GRIEF manifests itself in all manner of ways.

Mostly we see it in tears cried at a funeral, or sleepless eyes that look empty inside.

For widower Mike Dennis emotions bubbled out of him through hallucinations and hysterical laughter.

Within 48 hours of cancer claiming his wife Rachel Kay, he had been sectioned at the Warneford Hospital in Headington – less than a mile from where she died at Sobell House.

The 55-year-old father said: "It was a combination of lack of sleep and trying really hard to keep everybody happy.

"It wasn't that I couldn't cope with the fact she died – it was such a relief that she wasn't suffering anymore.

"One of the things I really struggled with was the pressure on me.

"For a long time I had a real desire to show people I could cope. I was just losing it."

Stress overcame him after Mrs Kay, who worked as a teaching assistant at St Joseph’s Primary School in Headington, passed away from breast cancer on August 20, 2014.

Oxford Brookes lecturer Mr Dennis said: "They're that one person you share your worries and concerns with, and they're not there anymore. Your one release for that is gone."

Mrs Kay, who was 50 when she died, spent the last two weeks of her life at Sobell after recommendation by cancer support charity Maggie’s.

Mr Dennis said: "Sobell was at the back of her mind, this place she could die one day.

"But immediately they gave her time. They saw her straight away and just listened.

"Rachel was very frightened and found it difficult to think about actually dying. She couldn't contemplate it even quite late on.

"Staff there always gave us time to talk about other stuff."

The Headington couple met through mutual friends in 1989 and went on to have sons Matthew, Thomas and Daniel, who were aged between 12 and 19 at the time of their mum's death.

Mr Dennis said the boys had been well-prepared for her death after her initial diagnosis in 2003, which was staved off by surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy until an incurable relapse in 2007.

He said: "You realise at some point it's going to kill her. She survived a lot longer than we were led to believe."

After her death he spent 17 days at the Warneford, and took months off work.

It was only after coming off of his medication at Christmas that numbness subsided.

He said: "The bereavement just hit me like a train. It all caught up with me.

"People around me had a sense of relief that I was grieving at last."

A friend suggested he used Sobell's bereavement service and he made his first appointment with a counsellor.

He said: "She started off by saying ‘tell me about Rachel’.

"That was so unexpected – nobody talked about my past. I felt very at ease.

"Being at the Warneford made me feel like I’d failed. The counselling made me see that it wasn’t something to be ashamed of.

"She was so very good at making me see it was still early days.

"One of the hard things about being bereaved is being surrounded by people who want you to be okay. Your whole life has changed and you need people to say that."

Mr Dennis said it is "key" to have access to help, and still goes back to Sobell if he is struggling.

He said: "One of the really lovely things about Sobell is that if you are having a bad patch you can talk to somebody.

"Every time I go I come out feeling almost cleansed. It gives you a lift – you have unburdened yourself when you need that sympathetic ear."

Mr Dennis has since become a dedicated supporter of Sobell, and has raised more than £3,000 for new televisions on the wards.

His fundraisers this year included a dress-up day at work, when students and lecturers paid £2 to don television character costumes.