The first time Leann heard of ellenor hospice and the care that we provide was only after her world, and that of her seven children, had been turned upside down.
It was three years ago, and her husband Peter had been diagnosed with an advanced form of liver cancer.
“The hardest bit was sitting the kids down and trying to tell the kids that this was it – that Daddy wasn’t going to be here forever. That was the hardest conversation I’ve ever had with my children.”
Wanting to spend his final days in the company of his big family, Peter was cared for by us from the comfort of his own home. Tragically, he passed away within just ten days of diagnosis, with what would have been his 58th birthday on the horizon. Peter Williams died surrounded by all of his children – Jack (now 25), Ben (24), Harry (21), twins Adam and Olivia (18), Kiera (17), and Molly (10).
ellenor is There
“When they’re gone, no one tells you all the stuff that comes after it, which is where ellenor was fantastic. They stepped in and supported us; not just me, but every single one of my family.” It was then that a promise was made.
“Never leave us,” Leann recalls asking of one of our nurses. “Be there when no one else is.
She promised me on that day, she put her arms around me and gave me a big hug and said that we will be with you every step of the way, even when everyone else is gone. And they really were.”
Of course, being there for families going through the toughest period of their lives is something that’s woven into the very fabric of ellenor's ethos. Our commitment to holistic care means that the hospice doesn’t restrict its focus solely to the patient, but aims to support their loved ones, too, in whatever shape or form that might take.
Supporting the Whole Family
“ellenor took us for family therapy, where we could all speak about Peter. It helped make us realise that, though he may be gone in person, he would always be with all of us. For the boys, who were rebelling against it and getting angry, they needed that.
Being a bit older, they wanted to be the macho men. They’re grownups, not children, but at the same time, they wanted to be children. They’d just lost their Daddy, so ellenor kind of let them be that, and supported them at the same time. It was good for all of us.”
Molly Williams had just turned seven years old when her Daddy passed away.
“She was like his little shadow,” says Leann. “She just went everywhere with him. When Molly started at school, he got a job there as a caretaker. He’d take her to school in the morning, and she’d see him around the classrooms. For her, going to school was a big reaction to where Daddy was a constant reminder.”
“It was the hardest for Molly; she went off the rails a little bit. She refused to go to school, she clung to us all. She regressed right back to babyhood, doing this walk like she was a toddler, and talking like a baby. When she lost him, she lost a security blanket, so she just needed to go back to a time she felt happiest.”
Play Therapy is a Safe Space for Children
To help her open up about her grief, and unlock the inexpressible feelings invoked by her father’s death. Molly was given the opportunity to partake in a block of play therapy intervention.
Play therapy is a therapeutic approach to helping children explore painful or distressing feelings that they may be unable to work through via a verbal medium. Channelling the use of toys and equipment, their own experiences, and their relationship with the therapist, children are able to understand and resolve their difficulties or trauma.
“ellenor play therapist Jola was fantastic with her. For a while, Molly wouldn’t talk about Daddy. But through play, toys, and drawings, Jola got her to talk about him, so that when we mentioned him, Molly didn’t go into meltdown. She’d sit there quite happily, and listen, letting us talk.
For those few precious moments after the session, she was my little girl – she was Molly. After her father’s death, it was like a light had gone off inside her, but for those few seconds... it was flickering.”
Though play therapists keep parents in the loop with regular progress updates, the sessions themselves are kept confidential – not that Leann minds too much.
“I didn’t need to know everything. I just trusted Jola completely, that she would make my baby better. She was making her the confident little girl that she was before. It was like a magic button for Molly, it just switched her on and let her be who she needed to be at that time. I don’t know what happened in those rooms, but whatever it was, it was fantastic!”
“I didn’t know that ellenor was for children. When I thought of the hospice side of it, I just thought that ellenor dealt with older people who were at the end of their lives. I didn’t realise that there are young people in there, young families with play therapy and GEMS days were available for kids. I don’t think people know enough about ellenor – I didn’t.”