Gemma's Story

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WAY’s Membership Administrator Gemma, 33, explains how WAY has changed her life.

“WAY is my life now. My husband, my job, my best friend and a lot of my friends are from WAY. I dread to think what I would have been like if I hadn’t found it.”

When I first met my husband-to-be Carl, when I was 19, I knew he had leukaemia. In the beginning I told myself everything would be OK and that somehow he would beat this disease. However, the year before he died, his condition deteriorated. His lungs weakened and breathing was difficult. This was just after I became pregnant with twins and I think he hung on to witness their birth.

Holly and Ellie May – now 8 – were born four weeks prematurely but thankfully there were no complications. Both Carl and I were ecstatic but soon afterwards he was confined to bed and we knew the end was near.

When he died in early 2006 I moved out of our home and back in with my parents. I was numb with grief but had to cope for the girls. In April I went back to work part-time as an HR manager and my parents looked after the twins for me.

Gemma Greenbank

I was lucky to find WAY. It was a real turning point for me. I couldn’t keep talking to my friends about how lost I felt. I needed to talk to other people who had been through the same thing. I’d sit there on the computer at night, messaging in the chatroom and soon made friends with people I could be honest with.

One of them was Justin. Like me he was only in his 20s when his wife died. One night the group decided to get together at a pub in Stratford-upon-Avon. Justin and I talked all evening and afterwards chatted online. We had a comfortable relationship based on the fact we were both grieving.

One day out of the blue he asked me out for dinner. I wasn’t sure what to say but in the end thought, “Why not?” We took it all very slowly. When you are in a situation like this there’s a lot of guilt. I felt as if I was having an affair yet I was doing nothing wrong.

What became clear to me is you can love two people, as long as you are not hurting anyone. We dated and he proposed on New Year’s Eve 2008. We were at a party, he took out the ring and got down on one knee. I felt such a mix of emotions. Complete happiness, guilt and sadness. I’ve never cried in public before but I did that night. All my family and friends were delighted and in September 2009 we married quietly at a hotel.

We talked about having a child together but Max was still a lovely surprise. I did the test on Boxing Day 2009 and when the line appeared we jumped up and down. We kept it a secret as long as we could and then told family and friends. The twins were thrilled and they adore him. Max hasn’t brought an end to our grief but he brings so much joy to our lives. 

Greenbank family

Working for WAY

I started working as Membership Administrator for WAY in June 2008. I saw an advert in the newsletter that said they were looking for someone to do some part-time admin work based from home.

I was working as an HR manager for the prison service. I felt I was spending more time for the prison than with my family.

Today, I work 25 hours a week from home for WAY, from Monday to Friday from 9am to 3pm when the girls are at school. I do bits in the evening, because I can’t resist!

The biggest part of my job is dealing with new members. We get lots of new members joining every month and we seem to be getting more recently. It tends to go in waves – specially if there’s been a newspaper article about WAY.

Google and word of mouth are the biggest referrals to WAY – friends or family tend to do research and recommend us to their friends if they’ve been bereaved. Hospitals, doctors and hospices also refer people to WAY.

Some of my main responsibilities include: keeping the membership database up-to-date; collecting WAY’s post; sending out new members’ packs; processing membership renewals; responding to enquiries; sending out leaflets. I email the trustees on an almost daily basis and liaise with the newsletter editor too.

I want other people to know how WAY can help them because it has been such a big help to me. WAY is my life now. My husband, my job, my best friend and a lot of my friends are from WAY. I dread to think what I would have been like if I hadn’t found it.