According to the HeartMath Institute, resilience is the capacity to prepare for, recover from and adapt in the face of stress, challenge or adversity. Resilience has been a constant in Dennis’ life over the past few years and he gives some of that credit to the support he received from Melissa and the Supportive Care Team at Chatham-Kent Hospice.
He first reached out to ChathamKent Hospice when his wife, Tori, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. His family had already been dealing with a lot of stress because his daughter Rachel was battling a brain tumor that required several surgeries and eventually left her blind. This diagnosis added another layer of stress and worry.
“When we learned about Tori’s diagnosis, I knew I would need some help managing this and I also wanted to make sure there was support for my wife, daughter and 2 sons,” shared Dennis. “Chatham-Kent Hospice had cared for my grandmother back in 2018 so I was familiar with the services they offered”
Dennis’ sons were not ready to talk to anyone at the time but he and his wife and daughter met regularly with Melissa, one of the Social Workers at Chatham-Kent Hospice, as a family as well as individually.
Then the COVID 19 pandemic hit.
“Tori lost several months of treatment due to the pandemic, and when she had hospital stays, I was not allowed to visit. I took care of her at home the best I could. Because I work in pharmaceuticals and the demand was so high due to the pandemic, I also had to continue to work. It was a lot to handle at once,” shared Dennis.
Dennis and Tori were high school sweethearts who settled in Ridgetown to raise their 3 children. They were very involved in their community including 4H, Kiwanis and the Fair Board. When Tori died in 2020, there were strict restrictions on indoor gatherings so the family held a celebration of life outside to allow family and friends to show their support to the family.
A few weeks after Tori died, Rachel was scheduled to have a procedure to replace a heart valve. Dennis, having just lost his wife, was quite nervous but was assured the procedure was done all the time and Rachel wanted to go ahead with it. What was supposed to be a routine procedure ended in tragedy. After spending a week in ICU where Dennis was only allowed to visit 1 hour a day and his sons were not able to visit at all, Rachel died.
Dennis and his family lost their wife/ mother and daughter/sister within a two-month time frame. By continuing to receive support from the Supportive Care Team at Hospice, Dennis has been able to process what has happened and better manage the various stages of grief.
“Melissa has helped me understand how I was feeling as well as understand how others affected by this are feeling without taking ownership of their feelings and behaviour,” shared Dennis.
“This support has given me permission to get back to living. It still hurts, especially those special days like birthdays and holidays, but I am able to deal with them much better. I believe this is possible because of the grief support I have received through the Chatham-Kent Hospice”.