“Marie Curie helped us realise how you can cope”

Luke Waddon, who received bereavement counselling at the Marie Curie Hospice, Cardiff and the Vale, has returned to the hospice to help other young people who are dealing with loss and grief. He tells us about his experience with bereavement and the support he's now giving to others. 

Luke Waddon was just 13 when his father, Alun, died at the Marie Curie Hospice, Cardiff and the Vale. Luke and his younger brother, Henry, received child bereavement counselling at the hospice before and after Alun’s death in November 2008.

Nearly seven years later, Luke, now 19, volunteers at the hospice helping children and young people affected by bereavement.                                                

Luke says, “My dad had bowel cancer. I think he was first diagnosed in 2006, so it was a two-year ordeal. I was young at the time, 12 or 13, and my brother was 8, so it was quite difficult for us to understand the journey that we were on together. As we got towards the end, and certainly when he moved to the Marie Curie Hospice, from speaking to the staff I knew that we were coming to the end of the road.

“Obviously it was a terribly sad time, and I think at the time I thought a lot about the things that I wish I had done, the experiences my friends were having with their dads and that for two years I hadn’t really been able to do a lot of that.

"In November he passed away, and after that it has taken me a long time to get used to it, to adjust to it, and to realise what losing a loved one is like and what that means.

Care and support

“When my dad was at the hospice we had people from Marie Curie support teams coming to speak to us and making sure that we understood what was happening.

"There are spaces where young people can go that are separate from adults. My brother and I often went there, not even to talk to people or explain how we were feeling, because it might not have been possible at the time, but they had games there and activities and it was some respite for us.

“The hospice staff were so good at separating the negative emotions associated with losing someone and the grief, guilt, and the loss of responsibility and care, with actually making you realise so many more things about yourself, your family and the person that you’re losing or the person that you’re there to think about. They made us realise that actually you don’t need to think negatively all the time about bereavement or loss.

“Marie Curie helped us realise how you can cope and that it’s okay to feel certain things and it’s okay to do certain things.

"The bereavement support team were brilliant with my brother and I, from before we lost our dad right through to afterwards. We were always looked after, cared for and supported, and there was someone we could speak to if we needed to. It made the whole process easier.

"We made memory boxes and we had little pieces of artwork, written pieces, anything you can think of where you can get your emotion out constructively, they were there for me and they helped me get that out and we collaborated on it together.

Being there for others

“When you lose someone and you go into school and no other child has ever lost a parent, you feel like you’ve done something wrong, or that you’re weird or abnormal, and actually when you come to the hospice and you meet other children and young people who have experienced a similar thing, you see that they’re doing okay and it makes you feel that you can do okay as well.

“That’s what I hope to be now for these younger people – because I feel like me and my brother have done well, and my mum has done superbly since losing my dad.

“I think everyone at the group can tell that I’m not another adult trying to understand how they feel, I’m another young person who has been through a horrible experience and I’m trying to tackle each day the best that I can.

“I feel like if we can show other people that if young people do lose someone they care about, that they can still go on to be who they want to be and still have a smile on their face until the end of the day, I think that that would be powerful for other people as well.”

If you’ve been inspired by Luke’s story, visit our volunteering pages to find opportunities at our hospices and in the community.