Life without Sue... Lloyd Cobbold on how he’s coped in the year since she died
PUBLISHED: 15:30 12 June 2017 | UPDATED: 01:33 13 June 2017
‘I loved her then, I love her now and I know I will love her just as much in the future. That will NEVER change’
It was at lunchtime on Friday, June 17, 2016, that Sue Cobbold died at home – where she’d wanted to be. She’d first noticed a problem in 2011. Breast cancer spread to other parts of her body, but she’d embraced life and showed great fighting spirit.
Sue was 46 and the mother of three children. And she was wife to Lloyd.
He is happy to explain how things have been, and offer advice that might help others.
“It’s now coming up to the year anniversary of Sue’s death and as ever I want to celebrate her life and at the same time raise money for St Elizabeth Hospice, who supported myself, the children and in particular Sue whilst she was ill and during the harder weeks and months leading up to her death,” he says.
Dare I ask how it’s been?
“However positively I try and approach dealing with life in the future, I have bad days,” he admits. “Birthdays and special occasions are never far away, with the first anniversary of death always ending that first-year cycle.
“I expect they will continue to have an impact two, five or 10 years down the line. I just have to work out the best way of dealing with them for ME.”
He adds: “In all honesty I think of Sue every moment of every day. I wouldn’t want this to change, but I now have more happy images in my mind than sad ones.”
How has it been, in detail?
“I still have monthly counselling sessions, because I need to talk and share my feelings. I miss that companionship: not in a sexual way – that’s the last thing on my mind at the moment – but just the chance to share stories about the last day, week or month.
n “I am conscious of the need to have “Me time”, which I felt guilty of initially, either because Sue was no longer here or that I was leaving my children at home. They are 20 and 14 [another lives away and has her own family] so can get by without me, and my youngest now looks forward to having time on her own. So I play cricket and darts, which gets me out engaging socially again.”
“‘Me time’ is important because as carers we look out for everyone else and forget about ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, but I think it’s vitally important, because we deserve it and – putting it bluntly – we have to get on with life. But all in our own time.
n “I cry and am not ashamed to admit it. Not every day, but enough for my son to call me the ‘most emotional man in Suffolk’. It’s healthy and I feel better for it. What other reason do I need?”
n “Dealing with a bereavement, however hard, does not have to be a wholly negative experience. One area I felt there was a lack of was groups for recently-bereaved people. With the help of [funeral director and friend] Andrew Bingham, I organise a monthly social meet-up group that is slowly growing, and six months in we have up to 10 people in attendance.
“We laugh, cry, but talk or listen to anyone who wishes to speak. Nothing is off-limits and the group has bonded really well.”
n “Being prepared for the unexpected. I have days when I think I am going to be OK but end up not being able to leave the house. Other days – like birthdays – that I think will be sad can end up being emotional but happy. Normality. What is that now?
“My mind seems in constant slow motion sometimes. That’s the only way I can describe it. I listen but don’t hear. I concentrate but find it exhausting, and after a day at work simply can’t complete sentences when talking to my children. Life is just much more draining.
“Talking about Sue is always an honour and a good way for me to ‘move on’. Funny expression that, as the last thing I want to do is move. Our home is still full of happy memories, even though Sue died here. I love the conservatory, and ‘Sue’s Shed’ is where many of the family go and sit to spend time with Sue.
“Other people talking about Sue is also great and makes me happy, so please feel free to talk about the elephant in the room.”
Lloyd, who married Sue in 2002, adds: “My opinion is that I am further along the grieving process because I had maybe three years to prepare.
“I had time to make memories for the family but it was probably a more tiring journey, a journey that I got used to, and I am proud of the way Sue, myself and the children spent our time together.
“I loved her then, I love her now and I know I will love her just as much in the future. That will NEVER change.
“Having said that, I will be ready to love again; just in my own time.”
What to say... and what not to say
I am often asked ‘Are there any positive things you can say to someone recently bereaved?’ So here goes... just my opinion:
1. “I can’t imagine what you are going through but I just want you to know I am here if you want to talk.”
2. Recall a positive memory and remind us of it, says Lloyd. It will make us both feel more at ease.
3. Just talk to us as you normally would. We need empathy and compassion, but not sympathy.
And a couple of things not to say – unless you want to end up black and blue…
1. “Everything happens for a reason”
2. “They are in a better place now”
3. “Time heals everything”
A few final bits of advice for everyone
1. Get yourself insured. We had critical illness cover
2. Write a will. The only guarantee is death. Prepare for it: not for you but your family
3. Honesty is the best policy, especially with illness
4. MAKE THE MOST OF LIFE AND LIVE IT
Sue would have loved it
Last year, close friends and family of Sue set themselves a challenge of cycling around the edge of Suffolk over two days, covering 220 miles. They achieved this
on June 5, less than two weeks before
“That whole charity effort raised nearly £7,500 for St Elizabeth Hospice and will in my opinion never be matched.
“To mark the anniversary on Saturday, June 17, I am inviting anyone to join me to cycle or walk a four-mile route around Old Newton that we used to do as a family,” says Lloyd, who lives close to the A140.
Sue loved those occasions more than any other.
“Shirts have been printed and I will be selling them at £10 each, with money going to the hospice.”
n The ride/walk starts and finishes at Old Newton Sports and Social Club, Church Road, IP14 4ED. Join any time between 10am and 4pm: £5 for adults, £2 children, or £10 for a family of up to five. Barbecue from 3pm. Bar. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org and 01449 774836.