Widowed AF

#93 - Leonie Thorpe

January 29, 2024 Rosie Gill-Moss Season 1 Episode 93
#93 - Leonie Thorpe
Widowed AF
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Widowed AF
#93 - Leonie Thorpe
Jan 29, 2024 Season 1 Episode 93
Rosie Gill-Moss

In episode #93 of the Widowed AF podcast, host Rosie Gill-Moss introduces us to Leonie Thorpe, whose story unfolds against the backdrop of the pandemic.

Leonie's tale is one of love, the importance of family, and the unique challenges of grieving in an unprecedented global crisis.

Leonie met her partner Richard in 2012, both having been previously married with children. Their relationship led to a beautiful, blended family of nine (!!) children. Their life together consisted of all the expected challenges of a large family, but was one filled with love and joy.

Their lives took a dramatic turn when Richard discovered a lump on his neck. Initially diagnosed as a manageable case of head and neck cancer, Richard underwent aggressive treatment. The couple was optimistic, as doctors were confident about his recovery, and began to believe they had a future.

Leonie speaks candidly about the heart-wrenching journey that followed. The pandemic's restrictions added an excruciating layer to their ordeal. Richard's condition deteriorated rapidly, and he had to receive his terminal diagnosis alone, a moment that deeply affected both of them. She shares her struggles with anger towards the healthcare system and her quest to find peace and acceptance.

Their children, each dealing with grief in their unique ways, faced the loss of their father amidst global isolation and fear.

Don’t miss this one!



Web: (https://www.widowedaf.com)
Instagram (@widowed_af)
Watch on (YouTube)

Don't forget to subscribe !

Show Notes Transcript

In episode #93 of the Widowed AF podcast, host Rosie Gill-Moss introduces us to Leonie Thorpe, whose story unfolds against the backdrop of the pandemic.

Leonie's tale is one of love, the importance of family, and the unique challenges of grieving in an unprecedented global crisis.

Leonie met her partner Richard in 2012, both having been previously married with children. Their relationship led to a beautiful, blended family of nine (!!) children. Their life together consisted of all the expected challenges of a large family, but was one filled with love and joy.

Their lives took a dramatic turn when Richard discovered a lump on his neck. Initially diagnosed as a manageable case of head and neck cancer, Richard underwent aggressive treatment. The couple was optimistic, as doctors were confident about his recovery, and began to believe they had a future.

Leonie speaks candidly about the heart-wrenching journey that followed. The pandemic's restrictions added an excruciating layer to their ordeal. Richard's condition deteriorated rapidly, and he had to receive his terminal diagnosis alone, a moment that deeply affected both of them. She shares her struggles with anger towards the healthcare system and her quest to find peace and acceptance.

Their children, each dealing with grief in their unique ways, faced the loss of their father amidst global isolation and fear.

Don’t miss this one!



Web: (https://www.widowedaf.com)
Instagram (@widowed_af)
Watch on (YouTube)

Don't forget to subscribe !

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Hello, and a very warm welcome back to Widowed AF. You're here with your host, Rosie, and joining me today is Leone. Hi, Leone.

Leonie Thorpe:

Hi.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Hello, and thank you ever so Thank you. It's great to have you here. And we had a little chat briefly before we clicked record and we grew up near each other. I love all these little coincidences that come up in these meetings. Um, now Leonie is going to very bravely talk to us about losing her husband during the pandemic, but not COVID. So you went through an enormous loss and you did it in a time where people couldn't be around you. And I think that that is something that we really do have to talk about and I'm really in awe of the people that survived, that you and um, and who are prepared to kind of live and tell the tale as it were. So, I'm not going to continue to talk for once. I'm going to let you sort of tell your story, however you want to tell it Leoni. And, um, I will listen to it with the, with the listeners.

Leonie Thorpe:

So, um, I met Richard in 2012 and, um, we were both divorced. We both had, uh, children from our previous marriages. And we became this huge blended family. Um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

How many,

Leonie Thorpe:

oh gosh, so Richard, um, had, has seven children. Um, I

Rosie Gill-Moss:

shut up? Seven.

Leonie Thorpe:

Yes.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

That's, that's nine children!

Leonie Thorpe:

So all

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Oh my god, you're giving me palpitations and we haven't even had the story. Ha

Leonie Thorpe:

know. So between the two of us, there's, there's nine of them. Um, spanning a huge sort of age range. Um, uh, so most of them are

Rosie Gill-Moss:

I won't make you list their ages, don't worry.

Leonie Thorpe:

four of them are still, uh, children. And, uh, yeah, we just, we just became this huge blended family. Um, and it can be complicated, I think, when you've got a blended family. But Richard was so, um, my mum always described him as so laid back, he was practically laying down. Um, just all the time. He was, he was really wonderful. And, um. We got engaged and we had our wedding booked. We were going to go to Las Vegas to get married, uh, in

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Oh, cool.

Leonie Thorpe:

Um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

yes. Ha

Leonie Thorpe:

ah, yes.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

ha.

Leonie Thorpe:

previous to that. So while we were planning our wedding, um, Richard noticed a lump on his neck. So he, he went to the doctors to get that checked out and they said, you know, it's probably just an infection, we'll give you some antibiotics and see what happens and sort of no changes happens. They sent him for a biopsy, um, and he had cancer. Um. They called it head and neck cancer and I know throughout this I'm ever so sorry because I know some people become real experts in this but I think to a certain degree I've shut that down and I don't do all of the long words of, but it was

Rosie Gill-Moss:

No, please don't worry, because I always have to ask people what they mean and that makes me look stupid, so you're doing me a favour. Now, I'm sorry, head and neck cancer. I don't think I've come across that one yet. Now that sounds, I don't know whether it is particularly vicious, but it sounds it.

Leonie Thorpe:

So, um, what I would say is it kind of encompasses any cancer that can be in that area. So that can be cancer of the tongue, cancer of the mouth, cancer of the throat. Um, at that point, he, he just had, um, the one tumor in his neck. Um, and they were really confident. They, they sort of said it wasn't a particularly aggressive cancer. Um, and that. They were going to treat it very aggressively and they had absolutely no concerns um, at that point that he wasn't going to be able to get well and be cured.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

and as far as cancer goes, that's the news you want, isn't it?

Leonie Thorpe:

It is. So it was, it was a positive prognosis, but we kind of prepared ourselves because, um, in order to get that outcome, the treatment was extremely aggressive, um, daily radiotherapy along with chemotherapy as well. So the treatment made him very poorly. Um, but it was just a six week treatment and then it was over. And then he was kind of left to recover and, um, he was having scans, he was having checkups and he was being told that the, the treatment had been successful and that he was kind of in the clear, but that because the treatment had been so aggressive, it could take anything up to five years for him to fully recover from that treatment. It really made him quite poorly. Yeah. Um, so we were. Just dealing with that as, as you do, um, uh, equal amounts of feeling grateful, um, along with obviously the challenges of, of how, how poorly he became. And that was in the August of 2019. So we'd kind of, he then finished his treatment kind of end of November, beginning of December. And then by March the next year, um, It was full lockdown. He was considered, um, an extremely vulnerable person because of that illness. Um, so, and I'm sure a lot of people went through that where they were classed as extremely vulnerable. It was quite a scary time. Um, trying to make decisions around what it is that you do as a family in order to protect the vulnerable person. Um, so yeah, but we were all together and we were being told that he was cancer free. Um, And we carried on. We obviously had to postpone our wedding, uh, because that should have been that year. Um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Me too.

Leonie Thorpe:

yeah, I know. Um, which, which was a shame. Um. But yeah, you, you kind of take those things as they come. And then, um, we were kind of coming in and out of lockdown, and in and out of lockdown, weren't we? And then there was another lockdown that Christmas,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

and out like a dog at a fair.

Leonie Thorpe:

yes! So there was lots going on, but during all of that, um, Richard started to, to not feel very well. Um, and he was continuously going to his consultant, he, uh, By phone, because all of the services were shut down. They wasn't letting anybody in. Um, and, and saying, you know, I, something's wrong. I don't, I don't feel very well. And obviously, like I say, they, they. They weren't really doing the checkups. They were very confident that his symptoms were due to the previous cancer treatment that he'd had the previous year. And so they were telling him that it will pass and actually these symptoms is just because of the radiotherapy you had. This is normal. And I have to say, you know, like I say, because of who Richard was as a person, he was, he was super laid back and he. trusted his consultants. They'd obviously built up that relationship during, during his treatment. But in the end, he, he had to say, you know, listen, you need to do something. Something isn't right. You need to hear me. You need to listen to me. And I think that that was kind of the first time where I started to get concerned because I'm like, that's, that's actually really not like him. And he's really having to strongly advocate for himself to, to really get. And any type of answers and the consultant said, you know what, just to put your mind at ease, we'll bring you in, we'll do a biopsy. It's all going to be fine. This is all because of your radiotherapy. But look, if it's going to make you feel better, we'll do it. Um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

patronising, but okay.

Leonie Thorpe:

yeah, especially considering what, what happened next. And I think that. Anybody who was going through any type of cancer diagnosis or cancer treatment whilst services were so limited and shut down, I wasn't allowed to go in with him. Um, when the biopsy results came back, um, to say that he, he had cancer again, it was a very different type of cancer. It was an extremely aggressive type of cancer. And that because it was in a, uh, the same place that he'd had it before, they couldn't repeat treatment on it. You can't treat it in the same area more than once. So he got a terminal diagnosis alone. Um, and that was,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

And was he alone when he got this?

Leonie Thorpe:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

this is the thing, I mean, we did, um, We did a bit of talking at a, um, uh, end of life conference, and One of the things that we specifically said, and I appreciate that these were very different times because we're in lockdown, but one of the really key things we said is do not tell somebody that they're dying alone. It is just an incredibly cruel thing to do. And looking back now at this time, I mean, obviously there's probably quite a lot of anger. Where you're concerned, I feel quite angry about the fools we were made of during this time, but you do what you're told to do because you believe in those in authority. And It genuinely breaks my heart that, that, that Rich was given a terminal diagnosis and he didn't have you or anybody with him to hold his hand.

Leonie Thorpe:

No, he was completely Like for him.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Mm. No, it must be awful. And also to have been given such kind of, in terms of cancer diagnosis, such positive news, you know, that it was going to be fine. And, and even the slightly kind of disparaging way that they've spoken to him, you know, all right, well, we'll, yeah, to put your mind at rest. And then to find out that actually what he's got is a terminal cancer. Um, I mean, your world must just have dropped from beneath your feet a bit.

Leonie Thorpe:

I just, do you know what? It's been over two years since Richard died and I don't, I still don't think I fully got my head around it. Um, I don't know if, if any other widows experience this but sometimes I, I, I find it quite challenging. You're almost, you meet new people, you have to sort of tell them that you're a widow and, and those sorts of things constantly. And, um, having those conversations all the time, you start a new job and then you've, you know, got to tell people that you're, you're a widow. Otherwise, it sounds weird because I talk about Richard all the time. So. I can understand how it must come across like he's still here. So it's, it's really, really challenging. But I don't think that I've still even now fully, fully got my head around it. It was so shocking. And I just found the way that they did it really awful. And there was lots of complications after that. And I am convinced. That had something like this happened at a time where services weren't so limited and weren't so shut down. And obviously they were dealing with people who were really ill with COVID. I completely understand the why. So I don't want to sound like I'm criticizing, but I do believe so many mistakes were made in those first few weeks after Richard got his second diagnosis. That I, I don't know if he'd still be here if it had happened at another time. Because

Rosie Gill-Moss:

really, really difficult thing to reconcile with because it was like living in a sort of weird, um, what's that, like a dystopian film anyway, wasn't it? You know, we all felt like we were. It was suspended reality. So no wonder that you're struggling to get your head around it because that whole period in our lives feels unreal. Um, and then to add in to that, this enormous tragedy. And yes, I hear what you're saying. I mean, I also, um, a friend of mine, her husband died of cancer during COVID. It's just so isolated. It's isolating enough, but it's even more isolating when you can't be with them and you can't have the comfort of the people that you know, um, and love with you. So, sorry. I've, I've, I've talked over you and I still can't see you actually, which is quite surreal. I'm talking to my blank screen here. Um, so sorry. Just tell me a little bit about how, how he responded to getting that diagnosis, how it impacted on you and the kids and I guess primarily on Rich.

Leonie Thorpe:

yeah, I have to say, it's something that I, I still, Just have a huge amount of love and respect for him for because he was so wonderful. Um, he just kind of took, took what was happening to him, um, in his, in his stride. He was incredibly strong in a way that I know this sounds awful, but he wasn't in his first cancer. He wasn't strong. He felt very, very rightly. Sorry for himself. The treatment was awful. You know, um. So, I'm not criticizing him for that, but it was just a completely different

Rosie Gill-Moss:

No, of course you're not.

Leonie Thorpe:

He knew exactly what he wanted to do. Um, obviously as the surviving partner you carry that. I was a bit upset that he didn't want any of the treatments that may prolong his life. But I also completely accept and understand that

Rosie Gill-Moss:

So he didn't want them.

Leonie Thorpe:

Yeah, but he'd suffered so much before. He knew what the suffering was like. So he was like, I don't want to spend the time that I've got left going through that. And that, that was his decision and his choice.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

and it's understandable, but I also know how, from speaking to people, how horrible that can be, excuse me, because you desperately want You want whatever little time you can have with them. But of course that, you're right, you have to respect it's their body. And what the treatment does to them is just barbaric. And he, you know, he probably wanted to spend time with you and the kids in the best way he could.

Leonie Thorpe:

He did, and he approached so much of it with, um, humor. He had quite a dark sense of humor, Richard. Um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Excellent.

Leonie Thorpe:

know, yeah. And, um, so part of the treatment, the, the tumors in, um, so he had it in his mouth and in his throat. Um, And he was aspirating in his lungs. So within just a couple of weeks of the diagnosis, he'd had a tracheostomy fitted and he found speaking with that really challenging. So, but they'd had to do it so quickly because the tumours were starting to block his airway that they didn't get to set up any of the sort of speaking technology that they have. They've got quite a lot of, um. really good stuff around that, but he didn't get to engage in that. There wasn't time. So he had an app that you'd type into and then it would speak for you. And,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Yeah.

Leonie Thorpe:

he would spend ages like formatting it so that each. Like, it would do a different voice for him, so sometimes you'd wake up and he'd be speaking to you in like a female French accent.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Nice.

Leonie Thorpe:

and he'd try and, he had favourite actors and he'd try and make it sound like his favourite actors and things like that, and just to make everybody laugh. Um, so he He just approached it. And when I think as well, I think another thing that I wanted to talk about was kind of the support services that happened in his palliative care. But

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Yes, definitely.

Leonie Thorpe:

yeah, even with all of those challenges, he just kind of accepted what was happening. I think I've learned so much from him that I took for granted and maybe didn't appreciate while he was here. But. He had so little regrets.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Can you elaborate on that a bit? Because that's, I think that's a really poignant thing that you've just said there, that you learnt so much from him. What do you mean, do you mean in the way that he sort of reacted to what was happening, or the way he lived his life, or? I, I, I realise I'm sort of probing you a little bit, so to speak, but I've never been in your situation, I've never lost somebody to a terminal illness. And, I've Don't think I've had anybody say that they learnt something from the person as they were, as they were so poorly. And I, I just, if you're able to just elaborate a little bit.

Leonie Thorpe:

of course. So, um, I've learnt so much from the way that he lived his life before his diagnosis. Um, like I say, things that I took for granted or may have even, um, Got on my nerves a little bit, if that's the right way of putting it, because he was so If something was outside the realms of his control, he just had this ability to just, like, let it go. It's like, not my problem then. You know,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Oh, wouldn't that be nice?

Leonie Thorpe:

know, I know he was amazing and so he lived, there was so much that sort of happened in his life that went wrong in his life that, that could have been really challenging. You know, he had a complicated divorce, he had sort of children that he was living separate from, he had relationships, um, that, that didn't go well, he, he had all of these life experiences, um, that, that could have really affected him. Um. You know, as his children became adults, because of those complexities, I think that there were some, some things that happened over the years with his children that, that me, I would have been in bits. I would have found it really hard because I, I feel the need to, I see it as support, but it is a form of controlling the situation. And so as he learned that he was going to die and that he was going to die soon. Of course there were moments where we, we'd sit up all night just sobbing and he'd say like, it's not fair, it's not fair what's happening. Of course he had those emotions. I'm not saying that he was without that, but at the same time there was, he wasn't carrying lots of regret about what he was leaving and what he was leaving behind. And he sort of said, no, I've lived my life pretty much the way I've wanted to. And he knows that some people view that as selfish. We all view being selfish as a negative thing, but actually sometimes that selfishness was him caring for himself and looking after himself.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Yeah.

Leonie Thorpe:

So that's what I mean by I learn a lot. Yeah.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

I've heard that term.

Leonie Thorpe:

yeah.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

it's that. Yeah, positive selfishness. It's sorry. I think we have a slight delay and I can't see so it's causing a little bit of overtalk. I do apologize. I'm normally not quite this bad. Um, I was just thinking about this kind of positive selfishness, which is something that we should all probably be a little bit better at because, you know, when you said he was only really concerned about things he could control and I'm just thinking of all the things out of my control that I worry about at night and how nice that must be to be able to not do that. And how that kind of in a. strength and will have helped him and I suppose, yeah, I, I guess, sorry, I've gone off on a bit of a rosy tangent, but I suppose we all want to be at the end of our lives and be able to look back and say, I lived a good life. That was a good life. And it's horribly tragic that his was terminated at 48. But I suppose to be able to be 48 and look back and say, I've got no regrets is, is a, is a. A positive in the dark, shall we say? I don't want to, I try and find the pluses in these things, but it's, it's, it's

Leonie Thorpe:

Well, exactly. Me too. And, and, and that's, that's what I mean when I, you know, things happen after somebody dies. We, we all react to grief in different ways. And, um, there's, there's been things happen within the family that I've really tried to take more of his approach to it. And actually. That's outside of my control and I don't really need to be tying myself up in knots and ripping myself to shreds over what's happening because I'm not in control of it. And so, yeah, I'm trying to learn from him because, like I say, although it was extremely emotional, it was extremely unfair and I'm not saying that he was okay or happy about what was happening. At least there wasn't any sort of anger or regret about it. So, I found the way that he coped with something that, and like I say, I'll go on to talk about, um, sort of what happened next, but the way that he coped with those things that were happening that, you know, I just feel like in a completely undignified and unfair situation that was made so much worse, he just did it with dignity, he did it with love, and he did it with care, and, um, I, I just thought that it was

Rosie Gill-Moss:

That's a really beautiful sentiment.

Leonie Thorpe:

very strong in a way that I, I just can't imagine it. Um, I just would probably have set the world on fire if it was me, you know? Um, but I think he only lost

Rosie Gill-Moss:

then he

Leonie Thorpe:

once in that whole time.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Well, I was going to say, he probably can't imagine or couldn't have imagined what it would have been like to be left behind. And so. I, I, um, this idea of being called strong, it's a, it's a touchy one with widows, isn't it? Because sometimes we didn't like it. Sometimes we don't. And lots of people say, well, I didn't have a choice to be brave. I was given this hand in life and I had no choice, but I am actually a big believer that you do have a choice and you have a choice in how you react to things and what you do. And it sounds to me like Rich made a choice and he knew that the inevitable was going to happen, but he was going to. squeeze as much as he could out of what he had left. And I guess that's why he declined the further treatment because he wanted to, and I use this term loosely, enjoy what time he had left. How were the children at this time? Because I know that obviously there's nine of them and there's a lot of variety of age, but I mean, how, how do you, are you managing nine, nine other people's kind of grief?

Leonie Thorpe:

don't, don't. Um, I know that for,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

I like your honesty.

Leonie Thorpe:

yeah, I don't know. Um, there's been a lot of, of, of, uh, failure. I know that word sounds like such a negative one. Um, but we, we can put that into context. That's okay. So my children, I've got twins were living with us, um, during his diagnosis and, and during his sort of. Um, time where he was terminally ill. None of Richard's other children lived with us. They all lived with their parents. or they are in fact adults and have their own families. I think that there's been a lot of complicated stuff that we've all needed to work through because they all had a completely unique and different relationship with their dad. Um, and they're all completely different ages. Um, so that, that impacted things as well. And, um, so I know my children The impact was quite severe. Um, they're twins. They're completely different. I've heard.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

have been?

Leonie Thorpe:

So they were 14. Um, at the time they're

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Oh, sticky age.

Leonie Thorpe:

Oh, so rotten age anyway. And they were going through a pandemic. They were terrified anyway, cause they were living with somebody so vulnerable. Um, it had been such a rollercoaster for them. Um, and they react in totally different ways to things as well. I've got one that just, you know. is very extrovert in how she feels and one that completely shuts down and doesn't express anything. Um, so that was really difficult. And I know that we pulled on a lot of support from family for them to go and stay elsewhere because certainly the, the last few months. got very, very serious, very severe and, and things were happening that didn't really want them to see or carry. I was unable to completely protect them from that. They did see some things that I know were quite traumatic for them. And then on the flip side, for his children that don't live with him, I think that there's almost a, I can imagine that's really difficult because there's a resentment there that we're all with him and, and they're not. Um, they were all brilliant. seeing him a lot, um, but, I, so, one of the things about head and neck cancer, when somebody quite young with no other health issues get it, the most common way for them to eventually die is something called a catastrophic bleed. And essentially what this means is the, the, the blood vessels in the head giving up, essentially. It's. Frightening. It's extremely traumatizing. And the medical professionals say, basically, make sure that you own black towels. That's the only advice they can give you so that it's not as frightening and traumatizing for you or the person that dies that way. And I just got this fear in me. I was terrified. I was like, well, I now can't ask them to help me care for him. Because I just cannot do that to them. Imagine if I, like, pop to the shop for some milk and that happens and then they've got to carry that, that that happened while they were caring for their dad. So it's actually all been really complicated because I think that it would be completely reasonable and fair for them to resent that they didn't get involved in his direct care, in his actual care. Um, and that, that I did it, but at the same time I just felt this constant need to protect them from it because it got really serious. I think when you're caring with somebody who's that severely poorly, we had no palliative care at all because he had a tracheostomy

Rosie Gill-Moss:

wow, so no hosp

Leonie Thorpe:

no. So, if

Rosie Gill-Moss:

So was he able to access hospice?

Leonie Thorpe:

No, we approached every single hospice in the UK, they all refused him. We applied for care in the community via hospice, they refused him because he had a tracheostomy. And I remember the district nurses, I was

Rosie Gill-Moss:

sorry, excuse my ignorance, but why is that an issue because, um,

Leonie Thorpe:

It's mad, Rosie. It's mad. I remember listening to a district nurse calling around and she was saying, Okay, so what's the rationale as to why him having a tracheostomy makes the risk assessment too high, like the COVID risk assessment too high for him to get care? And they were like, well, because Because he could get an infection, blah, blah, blah. And she was like, no, no, no. A tracheostomy is a breathing hole. That's all it is. It's a tube, and it's a breathing hole. And they'd be like, yeah. And she'd be like, okay, what's your mouth? Well, it's a breathing

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Yes,

Leonie Thorpe:

So, essentially,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

probably far more germy.

Leonie Thorpe:

yeah, you have patients within your care who have breathing holes. So, so we had no help, and so, um, It was really frightening because I, I don't, I don't want to go into too much detail because I don't want to like gross people out, but obviously with a tracheostomy, you have to do suctioning of the lungs. You have to clean the site. He also had a feeding tube that we had to manage. Um, and then, um, towards the end, the cancer spread to his brain. So we were dealing with sort of seizures, erratic behavior and him getting very confused and very upset. And then obviously this constant. Leone, it will most likely be a catastrophic bleed. You need to prepare for that. So I just didn't feel like I could ask anybody for help because I felt like that was, I was already quite traumatized from what I was having to do and from what I was having to see with the man that I love. And I just didn't want anybody else to carry that. I don't know if that makes sense. So, but the children, you know, we pulled together. Yeah, we pulled together. We talked about it. We're very good at talking about things and people have expressed how they feel. I've sort of explained my rationale around the decisions that I made. Um, and, and we do, we talk about it and we try, but I'm not going to lie and say that we were, they were unaffected by what was happening because everybody has been very affected in very different ways. They're all very individual people, but. I am very proud of them all. I'm very lucky I'm not their mum, but they still come round on a Sunday and we all have dinner together and they still include me in their family, which has been an absolute

Rosie Gill-Moss:

That's given me the old goose bumps there. And also they're another connection to him, aren't they? And I find that with Ben's family. Ben was from a big family, and I don't see them a huge fan because they're scattered literally around the world, but it's that connection, and the fact that they've got stories that they can tell about Ben that I don't know, the kids might not know, and it's, yeah, I think Particularly for children, it's having access to other people that are connected to their dad or their mum or whoever it is they've lost. Um, and it's listening to you talk there about this kind of not wanting to burden other people with the imagery and the trauma that you were taking on your own shoulders yourself. And I know that that's what kind of mothers and we tend to do that to protect everybody, but that must have been. Utterly, utterly exhausting for you. You must have been You said at the beginning that you didn't have the sort of medical language that some of our guests have. But it sounds to me very much like you were doing palliative nursing here. And you were doing it with no training and no support. And that really, really must have been scary.

Leonie Thorpe:

It is such a responsibility, um, and I also think that we, we need to be more aware and have more conversations around the fact that I wasn't doing anything different than a carer who, who would come in from a hospice would do or a district nurse would do, but the emotions that are tied up in it. When you're doing it to somebody that you are in love with, are just profoundly different. So anytime I was having to do something that hurt him, um, was so hard to carry and so upsetting. And, um, it's, whereas when you're a nurse, I'm not saying that you're alright with hurting people if you're a nurse, but it's definitely a different

Rosie Gill-Moss:

but it's your job, isn't it?

Leonie Thorpe:

Yeah, and so it was so hard and I just couldn't believe that we were just in this position. Where there was such a lack of care, and obviously the palliative care team themselves were amazing. I watched them every day fight our corner, trying to get us help. It's just that nobody would. Um, I was, we were in a very small house, the hospital bed had been put in, so I was having to sleep on the floor. So I wasn't really getting any rest. Um, so we tried to access help from charities that give you like a night off. Um, and they all refuse to help because of his, his, um, tracheostomy. Um, Yeah, so, we

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Isn't that weird that there's obviously some bit of legislation that's been written, isn't there? There's obviously something that's been written down that's put this as an issue in all care. Um, and people are having to follow this legislation, but it's that very much that computer says, No, no, that's a comedy sketch. Because here is a man who is dying and his wife Where you at? Did you get married?

Leonie Thorpe:

Ah, so that, that's a good news story. In that, when Richard got his diagnosis,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

go for that bit.

Leonie Thorpe:

when Richard got his diagnosis, um, we'd sort of postponed the wedding, um, but when he got his diagnosis, they, you could still only get married in like special circumstances. They still weren't really running weddings. Um, so the team at the hospital wrote, um, a letter so that we could get a special license to get married. And I was like, is this really a priority right now? And he said, listen, they're telling me that I'm not going to be able to speak anymore. He said, and it's really important to me. I know we could get married. Whenever, but like, I want to be able to say my vows. I want to be able to say them to you. I want to be able to speak them to you. Um, so yes, actually this, I do feel this is urgent and I want to do it now. So we pulled the wedding together within three days. Um, and we got married and it was really lovely, really, really beautiful. And we had, um, we were allowed 10 people. to come in that all had to like spread out across the room with their masks on. And, uh, then when we walked outside, all of our friends had come to kind of surprise us and were standing dotted around the car park in their little bubbles just to kind of throw some confetti

Rosie Gill-Moss:

really got me.

Leonie Thorpe:

Ah, it was It was so lovely. I, I go into kind of fight or flight mode and I was like, listen, we need to focus on your cancer. We need to focus on getting, because I was still like, I'm hoping you're going to change your mind and we're going to find a way. to beat this, to be honest. And I had hope right up until the moment that he died. Um, I was terrible. And he used to say to me, you need to work on your acceptance, Leone. But I kept trying to find these nuggets of just any escape from this. Anything that's going to tell me that this isn't going to happen. I was really not accepting of it at all. So I didn't really think of the wedding. But yeah, for him, he was like, I want to be able to Speak and say what I want to say. So, yeah, three day quick pull around for the wedding and we did get married.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Well, that is something and I'm really glad that you got that. I mean, as much as anything, it makes it easier when you're of a certain age to say my husband rather than my boyfriend, doesn't it? But, one of the main reasons John and I got married. Uh, but I think that's the importance for him of being able to speak his vowels. That's really, um, Yeah, that got the old goose bumps up, that did, because I think that's really indicative of how he felt about you, and I think that's really important that we have those glimmers of, um, positives that we can hold on to, you know, the fact that we knew that we were loved, um, the fact that he didn't go out after an argument and get knocked off his bike or something like that, you know, that there is, that the end was love, um, and this idea of being hopeful right up until he died, I do think that, um, Do you think that perhaps caused some delay in your grief process? I only ask this because some people say they begin to grieve once that terminal diagnosis is in, and then by the time the person actually dies, it's almost like they've done that kind of initial chunk of grieving, whereas others like yourself, you know, A sort of in a form of denial, I guess, um, and I just wonder whether that I know that you you've not had a great experience with with counseling and I know you're going to talk about the difficulty accessing support afterwards, but it's just a random thought that popped in my head, Leonie. Thanks.

Leonie Thorpe:

Something in that. I think that people talk about anticipatory grief a lot. I think that on a rational level I knew that he was going to die. I think that I had a lot of preconceptions about what that would feel like. And I think this comes out a lot when you talk to widows that, um, You need other widows because really they're the only people that truly understand no matter how wonderful your support network is or how empathetic people are. I was the same. I had this idea about what it was going to be like and

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Oh,

Leonie Thorpe:

it was going to feel like. Um, and I thought I was prepared and it was absolutely nothing like that. Um, I remember the last 10 days of Richard's life. I had. This makes me feel a great deal of shame, so I'm really sorry about this. This is hard to share.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Well, thank you for sharing

Leonie Thorpe:

He, he had, um, just started becoming really upset and he was on a syringe driver at that point. And so he shouldn't have even really been waking up that much. Um, but he was really agitated. I dunno how he was able to, to do what he did that day. And I'd phoned an ambulance and I basically said to the paramedics, I was like, you are not allowed to leave now. You're going to take him and you're going to help us or I'm leaving. Because I can't do this anymore. I've not slept in four days. I don't know what to do anymore. And he, I don't know where this is coming from. I don't know if it's the drugs or what. But he, he's finding strength from somewhere and he's fighting me. He's clearly in. So much pain and this isn't fair, like you can't do this to him, he's a human being. And so I basically just had this massive strop where I was like, either do something or I'm leaving and then you'll have to do something because he'll have no one here. And I, I do feel a great deal of shame, like almost like I failed by having to do that, but it was just getting too intense and too frightening and I was having too little sleep and I loved him too much to watch anymore. I just couldn't watch it anymore. Um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

whether I'm in a position to be able to alleviate your shame or not, um, I don't know if I have that, that weight of gravitas, but can I just say that from what you've just told me, I don't hear anything shameful. Um, I hear a woman who has battled and fought and done everything on her own. With absolutely no support, and has reached the end of her thread. And you are frightened, and as you've just said, you loved him too much. You loved him too much to let him suffer like this. And, mate, you were up against a wall. You were between a rock and a hard place. And I, I hear nothing shameful in this. And I I don't think anybody else would. I think this is something that, um, like a self projected shame and I would like to take it from you, but um, how awful, how awful that it got to this point where he is, he's in this level of agitation and pain and that you're forced to make this decision. So what happened? Did they admit him at

Leonie Thorpe:

yes, yes. And there were concerns over that. They spent some time, again, trying to get him into a hospice. I think they almost didn't believe me that we'd tried very hard. And I was like, fine, you try. You see, if they can take him, I, you know, I'm not arguing

Rosie Gill-Moss:

my guest,

Leonie Thorpe:

Yeah. But they, they, Spent several hours and they couldn't get him in anywhere. Um, so they said our concern is that obviously when you take somebody into hospital, hospitals treat people. And at this point, Richard, he'd done his DNR, he had, um, he was refusing all food. Like he, he was done and he wanted to go, um, and He was refusing all treatment, all food, everything. And they said, and obviously if we take him into hospital, they then give treatment. And because he's not really got the capacity to make decisions anymore, they will just feed him, they will do this, they will do that. And so we're a little bit concerned about how much pain that will actually give him by prolonging his life at this point.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

All I was going to say, this is prolonging the inevitable.

Leonie Thorpe:

And, and his, his pain. And I said, well. Let's see what conversations we can have, because I'm, I really am quite serious. I cannot care for him anymore, um. You know, I, I don't know what to do anymore. And so they took him in and we actually ended up back on the ward where he'd had his tracheostomy. And Richard was a character. They all adored him. They all loved him. And so him, like, going back on that ward, they all remembered him, um, because this was in the October and he'd had the tracheostomy in May. They all remembered him from May. They all just wanted to look after him and care for him and give him the most dignified passing that they could. And so they had sort of gone to the trust and got all the permissions that they needed to not give any care other than just making him comfortable. And so I was like, that's great. Um, when we went in, um, various things had started to shut down and they'd sort of given him 20 to 24 to 48 hours. Um, but he actually ended up still living for a further 10 days after he was admitted to hospital because that's how young and healthy he otherwise was. And

Rosie Gill-Moss:

this is the thing, isn't it? When they're young and healthy.

Leonie Thorpe:

Yeah, but even at that point, because he was not having sort of any fluids, I don't understand how somebody survived that long without fluids, but he was having

Rosie Gill-Moss:

No, I don't.

Leonie Thorpe:

food. Um, and his tumours, because a lot of them were visible, um, were disappearing. And I remember, like, calling a consultant in, even at that point. And saying, look, he's getting better, do something, because you said he was going to go, and he's not, and he's still here, and they're disappearing, and clearly you, you, at that point I'm still arguing with them going, you've got it wrong, you've got it wrong. And then they sort of had to sit me down, yeah, and explain to me that that's actually because of the lack of fluid and food, that things sort of shrink, and it, it, it's not good, it's not a good thing. But yeah, even at that point I was just completely unaccepting. That that was gonna happen. So yeah, I do think I delayed my grief because I think after he died, I was then diagnosed with, um, PTSD. And so I was dealing with that rather than my grief. It was like delayed grief. I needed to put that off for a little while because I was so traumatized that I couldn't function at all.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

No, I mean, I can't imagine actually, but you've, you've, the way you've described it is so visual that I kind of can. Um, and. So when he died, uh, presumably he died in the hospital,

Leonie Thorpe:

Yeah, he did.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

were you able to be there?

Leonie Thorpe:

This is, uh, another thing that we actually all joke about. So, Richard constantly said, he said, I want to die at home and I want to die with Leone by my side. And he would just keep saying that. And I'd already failed on the first thing. I couldn't keep him at home. So I was determined that he was going to get the second thing. Uh, so I was in a little cot.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

You didn't fail.

Leonie Thorpe:

Yeah, that's true. I know. I know. And like I say, we kind of, it's kind of become a bit of a joke and something that we laugh about. But, um, it, I was there. I was there for obviously that 10 days. I was on this crappy little cot next to his bed sleeping. I was putting Netflix on and chatting away to him. Um, there was a charity coming into kind of help so that I could go and shower. So he was never alone. And it just got to this point where I was like. I've not seen my children in, like, nine, ten days, and I'm not really coping with that. So I'd spoken to the charity that we're helping, um, it's a little local charity called The Butterflies, and, uh, I said, do you mind, just like, it will be the longest that I will have left him, but can you just Maybe give me two hours, two and a half hours, so I can just go and see my kids and let them know that I'm okay, because this is all really awful for them too. Obviously, nobody's allowed into the hospital, no visitors allowed, we're still at that point in COVID, nobody's been able to see us. and there'd been no change with Richard, obviously no improvement, but no change. So they agreed, and I went to see my children, he died while I was out. There's a hospital. I got the phone call while I was

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Oh,

Leonie Thorpe:

I know. I'm laughing now. I know it sounds awful, but it's like, it's one

Rosie Gill-Moss:

No, that's how we get through, isn't it?

Leonie Thorpe:

It is! And I went back to the hospital and all the nurses said to me, they were like, Don't feel bad. This happens all the time. They wait for you to leave. They wait for you to leave and they took, they reassured me They said it happens so often. Oh God Yeah We

Rosie Gill-Moss:

have been there for all that time. Oh, you poor love. And then, of course, you've got to try and Look after, you know, primarily the children you have at home, but all these other adults or, you know, children, all these other human beings who've been affected. And it's that ripple effect, isn't it? How it goes outwards and the impact it has on people that you wouldn't even imagine it would. Um, but you've got to face this in lockdown. And I know at this point we were kind of in and out, weren't we? It wasn't as strict.

Leonie Thorpe:

were mostly out so I feel like by this point we could all see each other like Richard's funeral Everybody was able to come at that

Rosie Gill-Moss:

able to have a normal funeral.

Leonie Thorpe:

Yeah, that side of it was okay. It was that services were still massively affected at this point. So everything was still on this reduction. Like I say, when he was in hospital, you still weren't allowed visitors in hospital. And, you know, you had to get special permissions if you, if you wanted to go in. So there was still what I would call like, the, the COVID hangover, I suppose I would, I would call, call it in that there was still huge impact from it. But my gosh, at least by this point, we were able to be together as a family and able to, um, you know, have that funeral and, and things and, and everybody was able to come and say their goodbyes and, and things. So yeah, um, no,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

actually, a friend of mine, she's politely declined to come on the podcast, but, um, we went to school together, we're best friends at primary school, and her husband sadly died in Covid, and, um, she had the funeral, I'm guessing around six months later. And I remember her saying to me, It feels like I'm having to be dragged back in. I feel like I've done all this work to build up my resilience. And to get me and the kids to a point where we feel, you know, okay ish. And now I've got to go into a funeral. And it's that pulling yourself back into that real raw early grief. And I I don't think I'd fancy that. So I am glad that you would Small mercies, right? Small mercies, because the power of funerals, or memorials, or however you want to pay your respects to the person you love. It is in I did one for Ben, even though I have no body. Because, how else does the The wider circle say goodbye. How do we make peace? How do we accept they're gone?

Leonie Thorpe:

yes,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

But things like, uh, therapy I imagine was a little, uh, restricted. And I myself have tried to access, um, support the kids and I know how challenging that is. So, you're now, presumably, trying to get some help for yourself and the girls. They're both girls, the twins, is that right?

Leonie Thorpe:

they are. Yes, yes, they

Rosie Gill-Moss:

yeah. I just didn't want to say the girls and, and, and one be a boy and be offended.

Leonie Thorpe:

Yeah, no, I would say that, um, like with most things, these things can almost be a bit of a postcode lottery, can't they? Sorry, hang on. Excuse me, so sorry. Um, so I actually started my grief counselling three weeks ago. So, a two year waiting list, uh, for that. And again, I could imagine that lots of people are affected by that, because so many more people died during COVID. So, there was, uh, a huge backlog, um, there. So, I've just started my grief counselling. And like I say, I think

Rosie Gill-Moss:

How are you finding it?

Leonie Thorpe:

uh,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Early days.

Leonie Thorpe:

really early days, I think that counselling is so important, isn't it? And you, you have to get to a point in your relationship with your counsellor where there's kind of that relationship of trust. My counsellor's lovely because he's just, he's

Rosie Gill-Moss:

to get

Leonie Thorpe:

sorry, he's spending this time

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Do you know what it is? It's a slight delay.

Leonie Thorpe:

Yeah.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Oh, that's nice. And I do think connecting with the counselor, you say is really important. And John actually went into counseling very quickly after Sarah died because he's much more practical than me. I I've been in counseling two years, but I'm also nearly six years bereaved. So it took me four years to get there. Um, but my, and he said to me, you just go in there and you shut the door. And that room is for you to say whatever you want to say, no matter how awful you think it is. This person is, is a, they're paid to listen to you, but also they're a professional and believe me, they'll have heard worse. And I kind of held on to that because it took me certainly longer than three weeks because I, in the process, in this time of, you know, stopped drinking alcohol and gone through some diagnosis. It's been a, I feel like it's been frustratingly slow. But she assures me that actually what's happening is quite quick. Um, but yeah, to ask you how you're getting on three weeks in was probably a bit unfair because it is very, very early days, but. Finding somebody that you trust and you can be entirely open with and not be fear any judgment or comeback is really quite liberating, I find, actually. And I think even when I feel I don't necessarily need counselling, I think I will still continue to have something maybe every other week. Particularly doing this job, actually. Particularly doing this. I think it's good to have somewhere to let your own shit out, as it were.

Leonie Thorpe:

it really is. I completely agree. And I think that our circumstances affected our ability to get support as well. So, like I say, I've got one child who lets it all out and really expresses herself in certain, uh, behaviors. I'll say that. Um,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Okay.

Leonie Thorpe:

she's been receiving counseling kind of throughout this whole process, uh, pre and post, like all of that. And then my other daughter just completely shuts down and she refuses to engage in therapy or any type of support, even though, so I, I. I don't know if we would have had a positive experience for that, but I know that for all of us, we were offered, um, we could have got services quicker via our local hospice, and we actually tried. Um, we all had some sessions via our local hospice, but unfortunately, there was kind of a little bit of a conflict in that. I know to, to the counsellor that was working with me there, I said to her, listen, you're lovely and this is absolutely not your fault, but I just, I cannot get past with how angry I am. At the, the hospice that you represent and how much you let us down. And so I don't really know how to talk to you. I don't know how to talk about anything else other than. to just feel angry. It's like affecting the counseling relationship almost because I'm so cross because I truly to this day believe that Richard suffered more than he needed to. I think that he went through so much indignity and pain that he did not need to because he was not. properly supported by services and I know that to be true because I had a palliative care team and district nurses who were equally upset and felt let down and were so cross at what was happening to, to him. Um, so I, I know that to be true. So. Yeah, I've really struggled to get support elsewhere because services are overwhelmed, but I know that those services are amazing. I know there's a lot of fundraising that goes on in my area for my local hospice. People shout from the rooftops about it and I have no doubt that every single person that works in that hospice would have said yes and would have cared for my husband well. It's just those policy writers and policy makers who Who made those changes during the pandemic without any thought for how that impacts the human experience. Like, making women give birth entirely by themselves without their loved ones. Like,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Or in masks, I mean, gosh.

Leonie Thorpe:

And, and people having to go in and be told that they're going to die by themselves and then they've got to drive home by themselves. Wonderful. Like, it's the policy makers that were the problem, but I still couldn't quite get past that. In those sessions, and I said, I'm sorry, I think we're going to have to bring this to an end. I'm just too cross.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

But actually, that was really brave of you to articulate that. Um, I just stopped going. Um, and I, I, so, yeah, standard. But, I can understand your anger. It's misdirected anger, of course it is, you know it is, but it's anger that needs to go somewhere because you can't knock on the door of the policy makers and be angry with them. You used the word inhumane earlier when you were talking about, um, Rich at the end and when you called the paramedics, and it's actually a word that I've written down and underlined in my notes because You're right, hospices are phenomenal and I've never had any interaction with a hospice, I've been very fortunate in that sense, but I do The work that I do with Holding On It And Go is often at a children's hospice. And then speaking to other people and their experiences of hospice and how different it is to hospital and I don't think I've had anybody who's had a negative experience once their person got into hospice. So to know that that service is there and that it is available and that your husband was denied it and as you say, suffered more as a result, um, yeah, no doubt you're angry mate, no doubt.

Leonie Thorpe:

yeah, and I think that it's The impact on all of us and our grief journey, um, it's really impacted us because like I say, those moments that you get within a hospice, um, because they're so experienced and they know when you need to say goodbye and, you know, none of his children got that, nobody got anything, um, it was all just chaos and then nobody knowing or understanding what's happening and then me just one night phoning up and saying hi, yep, sorry, he's, He's, he's gone. He's, you know, there was, there was nothing beyond that. So I think that,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

that call is pretty grim, eh?

Leonie Thorpe:

yeah, yeah, nine of them.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Nine calls! You didn't do them all, please tell me you didn't do them all.

Leonie Thorpe:

I did them all. I did them all.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

You did them all, oh bless your heart. I

Leonie Thorpe:

I wanted to though, that was a choice. There was, there was offers for other people to do it, but that, yeah.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

It feels too important. I know, um, I'd, I mean, sorry to make it all about me again, but I'd spoken to one of Ben's brothers and I'd said, I'm going to have to ring your mum now. And he's like, maybe leave it till tomorrow. And I just said, I can't, I can't. Her son is out in the channel somewhere under the ocean, probably dead. How can I leave her not knowing till tomorrow? But it's a phone call that I really would never want to make again. To ring people and break their hearts is, is such a under, kind of underestimated responsibility. But I also definitely can relate to that feeling of wanting to do it yourself. A feeling that you, you want, you want to do that for them. There's nothing else you can do for them. So, um, but yeah, it is, I think it's something people don't underestimate. How, how challenging making those phone calls and particularly nine times.

Leonie Thorpe:

Yeah. If only they all lived together. But they

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, that one fangled. I mean, I just wanted to sort of know, you're two years in, you know, you've told me that you've got therapy, and, um, much like you, one of my children accessed, um, therapy, and had really positive results, and one didn't, but, um, I actually, and I don't know whether your daughter likes online gaming, but, um, he is using a service called MindJam, which is where they kind of play a computer game and chat, and it's more, um, um, Sort of mentor rather than therapy. But he, he loves it and he's getting so much from it, but it might not be suitable for, for anybody else that's listening. It's a, it's a, a very, very good resource, particularly you've got a child that doesn't necessarily wanna communicate their

Leonie Thorpe:

Yeah, I'd love more

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Sorry, that was a very long sentence.

Leonie Thorpe:

No, my daughter does games. So

Rosie Gill-Moss:

I will

Leonie Thorpe:

I would appreciate that. Yeah

Rosie Gill-Moss:

I've written it down in my notes to attend you because it's, um, Hector. He has a, his form, like you said, the relationship and he has a really nice chap called Darren and I mean, it sounds really dodgy. You're just letting your kid kind of game with a stranger, but you meet them first and it's all above board. And I think you can get funding via schools as well. So I don't know what, what your situation is with schooling, but sometimes there is funding available. Um, and it just, I don't know whether they ever talk about grief or anything like that because I'm not party to it, but I think having somebody outside of the unit that's safe and, and it's that old adage, isn't it? That you'll talk if you're in the car or for a walk, but it's very difficult to sit face to face with somebody and talk sometimes.

Leonie Thorpe:

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

think, and I think that's where traditional methods of therapy perhaps aren't always suitable for young people because, you know, it's, it's very intense. Um. I struggle with the intensity of it sometimes, you know, when you sit in, well sit in silence in therapy and you're like, please talk. Please talk. Please talk

Leonie Thorpe:

Yeah. Yeah, no, that's really

Rosie Gill-Moss:

and, and how are you? I was just thinking, how are you now? How are you, you know, in yourself because that's two years of, of fighting you're doing. And,

Leonie Thorpe:

Yeah.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

and now you know, you are, you, it looks like you're sort of thinking, okay, now it's time to look after me, get some therapy. And um, and I think probably around that time is when I stuck my head above the parapet and thought, oh, can't carry on like this forever.

Leonie Thorpe:

Yeah, I think that, kind of, I'd say that first year podcasts like yours, a few other podcasts, were a lifeline. Because, like I say, I had a very preconceived idea about what it was going to be like to be a widow, and it was nothing like that. And There were days where I literally couldn't understand what was happening in my life and people would say something to me and I'd be like, I have literally no memory of that happening. I don't know what you're talking about. So I was losing whole chunks of memory. And then to listen to a podcast and hear people refer to things like widow brain and death adversary and you've kind of got these words to contextualize what it's actually like in reality. Um, I. Put on two stone. I started drinking. I was, I was using all of these various

Rosie Gill-Moss:

me about it.

Leonie Thorpe:

Yeah, try and cope, but I didn't realize that that was what I was doing because it was survival mode You could just think one day at a time and then it started to get really bad Yeah, I didn't know that I had PTSD and I was just sort of cracking on and I thought it was all linked to sort of grief and, and those types of things. And, um, I remember talking to my doctor and I said, something really scary is happening. He said, what, what do you mean? And I said, well, I keep having these experiences where I'm not really here. I'm like watching things happening from somewhere else, but I'm not really here. And so he started to take me through what disassociation is and how it's a coping

Rosie Gill-Moss:

I was just, you know, I'm in the process of writing the word disassociation down when you said it then.

Leonie Thorpe:

but I had no idea. I had no idea. I was like, really? And he was like, yeah, it's a coping mechanism. So let's explore that. And that's when we started to realize that there was quite a lot of trauma. Um, and that he was like, we need to be careful because you could have a breakdown. You know, so we need to kind of have some intervention at this point because you're starting to disassociate. You're obviously really struggling. So I felt like I was dealing with that, really, rather than my actual grief and my loss of Richard. I still talked about him incessantly. I mean, I still do now. I adore talking about him. It's my favourite subject, but it was very present

Rosie Gill-Moss:

mentioned him in present tense earlier, and I did notice that, and I thought, oh, that's, yeah, that, that, I, I, I, I think it's the thing only another video would pick up on, really, but I, I, I just noticed it, and I thought he's really still very much a part of your, your world.

Leonie Thorpe:

Hmm. Yeah,

Rosie Gill-Moss:

And I, and yeah, coping strategies are really, you know, renowned. We're renowned for using our coping strategies. But the fact that you've acknowledged that that's what that is within two years of being bereaved, I think it might feel like you've been with it a long time. But in the grand scheme of things, it's, it's relatively soon. And by coming to that conclusion fairly early on, It's going to help you process the grief now, but yeah, I'm, I'm, I realize I'm, there's loads of stuff I haven't processed yet because, you know, I drank through it or I looked after the kids or, you know, in really extreme circumstances, I ran through it, but it's, it's like the old children's book, isn't it? There's no way around it. You have to go through it.

Leonie Thorpe:

exactly that. And I, I feel like the kids, you know, not in a negative way, but they took up a lot of my attention. But I, I feel like that was really positive because it gives you reason, you know? Um, because I think when you lose somebody

Rosie Gill-Moss:

And you're so preoccupied, aren't you?

Leonie Thorpe:

Yeah. Yeah. I would describe it as I quite often feel, so it's not, I try and explain this. It's not being suicidal. I don't want to die, but I also. I want to be with my person, and I am so sick of experiencing the secondary loss that it makes you lack hope. There you go. Those are the words. It makes you lack hope. So it's not that you're suicidal, but you're kind of lacking that hope in that direction. So to give you an example, I'm so proud of my children. This summer they did their GCSEs, smashed it, absolutely amazing

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Well done, girls.

Leonie Thorpe:

carried and that they've been through. Um, and we were celebrating that and then they got a job like within days of each other. And so all of a sudden in September they're starting new college courses that include work placements that they need to travel to and they're doing jobs. So they're out a lot of the evenings at work. And then I was just totally on my own. And it was a time that Richard and I were so excited about because we had these plans and we were like, I'm gonna join Cinema Club, I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna do that. And so, people

Rosie Gill-Moss:

All the things you can't do when they're little and you have to pay the sitters, yeah.

Leonie Thorpe:

And so you just feel like you're coming to terms with one element and then another wave hits, another life experience hits, and you then need to recognize that you've lost that too. There's the long term things like all the retirement plans that we had, etc. But actually, there's also the Daily things where any change, the loneliness hits and you realize, Oh God, I've lost that too. We have plans at this stage, but actually all I can focus on now is, A. Richard's not here for us to do that. And that's really shit. And I'm now just completely on my own because my kids are growing up and they're living their lives and they're doing amazing. I'm so proud of them. But I'm also like, can you stop it now, please? Because I'm just sitting here by myself, eating crisps

Rosie Gill-Moss:

We could do one of these, we'll just sit in a group mass eating crisps and being a sad session. I get this because even though I am remarried and I have a lovely blended family of my own, um, Yeah, everything is tarnished. And I said the words, you know, the life that we have been denied, the future we've been denied, because that's how I feel. I feel you've been mourning the past and everything you've lost and all the treasured memories and the time. But what about all the memories you were gonna make? What about all the times that the kids? Do something awesome or alternatively awful and you've got no, nobody to talk to about it. I tabby took her first steps, the event after Ben died, and I just remember thinking, who caress apart from me and Ben? And it's, it's all, you said the word secondary losses and it is, it's second secondary. Thirdly, fourthly, fifthly, losses, all of these losses, they continue to stack up and I don't think it'll ever end. I, I don't, because. Every moment that passes is another moment they've missed. And where we are as a family at the moment is the kids are starting to forget. And that's really difficult. So I am going to have to woman up and watch videos with them because I want to do it with them, but I've never managed. So, it's, yeah, I guess it, it, the anger and the, the, the sadness of what you've, what's been snatched from you doesn't really go away. You just get better at living with it. But it. It is, it's, it's your mourning more than what you had, your mourning what you could have had as well. Well, thank you for coming on and talking to me. Um, I am talking to a blank space again at the moment. Um, sometimes I've seen you, sometimes I haven't really. Um, but it's been, it's been really nice talking to you and you're obviously incredibly articulate and You speak so beautifully and eloquently about Rich and about the steps that you've taken to mitigate the tragedy that, um, that befell you all. And, I didn't know some of this. I had no idea that hospices wouldn't take people with a tracheostomy and things like this. This is all Every time I speak to somebody, I learn something and so do our listeners. And I think every time we put one of these stories out there, other people learn something. And I'm so, if it's not patronizing, I'm so proud of you for coming on and talking to somebody who's essentially a complete stranger in such an open way. And I, I hope that you feel proud of yourself as well, actually.

Leonie Thorpe:

Yeah, and I just, I think I, I mentioned this earlier, but I think that that first year after Richard died was, was such chaos and I really wasn't in the right place to, to join kind of the, the widow community to get support, um, for lots of various reasons, including, I know a lot of widows out there will have been in a position like me where The financial impact of Richard's death was so severe. I've been working two jobs and trying to sort everything out. I couldn't engage. And I think podcasts like yours are a lifeline to people like us. I think things like that became my community. It became my way of learning what my grief meant and how to, how to contextualize what it was that I was feeling. So I didn't feel quite so crazy. So, um, I really wanted

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Do you know what?

Leonie Thorpe:

in case that story resonated with anybody else for, for what people have gone through, but I'm just, I'm really grateful to you and the type of work that you do.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

say those words makes every tiny thing that we do to create this worth it. It was literally created to do that, to be a voice in the dark to somebody who was going through something that they didn't understand, that had been catapulted into a world that they didn't understand. And hopefully the website is going to become this kind of resource for people where you can go and, I mean it's a bit ghoulish, but we're gonna, you know, you can search by type of death. Because sometimes you want to hear stories that you do connect to and sometimes you want to hear something different. But I'm really, really glad to hear that it's had a positive impact on your healing. I just wish that you hadn't. been forced into this club in the first place, but it takes a special kind of guts to do this, so thank you, and I wish you and all of your nine children, um, A, a, a, a happy and a hopeful life. Um, and yeah, I will send you the details of, of Mindjam and, and I, yeah, just, just lots of love to you because what you're doing is tough and I, for one, I'm proud of you.

Leonie Thorpe:

and same to you. Keep it up. It's incredible.

Rosie Gill-Moss:

Thank you, thank you. And to everybody else, thank you once again for listening to us. If you've got any questions concerning Leonie's episode, you know where to find us. We're on Instagram at Widowed underscore AF. We have a newsletter. And as my alive husband would probably like me to say, give us a like if you are listening. But for now, everybody take care and we'll be back with you on Friday.

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