Loss, love and sheep

Loss, love, and sheep

Earlier this year, Cat’s dad was cared for by Martlets and spent his final days on our inpatient ward. Cat was supported by our bereavement counselling service, and Shaun the Sheep. Here, she explains how “travelling around town finding beautifully decorated sheep made me smile through the tears”. 

“Like most people in the Sussex area, I had always been aware that Martlets existed. I had happily browsed in their charity shops, knowing my bargain purchases were going towards a good cause. But it is not until your loved one is affected by terminal cancer that you truly experience and appreciate the critical services that Martlets provide. 

My dad was diagnosed with advanced metastatic prostate cancer in September 2020 – right in the middle of the COVID pandemic. My parents still lived in Essex at the time. It was scary watching from afar as dad underwent chemotherapy while everyone else was in lockdown. Thankfully, the chemo brought Dad some more time. My sister and I were finally able to persuade our parents to make the move to Sussex to be closer to us; they moved down in September 2022. Unfortunately, Dad passed away just nine months after the move, but I will always treasure that time I got to spend with him. 

Cat and her dad

In April 2023, after receiving the news that there were no more treatment options for Dad, Martlets’ support system kicked in. Dad had a lovely Martlets nurse named Kate assigned to him. The Martlets team kept in close contact and explained all the support services that were available to him (like blood tests at home rather than struggling to the doctor for them). Things progressed quite quickly. On the 20 June Dad peacefully passed way at Martlets on their inpatient ward.  

I can never thank Martlets enough for the caring and dignified way they looked after my Dad in his final moments. I now count myself as one of those few who completely understand the amazing, crucial work that Martlets provides.  

July and August passed me by in a blur of grief and pain, as I became used to the idea of Dad not being with us anymore. I took a sabbatical from work as I couldn’t cope. Friends and family were amazingly supportive, but I literally just went into hibernation mode for a couple of months.  

Then, in September, my grief counselling with Martlets began and I decided I was ready to get dressed and out of my pyjamas and re-enter society in some way. My first adventure to the outside world was a five-minute walk to my local Mayberry Garden Centre for a new bird feeder. I moped around the shop…and found myself being greeted by wonderfully-coloured mini sheep statues! I continued into the nursery and found more amazing works of art in the form of sheep. Bemused, I enquired at the checkout about them; this was the first time I’d heard of Shaun by the Sea having lived under my rock of grief for the past eight weeks.  

Cat and Ewelia Shaun the sheep sculpture

Having downloaded the app, and discovering there were an impressive 121 sheep to collect. I finally felt like I had a purpose and reason to continue getting out of bed in the morning.  

The first couple of sheep I spotted made me feel pretty emotional. My friend and I met Coaster outside Churchill Square and we spoke to some Martlets fundraisers. I tearfully thanked them for raising money for such a life-changing cause and talked to them about my dad.  

Sitting on the memorial bench in Jubilee Square, and wondering what Dad would think of me travelling around town finding beautifully decorated sheep, made me smile through the tears. He would have loved seeing all my sheep selfies! The more sheep I collected the more I enjoyed myself. It was especially fun bumping into the same people at each Sheep site. We’d give each other tips on where the sheep exactly were. I met so many lovely people on my sheep trips! 

Cat and Gratitute Shaun the Sheep bench

I feel extremely privileged to have been on such an epic Martlets journey. They helped my dad when he was at his most ill and vulnerable, but they also helped me continue on my journey after losing him – surprisingly, in the form of Sheep! For this, I will be forever grateful.” 

How you can support our Shaun by the Sea trail: