We spoke to Harald to discuss his journey from his first day at Trinity to becoming comfortable with death and dying.

"When I first became ill, there were definitely initial feelings of uncertainty and sometimes even panic. I was very apprehensive about the word hospice and had this idea that going to one meant I was about to die. I wasn’t ready to face that yet, but over time going to Trinity has helped prepare me for what is to come and allowed me the space to confront me, and everyone’s reality about dying someday.

"My experience of death had been varied before coming to Trinity, but in all cases, I wouldn’t have said I was completely prepared. Losing both of my parents was difficult, but when I lost my sister it was incredibly unexpected. We were very close and, although expecting death doesn’t make the grief any easier, I was very unprepared to lose my sister. These were my standard emotions around dying: shock, lack of preparation and still wanting to avoid the finality of death.

"The art therapy group classes at Trinity were a major factor in changing this. I met others in my situation, and, as is inevitable, we would lose members of the group. I remember the first time someone died. I found it difficult to say anything other than how sad I was to hear that.

I, as most people do, wanted to push the reality away. As time went on, I became closer to the other patients and felt more comfortable talking about death and dying, even as the people we lost were now people I considered friends. The environment at Trinity is one where you can grieve and talk openly about it but if that’s something you’re not ready for yet, that’s OK too.

"A turning point for me was a difficult time when we lost three people in two months. At first, this really scared me. It confronted me with the reality of death. When it became something I couldn’t run away from any longer, I was really grateful to have Trinity as a place to process this, and somewhere which surrounded you with people who understand how you feel. There was an acceptance of death from then on and I began to feel lighter about the whole subject and more secure in my feelings about it. It really isn’t such an ominous thing any more, and I don’t think I’d feel this way without Trinity and the people I’ve met here.

Everyone is different, and everyone will be at different stages of preparedness. I have since been able to stay with one of my friends in his home when he died, and just be there for him. Trinity has helped me get to that point, but I know that not everyone could do that

A smaller thing I’ve done is to create a funeral plan. I don’t want any frills, and it’s comforting to know my wishes are written down. In the past, I’ve done other things which I still feel are useful and still helped me with the process of losing someone. I’ve written letters to family members who have died and included them with them in their burial.

"I think the most important thing is not to carry this burden of death around with you. It’s definitely worth thinking about what you would need to get to this stage yourself, no matter how small the steps or how long the process.

Read more from Harald

Read more about our Living Well outpatient programme