things we would be able to do together such as cooking and handicrafts such as cross stitch”. Ellen went on to describe how since then, Liz’s colleague Vicky has been out to visit her a couple of times and they’ve discussed and made plans to do embroidery together.
Ellen described the support she has received from the hospice and what it means to her “Oh my goodness it has been a lifeline and an absolute blessing”.
Ellen who is originally from Hamelin, a town on the Weser River in Lower Saxony, Germany was 9 years old when the Second World War ended and explained how challenging a time this was for her and her family “We lived in Germany in the part on the Baltic sea near Russia and Poland and when the Russians came followed by the Poles, we were displaced and eventually ended up on an Asparagus Farm where my mum was able to work to provide for our family. A short while later we moved on again and were eventually able to get to West German were once again we landed on a farm. Again this was an absolute blessing from a Guardian Angel and we were so grateful to god that we didn’t have to starve as much as everyone else. There I went to school from the age of 11 ½ to 15 years old studying domestic science and I then took various jobs until I was 17. Thereafter I cared for one of my two sisters who had to have many operations. My mother ended settling in Dortmund and my sisters in Dortmund and Frankfurt.”
Ellen described how she came to Blackburn aged 19 years old as an Au Pair and has never left Blackburn since. Ellen Au Paired for a German, Jewish family who she described as ‘absolutely wonderful’ and ‘particularly generous’ to take in a German girl after such difficult relations during the war. Ellen’s initial plan was to come to Blackburn for 12 months however she was asked by the family to stay and the rest as they say is history.
Ellen who has two daughters, one of whom lives in Germany and the other in America, explained that it has been completely impossible to see either of them this year due to the pandemic which has been incredibly hard for her as she has now has no one left here.
Ellen and her partner Gilbert were together for 10 years having first met when they were both widowed, with Ellen having lost her husband Tom, and after some time Ellen explained how they spoke and said “wouldn’t it be nice if we were able to look after each other”. Together they lived for some time in sheltered accommodation in Blackburn which they loved as they would receive daily calls from staff to check all was ok and they were also able to join in with lots of organised events and social activities. Unfortunately due to a lack of funding, this facility had to be closed and so Ellen and Gilbert were forced to relocate.
Ellen has done a lot of volunteering in her lifetime and in fact has a special connection with the hospice which goes back some time. Ellen described how she used to volunteer at Blackburn Royal Infirmary in the 1970’s and then when the ward on which she assisted closed, she moved to the hospice site. There she worked from 6pm to 9pm talking to patients, assisting them with their daily routines and making things with them. Ellen would catch a lift with a friend, however when this was no longer available, sadly she had to stop volunteering as there was no bus.
Whilst this year has been exceptionally difficulty time for Ellen, she feels incredibly grateful for the strength and support she has found from being part of the hospice family and is now looking to the future when she hopes to be able to visit the hospice as a day patient.