Meningitis Now staff member Andy Hopkinson

The benefits of counselling following meningitis

Andy Hopkinson | 28th April 2021

Gail Burridge shares her thoughts on losing her daughter Katherine to meningitis and the benefits she found in counselling sessions

Gail shares benefits of counselling following meningitis

“We lost our precious, 23-year-old daughter, Katherine, to pneumococcal meningitis on 14 October 2016. 

"After spending the most heart-breaking and traumatic week in ICU, we were asked to make the most difficult decision that anyone could ever have to make in switching off Katherine’s life support.

“Katherine was such a homely, kind, loving, generous girl and always the ‘go to’ person for all her friends when they needed comforting or a compassionate, listening ear. Of course, l know I’m biased because she was my very special girl but, truly, she was one in a million.

“Katherine and l always shared an extremely close and special relationship - we were mum and daughter, sisters and best friends all rolled into one. We spent so much time together from shopping trips, to watching rubbish TV, playing board games to our girlie holidays spent together. We would laugh at the silliest things, until we could no longer breathe. 

Life became very, very tough

“To say then, that l felt as though my heart had been ripped out of my chest and that my own world had come to an end when she died, would be a complete understatement. Life became (and can often still be) so very, very tough. 

“Bereavement counselling, via Cruse, was suggested by my GP but after a number of sessions with a lovely, empathetic counsellor my headspace, unfortunately, still felt as though it was a tangled ball of wool with no beginning and no end. l desperately felt as though l was in need of help to unravel the mess l was in. 

“After researching l sought out a local psychologist/counsellor and began counselling sessions with her. During this period, my husband, Graeme, and l attended a Meningitis Now Forever Day where Christine Hughes, very kindly, informed me that Meningitis Now would fund 10 counselling sessions for me with my existing counsellor. This, of course, was such a generous and hugely appreciated offer. 

Invaluable weekly sessions

“I found the weekly sessions spent with this counsellor invaluable; a non-judgemental space to offload, cry, reflect and help process the trauma and heartache l had been through in the previous months. During these sessions the counsellor reached the conclusion that l was ‘displaying classic symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder’ (PTSD). She was not personally trained in PTSD counselling and advised me that she felt it would be more beneficial to refer me to another counsellor who was. 

“The third counsellor was trained in PTSD counselling, particularly in Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR). She began early on by showing me a simple diagram of a factory (the brain) with an enormous load trying to enter and progress its way through. This large load was only able to go so far before getting stuck; therefore, it needed to be processed into manageable sized pieces in order for it to make the complete journey through the factory and finally exit in those smaller, more manageable segments. 

“At last, l had a vision and an understanding of what my poor brain was trying to cope with. At the same time, she also introduced me to mindfulness therapy, which l too found very therapeutic and relaxing. A useful tool that can be revisited time and again. 

“Speaking personally, l have found all three separate counselling sessions l have encountered extremely helpful and worthwhile in their own, different ways. 

“Have they ‘cured’ me or removed the daily heartache l feel for the loss of my beautiful girl? The answer is, of course, no, nothing ever will, but they have certainly helped me to find a way to manage.” 

Meningitis Now support - Rebuilding Futures Fund

Rebuilding Futures Fund

Our Rebuilding Futures Fund can provide financial, practical and emotional support after meningitis. Find out more