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Suddenly I am surrounded by people who "get it"

For Men's Health Week, WAY member Gary Loftus tells us how joining WAY was like being greeted by a room of old friends who understand what you are going through because they have all been through it as well.

WAY is a much needed refuge in the storm that is widowhood.

I'm sitting at my desk about to have another panic attack. It's been three weeks since Roz passed away and I can feel myself start to hyperventilate and my heart start to pound. 
 
I get up and go to one of the small meeting rooms, darken the lights, curl up in the chair and try to relax. 
 
It's at this point I realise - I need help.
 
I had already discussed the extreme highs and lows I'd been having in the very early stages of widowhood with one of the hospice counsellors. She had been very helpful and told me this was perfectly natural for the first three months and that it would even out after that. She also recommended I hold off having counselling until after that period was over. I realise now though that I cannot wait that long for support.
 
I Google "How to cope with grief" and stumble upon a site that lists some support groups. There I see Widowed and Young. They seem to be exactly what I'm looking for and I apply for membership. A few days later my membership is accepted and I find my way onto their facebook page.
 
And then my healing begins.....
 
Suddenly I am surrounded by people who "get it". 
 
Previously I relied on friends and family. They instead completed the support "check box" tasks - attended the funeral, occasionally call or text to "check that I'm okay". Inform me they are "there if I need them" - and then they disappear. Their lives carry on. Roz has stopped. Mine is in limbo. I am Schroedinger's widow - neither alive nor dead. Lost and adrift with no plans and no roadmap on how to get there. I am more alone than I have ever been....until now.
 
Joining Widowed and Young was like being greeted by a room of old friends. Old friends who understand what you are going through because they have all been through it as well. It's a place where you can be yourself. A place where, when you list the trivial thing that has triggered a painful memory, they all nod and recount the little things that have set them off in the past They don't fall into the non-widow trap of "trying to help" without really understanding what they are helping with.
 
As another member put it, we all have the "invisible limp".
 
Not all widows are the same. This is another thing that WAY understands. There are lots of sub-groups for people to join. I personally spend most of my time in WAYWOC - Widowed and Young Without Children. 
Being widowed with kids is a very different experience to being widowed without, each with their own set of challenges. Even in those sub-groups there are people who can relate to others better - did your partner die suddenly in a car accident? There are several members who have been through exactly the same thing and can help with the shock. Did your partner die by suicide? Again, members will be there who can help with the guilt you'll be going through. Or did they die the slow, fading death of Cancer? Members will be there to relate when you discuss the pain of all your recent memories being of the shell of your loved one rather than the vibrant human being they were beforehand.
 
It's also not all doom and gloom. Like any other community there is lots of room for humour and positivity. When someone has a good day and posts about it, or makes major steps in their "life 2.0" it gives everyone a lift - "Look! You can be happy again!".
 
So whether you wish to post daily or simply loiter and read what others have to say then I would highly recommend WAY. It is a much needed refuge in the storm that is widowhood.

Read more stories from our members here.