Actor and producer Greg Wise has credited therapy with saving his life and his relationships as he cared for his sister Clare before her death.
The 55-year-old said he felt “fortunate” to have been able to access professional help before becoming carer for his sister, who died from bone cancer in 2016, aged 51.
Speaking to the PA news agency about his role as an ambassador for end of life charity Marie Curie, he said: “I think the best work I have ever done in my life has been therapy. It’s absolutely saved my life.”
He added: “I was very fortunate that I had taken myself off and done an awful lot of work on my head before the time that I had to go and be with my sister. And I think that’s the reason, one of the reasons, I was able to survive that.”
Wise, who was a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing in 2021, revealed that his sister’s death showed him that life is “finite,” and this realisation later encouraged him to live his life to the fullest and accept challenges that test his capabilities.
Wise said: “To live a proper life, you have to understand that it’s finite.”
“One of the things with my sis, because she died when she was 51, which is still really young, it made me realise that we have to try and find a way of just living a little bit better,” he added.
Wise, who is married to Oscar-winning actress Dame Emma Thompson, cited taking part in Strictly as an example of taking on a new challenge after losing his sister.
He said he was motivated to appear on the show by the memory of Clare, who was a big “disco diva”, and loved dancing and music.
Wise was voted off the hit BBC One show during its third week after he performed the samba to Macarena by Los Del Rio.
He told PA: “I was driven primarily by my sister into it because she was the big disco diva… she was cremated in a glitterball coffin to banging disco music.
“And she would have been thrilled that it was absolutely that, it was seeing what was possible, and if it was possible for me to go on a live evening show and do my American smooth or whatever, before the car crash of the samba!”
Wise explained that he has since been able to find an element of “privilege” in caring for his sister.
“As was clear then and has sort of become even more clear, is the trauma of it is absolutely balanced by the privilege of being able to be there, and to be the carer and to bear witness and to shadow someone you love walking this terrible journey,” he said.
He added: “One of the things about that traumatic and privileged time is, when I was able to emotionally calm a bit afterwards, I realised that I was formed into a better person from having done it.”
Six years on from his sister’s death, Wise reflected on his time as his sister’s carer, saying: “We all talk about running into the flaming building to rescue the child, and we think, ‘yes, I would absolutely do that’.
“But that’s always a hypothetical until you’re confronted with a building on fire with a child inside. And those moments I spent with my sister, I knew that I was capable of, in that respect, going into the burning building. ”
Greg Wise is an ambassador for the end of life charity Marie Curie. To donate and support Marie Curie’s Great Daffodil Appeal this March, visit mariecurie.org.uk.