TREDEGAR House volunteer, Anne Levett, drew some comfort from Newport’s STEPS bereavement group when she lost her mother, Margaret, at the age of 100 in June 2018. Here, she tells Tovey Bros, who organise the programme, how sharing her loss with others on the same grief journey has helped Anne through this testing time.
She said: ““Last year started on a high because we had a big birthday party for Mum which was attended by the Mayor. She was presented with a telegram from the Queen, a clock from the local authority and was on the front page of the Argus. Then, when she died a few months later, I felt really flat even though she had lived to such a great age.
“I was initially nervous about attending STEPS because I was still upset about Mum and didn’t know what to expect, but once I started talking to other people I just became engrossed in their stories. Seeing that there were other people in more need than me gave me some perspective – mum was 100 after all. Tovey’s were very kind, considerate and helpful when we organized her funeral.
“I always lived with Mum up until she went into a care home for the last few years of her life and the house holds such strong memories of her. Sometimes that could be comforting, but I think when you lose someone you’re close to it often helps to be out of the house and in different surroundings.
“Natalie, the co-ordinator, explained how important it was to respect and honour our own losses and those of other people in the group which really struck a chord with me. We were also given a book on grief which was very helpful because it explained ‘grief attacks’ and I had a lot of them, sometimes with no warning. Something would trigger one and it came over me in waves.
“The first session was hard – not everybody wants to open up about their loss – but after the first couple of sessions we felt more at ease and it helped to take in a photo of our loved one to share and pay tribute to. Although I do have family around you don’t always feel you want to inflict your grief on them so I felt I needed another outlet to talk about how I was coping.
“I liked how people in the group never gave up; plenty of cups of tea helped too! Natalie is wonderful, she just lets you talk and is non-judgmental. I found it inspiring meeting Dr Bill Webster who started STEPS off and I’d really like to thank him for all the work he has been doing. The monthly follow-up group is marvellous and a great help because you can stay in touch with the other people you got friendly with on the course.
“The first year is hard with all the ‘firsts’ like Christmas and other big events. Last year I didn’t feel like I could put up my Christmas tree so I lent it to my local church who hold an Annual Festival Of Trees. Some are decorated by children from the local Rainbow Guide group so I think I’ll do the same again this December.”
Anne added: “I still get my moments, especially around late afternoon which was the time I used to visit Mum. We had a very close relationship because my dad died when he was only 66 and I was 29. It’s the funny things you miss, like how she would towel dry my hair if I’d been caught out walking in the rain. Mum was always looking out for me and it’s only later you realise that.
“During World War II Mum was nursing in Newport when she was injured during a bomb raid in Waterloo Road so she had already experienced a brush with death. Towards the end I think Mum wanted to join Dad; she really missed him and made me promise she would be buried with him. Although I miss them both, I feel very lucky to have had such good parents.”