Jo’s story

Joanna, WAY Trustee and memeber

WAY Trustee

I was widowed in 2017 when my wife Paula, who had underlying health conditions, died suddenly of pneumonia in hospital. I was 49 and Paula was 45.

What was the impact of your bereavement?

I was devastated. My world fell apart. Paula and I had been together for 20 years and she wasn’t expected to die, although she was very unwell. I don’t remember the days very much – only the pain. But I do remember saying to my friends, ‘I don’t even know what bread I like any more.’

How has joining WAY helped you?

I joined WAY in late 2017 after a friend recommended it. At first I didn’t want to join because I didn’t think it was for me, but I was very wrong. The support network has been amazing.

I have wonderful, beautiful friends but I didn’t know anyone who understood what I was going through. With WAY, there is always someone there for you – no question or statement is too weird.

Although I was petrified the first time I went to a meet up, I met people who I knew and who knew me purely because we recognised each other’s names from chatting on Facebook. We laughed and drank and occasionally cried, but most of all we talked. Nothing was off the agenda.

Tell us about your role as a WAY volunteer?

I am generally a confident person and have plenty of business skills so I volunteer to do as many interviews (radio, TV or written) as a member of WAY’s Board of Trustees to help get the word out about WAY.

As a member of the LGBT+ community I aim to broaden the membership and support network because I had a number of challenges when my wife died. This is actually why I became a Trustee too. I asked the Chief Executive why the Board wasn't more diverse. Her response was “...put yourself forward and help us change that...” so I did.

How would life be different without WAY?  

It would be dreadful, and very isolating.

How is life different for you today compared to when you were first widowed?

I could never imagine that my life would move forward but it has. Life has stabilised despite the dreadful situation in the world. The pain is still there and there are days when I cry as hard as I did at the beginning, but it isn't every moment of every day anymore.

I have had my fair share of mental health problems over the last three years too, like every widow, and am still on antidepressants. But actually I've come to the conclusion that that is OK.  

What would you say to someone who was unsure about joining WAY?

Join and get involved, if you can. The more you put in the more you get out. There is something about helping others that lets you see how far you’ve come on your grief journey, how you’ve survived and how resilient you are.