Rebecca, Area Contact Volunteer

Rebecca Farwell volunteers for WAY as an Area Contact for Norfolk and also set up WAYers Without Children (WAYWOCS) - a group for WAY members without children.

Since the group was set up in September 2013, the WAYWOCS group has grown from strength to strength. Find out why Rebecca volunteers...


Rebecca

"My husband died in December 2010, and I was utterly lost. I joined WAY in the hope of meeting others who would understand what I was going through. It was the best thing I could have done. I assume that I would have survived being widowed if I hadn’t found WAY, but it would have been a very different, and even harder, experience.

However, I did find that the first question I was asked – almost without exception – was, “Do you have children?”

This is understandable. However, this was often followed with “I wouldn’t get up in the morning if I didn’t have children”, followed by the speaker turning their back and going to find someone a bit less, well, childless, to talk to.

When you are feeling lonely and isolated at the best of times, this really doesn’t help.

The majority of WAY members have children, and that aspect of support is absolutely essential.

But around a quarter of WAY members don’t have children.

Starting out small

September can be a very hard time for people who, in addition to grieving the loss of their partner, are also grieving for the children they don’t have. It’s a time when parents everywhere, including other WAY members, are proudly showing off their children’s 'Back to school' photos.

When the September school photos started to appear, I saw how hard it was for some WAY members to visit the WAY Facebook page, however much they needed the support of fellow members.

I offered to start a group so that people could still get the support they needed, but particularly from others who understood that being widowed AND childless is a different experience.

It’s important to say that WAYers Without Children (or WAYWocs) isn’t instead of WAY – it’s as well as. Most of us still go to our local meet-ups. Many of us are also local area contacts and assists (I am also an area assist for Norfolk and used to be area contact) and organise local events, including ones for children.

"We are still united with all WAY members in our common experiences of losing our partners at an unusually young age."

People started to join straight away, and the group has gone from strength to strength. Our Facebook page is always active. I have been joined by the best team of admins. Our fantastic members support each other and gain strength from each other’s love and experiences. Our mantra is that we are always kind and considerate to each other and our outlook tends to be strong and positive – while understanding that sometimes we are in very dark places.

Growing from strength to strength

So it’s grown and grown, and after a few months, having become such good friends online, we started to feel that we wanted to meet up in person. So I organised our first event, at a restaurant in Kensington. 

This was only the start. Pretty soon, many more events were organised, all over the country. We also travel abroad sometimes – even as far as Brazil and Hong Kong, in the company of the people who understand us the most. We have a large annual gathering in Manchester. And once a year, we meet up as close as possible to the beginning of September to celebrate the group’s anniversary. However, the foundation of the group is still our Facebook group with its 24 hour support and friendship. 

People sometimes ask us why we don’t open our events to other members – members who do have children, but fancy a night out without the children. I feel that the best way of explaining it is that it’s rather like asking why other WAY events aren’t open to divorced and single people, or those who fancy a night out without their partners. Sometimes, we just need to be with others like us. And of course, WAY has lots of excellent adult only events, for everyone who needs a proper grown-up night out!

I wish no-one were in the position of being widowed young and childless and needing us. I wish no-one else ever had to seek us out. But things don’t work out like that. So I am glad at least that when someone else is experiencing the same terrified sense of grief and isolation that I remember so well, they will be able to find us, and find a group of people that offers boundless love, support and understanding.

I want to say “Thank you” to every single member for making it the wonderful group that it has grown into.

 

If you would like to find out more about volunteering for WAY, please email Veronica here.