A journey beyond loss: My reflections on grief and care

A photo of Molly speaking into a microphone, sitting at a table with a large sheet of writing
Molly sharing notes from the discussions of Equal Care members at this year's AGM

In the past, I've wanted to share chirpy, positive thoughts and observations from the perspective of someone who has both given support at Equal Care and worn a multitude of Circle and Team ‘Hats’ alongside being a carer for my own family members, a loyal friend, a supportive partner, and the guardian of an unmentionable number of animals! 

However, today, I feel it's time to step outside of my usual genre and discuss something different. I want to talk about grief and giving care. 

When we lost my grandad a year ago, I was already deeply immersed in my Circle Hat Role and genuinely enjoying it, despite the challenges it presented. I was also providing a lot of care and support in various capacities. His passing affected me in a profound way. It wasn't just one aspect of my life that was impacted; it felt like I lost what tied all the different areas of my life and ambitions together.

I’ll be honest; I didn’t want to continue giving care and support. It was painful to be reminded every single day of what was so absent from my life. I was caring for other people’s grandparents and parents to the best of my ability but deeply missing giving that love to my own grandad. Every time I gave comfort within a team it felt bittersweet - the smiles I was receiving and the chuckles we were sharing felt overshadowed by the memories running behind my eyes of similar moments with Grandad. It just hurt. It was raw and I was suffering. 

When my grandparents moved from Hull to Halifax in 2011 I was suddenly a young girl granted with easy access to more of my family. Marjorie and Roy might have joked that they were coerced into leaving their hometown to be nearer to my parents, brother and I but I know we all appreciated having our support circle so close. It was around that time that my grandad was diagnosed with vascular dementia. As his illness progressed I was suddenly exposed not only to dementia itself but the care industry as a whole. 

Throughout school, I had always strived for the highest grades so that I could go to university and find myself a nice comfortable job. I never imagined that I would find myself working in the care sector but I felt very passionate and protective of my grandad, his care and his representation! Grandad was (is and always will be) my inspiration: “If you can be kind, be kind - always.”

He taught me about how meaningful it is to somebody who is receiving care from anybody, but particularly being cared for by ‘strangers’. At least, they start out that way. I witnessed the relationships between my grandad and his carers grow and grow over the years - they meant so much to him. Towards the end of his life, I was both a family carer and an Equal Care carer for him and he saw no difference between the two versions of me. Grandad found as much comfort and joy in the time spent with me and my family as he did in the attention and care he received from his dedicated team. Of course, no one could ever hold a candle to my grandmother in Grandad's eyes, but after 65 years together, I think we can all agree that it can only be seen as a wonderful thing. 

I could write an entire novel about my grandad but to summarise: he is the reason I went into care and he’s the reason why I appreciate carers so much. That’s why when he wasn’t around anymore to hold my hand, fuss the dog or chuckle at Doctor Who with me anymore I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay on the path I was on. 

Over the last twelve months, an internal battle has been going on inside me: should I keep giving care because what I’m doing is exactly what my grandad loved so much? Or should I pull away and (in theory) feel less lost and hurt from the constant reminder of my grandad? It has only been today, on this crisp sunny autumn afternoon that I write this that I feel I finally have some peace. 

There’s a wonderful lady that I have been enjoying supporting for a couple of years now. She may not know my name, where I've come from or why I visit her but she always lights up when we see each other - and it’s very mutual, believe me! 

Today, we were discussing how distressing it can be to experience dementia and she said “I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing but as long as you do I will be ok”, to which I responded with “I do know, we have a plan for today and we will have fun” She then said, “I know we will. I trust you Molly”. 

My heart sang. “Thank you, I am so glad” I replied.

I will keep giving care. I will keep supporting. I will nurture, comfort, enrich and - quite honestly - be absolutely blessed by the company of the people I support at Equal Care. I will do it, not because I’m good at it, but because of the unbelievable emotional reward this career has given me. The skills that my grandad gave me the inspiration and opportunity to grow into, will continue to be put to good use, and all of that love that he gave me will be transferred into my work and into other people's lives too.