To mark Grief Awareness Week, we wanted to share the inspirational and touching story of Fiona and Eric. Fiona and Eric had 30 years of marriage together. Eric was diagnosed with dementia when he started to struggle understanding things and passed away 2 years ago from pneumonia. Fiona explains the emotional journey in dealing with Eric's diagnosis and coping with grief:

"I met Eric when I was 29 and he was 52. I had to think carefully about having a relationship with Eric as I knew, at some point, I would probably be widowed. The attraction between us was too great, and we had 30 very happy years together. Eric started showing the first signs of having issues around 6 years ago when he started to have difficulty understanding things. We decided to go to the doctor, who referred him to the consultant. I think I'd seen it coming, but the diagnosis of dementia was still quite devastating.

After a few months we were put in touch with our Link Worker, Francis. She was fantastic and reassured us that you could live well with dementia. We might not have believed it at the time, but it turned out to be true. We saw her regularly for about a year and then moved on to the Carers Network. The support they gave me throughout has been fantastic. Life gradually reduces to being about supporting the person with dementia. Then in June last year, Eric got pneumonia and was too frail to fight it off. Within a fortnight of him getting symptoms of pneumonia Eric, died. We thought we had another two or three years together, that it would be a slow decline, and we might have to face issues around care homes but that never happened. 

I'm very glad that we had the difficult conversations well before the end came as I knew what Eric wanted to have happen at his funeral. We put in place all the documentation that was needed, our wills and Power of Attorney and our financial information was ready. I'm so glad that we did that.

Filling the days is a challenge, but I've made sure that I see somebody every day. I've done some redecorating and I will be taking up golf again. There are things that I had in my life before that I've been able to pick up. I have a fantastic dog who keeps me company, I don't know how I'd got through this without him to be honest. If you can see your friends regularly that really helps, people who are prepared to listen to you, accept you crying and particularly people who have had similar experiences to yourself. The two carers that I see have been recently bereaved and I find it very helpful because we can be very open with each other about what we're feeling. Some of my friendships have really developed in a way that would never have been possible before. I now have people that I walk the dogs with, whereas I used to go on my own before. I have friends to go motor-homing with and that's been a lovely side of it.

I think there was an element of grieving from the time that we were told Eric had dementia, because you knew then that there was going to be a time limit on how much time you had together. We're so fortunate in Scotland, and particularly in the highlands here, to have support from Alzheimer Scotland. The Link Worker and the Carers Network have been fantastic for me, and still are. One of the very first things that the Link Worker said to us was that you can live well with dementia. And you can. Those four years were four years I would still want to have even though life as a carer was sometimes challenging and life for Eric was sometimes difficult. I'm so glad that we had those four years together". 

Picture of couple to raise awareness of grief awareness week
Fiona with her husband Eric