29 November 2023

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Bereavement group helps young widow Jane rebuild her life

Jane Mogford at our Bereavement Help Point

Two years after the death of her husband and bolstered by the ‘life-changing’ sessions, Jane feels able to start again - on the Isle of Wight.

September 26 marked the second anniversary of Michael Mogford’s death. For his widow Jane, there was a long period when she really didn’t think she could cope without him, on her own. That is until, somewhat reluctantly, she found the Bereavement Help Point group at St Christopher’s. Now, after a year or so’s weekly get togethers, with a new, tight-knit group of friends, Jane feels strong enough to rebuild her life, has moved away from London and is looking for work.

Nursery worker Jane, 55, and university superintendent Michael, married in 2004, 14 years after meeting for the first time, and lived happily in Crystal Palace for seven years, until he was diagnosed with dementia. Jane then juggled work and caring for Michael at home right up until his death in September 2021 aged 82.

Jane fondly recalls the early days of their relationship. “I think I was probably driven to him by his car, if I’m honest. He used to come and pick me up after work and we’d go down to the coast – Brighton, Eastbourne, or somewhere like that. We’d have a walk on the beach and a meal. It was lovely. He was so funny, he really used to crack me up. 

Jane and Michael

“He was nearly 30 years older than me, but you’d never have known that back then as he was so fit and we used to go walking in Wales and for weekends to Blackpool. He loved Blackpool.”

Two months after Michael died, Jane was struggling to come to terms with her grief and decided to seek help.

“Because I’d had the experience of losing both my parents by the age of 21 and knew how terrible I felt then and how long that feeling had lasted, I thought maybe I should get some help, but I was worried they’d think I was stupid because it had only been a couple of months.”

When Bromley Hub suggested Jane contact St Christopher’s, she dismissed the idea at first, even though Michael had been a volunteer driver for them many years earlier.

“I knew nothing about the hospice. I just thought, why would I go there. I’m not going to die. But I phoned them and of course they didn’t think I was an idiot. Instead, they just showed me love, care and humour.

“The first few times I went to the group, I spent a lot of time in tears. It was just a small group then with everyone in a similar position – they’ve all lost someone and are all on the same wavelength.”

A St Christopher’s Bereavement Help Point

Jane says for any outsider observing them you’d sometimes struggle to know they were a bereavement group. “We don’t tend to look ill, upset or worried and sometimes people just want to talk about the football or even just sit and listen. But it has been amazing and really changed my life. Recently I’ve been helping some of the newcomers settle in too. Like a true south Londoner, I tell them, ‘this c*#p does get better!’”

Moving to the Isle of Wight (another place she and Michael used to enjoy visiting) this month means Jane won’t be able to attend the Thursday morning sessions anymore. She says though that she definitely won’t be severing ties with the group that now boasts around 20 regulars, about half and half, men and women, with a good mix of ages too.

“There’s a core group of us that have become very close, and we’ve been on trips together to Greenwich and Battersea Power Station. In fact, a posse is threatening to come and visit me here on the island.”

The volunteers running the bereavement group have also told Jane that she is welcome to drop in any time she is back in London.

“It’s so different to anything else I have ever experienced in my life and the volunteers are amazing. I want Michael back, especially now I’m living here as it’s perfect for him. But, this group of all different personalities has been the best possible therapy for me and I would recommend it to absolutely anyone.”

A number of Bereavement Help Points take place each week across South London, including at St Christopher’s CARE every Thursday morning. Click here to see the full timetable.

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