We all grieve in different ways, at different times, surrounded by different people. Each bereavement journey is a very personal one.  As part of Grief Awareness week, we’re sharing Andy’s story, his story may become someone else’s hope.

Andy’s husband, also called Andy, was cared for by Willen Hospice. Andy stopped by the Hospice with furry special guest, Aloysius; the teddy bear that helps him keep his husband’s memory alive. Andy told us how the teddy bear had helped him in the grieving process “Aloysius is a link to happy memories, it’s a direct roadway, straight through to it.”

When we chatted, it was clear from the outset that he missed his husband dearly, Andy told us “He was a great guy, I loved him to bits, my rock. A great organiser, he ran the house really well, he loved his two daughters, he loved me – most of the time! I Miss him like mad.”

On his diagnosis, Andy told us “He was given three years to live. There was no way he was going to allow himself to die within the three years, he was going to keep going, going and going. And he did a really good job of it, he fought it like a trooper.”

The couple were together for 23 years and got married just before Andy lost his battle with cancer. Andy recalls “He was always waiting for me to propose, and I was always waiting him to propose. And we came back from one of his treatments, and I just went, ‘Will you marry me?’ No idea where it came from. He said, ‘I thought you’d never propose.’ And that’s when we decided to get married, totally out of the blue.

“I wore a pink shirt, and Andy wore a blue shirt. That’s how the registrar differentiated between us, so the Registrar said, ‘Andy blue shirt’ and ‘Andy pink shirt.”

They shared a love for travelling, and making memories together came so easily “All the way through his last year we would go out, we did Buckingham Palace, we did The Shard, we did the canal trip around Milton Keynes about four times, went to the Cotswolds, just doing things and making memories.”

Aloysius, named after the bear in Brideshead Revisited, was gifted to Andy when he was unwell, by a visiting friend. Coming to terms with life on his own, Andy missed the presence of his husband and found it extremely hard to go away on adventures alone.

A few months after his husband died, Andy visited the Brecon Beacons in Wales on his own but was hit hard by the realisation that he had no-one to take in the beautiful views of the Mountain with and drove straight back home.

He needed someone to travel with him and in stepped Aloysius. Andy told us “Now he comes with me wherever I go, he goes out for a drive, little cushion on the passenger seat, and I’ll chat to him like he’s Andy.”

Aloysius soon became a talking point “Wherever you go, people will talk to you. It’s a way of breaking the ice. It’s a way of conversing with people. You can tell them Aloysius’ story, Andy’s story, and it gives me company. It keeps Andy’s memory alive.”

Andy remembers a particular occasion where “a lady asked what the significance of him was. I told her and she started talking about her own losses and sharing her own stories. It really is a way of bringing people closer.”

Aloysius helped Andy smile again “If you do something silly, like taking the funny photographs, it gives you something to giggle at. It lightens the mood and he’s – I’m talking about him like he’s real – but he’s good for mental health. He really is and keeps you focused, strangely. “

Now their travelling adventures are a firm favourite on social media and Andy says, “I love sharing the photos on Facebook and reading the comments.”

Aloysius also helped Andy to begin enjoying life again and the twosome now create new memories together that Andy would be proud of.

Thank you so very much to Andy and Aloysius for letting us share their story.

You can find further bereavement support and advice here:  Bereavement Support – Willen Hospice (willen-hospice.org.uk)