What’s different about being widowed young?
The stereotype of a “widow” or “widower” is someone in their seventies or eighties. However, the sad reality is that more than 100,000 men and women in the UK are widowed under the age of 50.
Losing someone you love is difficult at any age. And if your partner dies young, the loss can be difficult to cope with in many different ways. Not only do you have the pain of bereavement to cope with, but also you have been robbed of a future you were planning to share together. And you are most probably facing a huge array of practical challenges too – from raising children alone to simply paying the household bills.
Drawing on the experiences gathered from WAY members over the past 20+ years, we have compiled some practical tips to help young widows and widowers navigate the first few weeks, months and years after their partner has died. Whether you’ve been widowed yourself, or whether you’re supporting someone who’s been widowed at a young age, we hope you’ll find it useful.
Is there a local group in my area?
WAY has local groups all over the country. However, as members come and go some areas may be more active than others. If you become a member you will be allocated a group based on your postcode, but may find that another group nearby is more active and organises events you are interested in and that are within travelling distance for you. All members have access to an online ‘Members Only’ area where they can discuss topics and arrange events with anyone else throughout the country.
Can I join online?
Yes, we are now able to offer an online joining service, making membership easier and quicker for you and us. Find out more about joining WAY here.
Payment online is facilitated by Paypal, however you do not need a Paypal account to pay this way, any debit or credit card can be used. Simply scroll down to the bottom of the Paypal ‘log in’ page and click ‘pay with credit/debit card’ or 'checkout as guest' instead.
Can I join from where I live?
WAY membership is available to all those eligible to join living in the UK, including the Isle of Man and the Channel Isles. Join WAY
How much is it to join WAY?
Membership of WAY is £25 per year. We rely on donations to continue our work, so any extra you feel able to give is very much appreciated, and of course you can also help by signing up to Gift Aid if you are eligible too.
What can I expect for my membership fee?
Upon joining you will receive a welcome booklet and a verification code in the post, enabling you to register for WAY’s online services. The online ‘Members Only’ area allows all members up and down the country to connect with each other, share stories and ask questions. You can ask for advice within the Forum area, chat during the long evenings in the Chat Room, find out about all the events you’re interested in and create your own events too, as well as buying merchandise from the online shop and much more!
During the year, you will receive three printed newsletters, as well as an E-newsletter each month. And you will have the opportunity to attend our organised events - the AGM and our annual Big Picnic - as well as meeting members and making friends at other local and national events throughout the year.
There is also access to a 24-hour confidential telephone helpline for WAY members.
Why do you charge to be a member?
WAY receives no government or lottery funding to pay for the running of the charity. We rely purely on donations and the small annual subscription fee we request from members to keep us going. We also feel that having to pay a nominal sum means that members value the group and will also deter people who may be ruthless enough to try and gain membership under false pretences. In exceptional circumstances of hardship, we can offer a reduction or waive the fee, which will be reviewed on an annual basis.
Can you help with the cost of membership?
We are well aware that, as a result of bereavement and its consequences, many people can struggle financially.
The WAY Memorial Fund has been established to support our members who may need help to enjoy the benefits of membership. Currently there are funds available to assist members in both the payment of their annual membership fees and to attend WAY-organised events in the UK.
If you, or a member you know, would like to apply for assistance please apply here.
All applications will be treated in the strictest confidence.
How do I know all the other members are widowed?
To our knowledge, there are no official checks that we can carry out to confirm whether an applicant is widowed. Even asking for a death certificate would not help, as many of our members do not have them, either because they were not officially Next-of-Kin or their partners were lost at sea for example. We rely on our extensive registration process, and the membership fee, to put off anyone who may try to join under false pretences. If anyone was ever found to be a non-widowed member, they would immediately be removed from the website and their membership would be revoked without any refund.
I wasn’t married or engaged. Can I still join WAY?
We welcome anyone who has suffered the loss of a partner, regardless of circumstance, religion, race, sexual orientation, location within the UK, occupation, or state of health. This means that whether you were married, engaged, living together, boyfriend & girlfriend, in a same sex relationship, separated, or even divorced, you are eligible to become a member. We only stipulate that people must be 50 or under when they lost their partner in order to be eligible to join WAY – and you can join at any age if you fit this criteria.
Age 51 or over?
Our constitution limits us from enabling those aged 51 or over at the time of their bereavement from joining WAY. You are still able to join, and remain a WAY member, past your 51st birthday if you were bereaved before then.
If you are age 51 or over, we strongly encourage you to join WAY Up, a lively group of widowed men and women that is flourishing across the UK.
Most WAY Up members are aged 52-65 and they offer each other support and friendship on their forum, as well as holding gatherings and parties that are becoming the stuff of legend.
When I get to my 51st birthday, do I have to leave?
No, you can stay a member for as long as you want. We have people who have been members for more than 10 years who still actively involve themselves in the group, both giving and receiving ongoing support. The age restriction applies to your age when your partner died, so you can join and remain a member at any age, as long as you meet this criteria. We do have a sister group, called WAYUp, for those widowed just past our age restriction and for some members who feel an older age group is more appropriate for their present circumstances.
When I join, what can I expect at my first meeting?
You will be contacted soon after joining either by your local area contact, or by another volunteer, if your area doesn’t have a coordinator at present. Your first meeting will usually be a smaller, more informal event such as a coffee, quiet pub drink or evening meal. All people present in the group will be members, and will therefore be widowed themselves. This doesn’t mean we sit crying into our tea though! Expect jokes and laughter as well as talking and empathy (ok, maybe a few tears every now and then, but usually of relief that you now ‘belong’ somewhere where people understand you) and a friendly welcome from others who have all been in the same boat as new members themselves.
Does WAY offer counselling?
No, unfortunately we don’t have any trained counsellors within WAY. However, we do offer WAY members a 24-hour confidential telephone helpline with access to trained counsellors as part of the WAY membership package.
To speak to someone regarding a bereavement, we also recommend calling the Cruse Bereavement Helpline on 08444 779 400.
If you are struggling to cope and/or are feeling suicidal, please call the Samaritans, who are trained to listen to, and help you, on 08457 90 90 90.
There are many bereavement counselling organisations that we have the details for on our useful links page.
Do you have your own helpline?
As part of our membership package, we offer access to a 24-hour a day confidential telephone helpline with trained counsellors and advisers on legal and financial matters. This is not exclusive to WAY but it does provide our members with 24-hour advice and support.
We previously had a WAY advice line that was manned by volunteer members in their own homes. However, more and more frequently volunteers were receiving long and distressing calls that they were not trained to deal with. We have now switched this service to an informational message system, as we feel the majority of questions can now be answered on this page or within the website itself.
Is WAY a dating agency?
Some people have asked whether WAY Widowed and Young is a dating agency, which is absolutely not the case.
WAY is a peer support network that offers support, understanding and friendship to young widowed people across the UK. Our charity is first and foremost about building supportive friendships among people who understand exactly what it feels like to be widowed at a young age. Sometimes those friendships do blossom into something deeper and romantic relationships do on occasion develop between our members. However, we would like to reiterate that this is the exception rather than the rule and that our focus at WAY is very much around building friendships and rebuilding a social life for young widowed people that doesn't revolve around being part of a couple. We also have a robust complaints procedure in place and will take swift action against any of our members who behaves in an inappropriate manner towards any of their fellow members.
Do you give grants or bursaries?
No. WAY is not a grant-making charity and we rely on donations ourselves to keep the charity running. We are currently starting to apply for funds from trusts and foundations ourselves, for help with core costs and projects for our members, as well as increasing awareness and growing the membership. If you would like to help fund any of our work, or know someone who could, please get in touch with our fundraising department on email@example.com
How can I make a donation to WAY?
Any donation, no matter how big or small, is very gratefully received and you can find out more about what we are fundraising for here. There are donate buttons on our website, or you can visit our JustGiving page. Please consider signing up for Gift Aid on top of your donation, as this enables us to claim more money on your behalf from the government, with no extra effort on your part. You can also make a regular donation through a standing order at your bank. Information on Legacy donations is coming soon.
How can I fundraise for WAY?
There are a multitude of ways you can fundraise for WAY, from running a marathon to making cards, jumping out of a plane to clearing out your wardrobe! There are just a few rules to abide by, so please take a moment to read through our guidelines. See what our members have been doing to fundraise for us.
Can I Volunteer for WAY?
Most of our volunteer network is made up of WAY members, as many of the roles have previously required the empathy of also being widowed to put the other members at ease. As the charity grows, and more people need our help, we will inevitably need the assistance of more volunteers. To find out if there are any volunteer vacancies at present, please take a look at our News page or keep an eye on Facebook or Twitter. We occasionally have Trustee vacancies, and sometimes require the advice of professionals such as solicitors, HR, accountants, event planners, etc – if you think you could help us, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Where can I get leaflets to help spread the word about WAY?
You can request some leaflets to be sent out to you by filling in our leaflet request form. We welcome enquiries from any organisation that would be willing to put leaflets in their establishment or pin one up on a noticeboard. Equally, we welcome enquiries from individuals who could take leaflets along to their doctor’s surgery, community centre, hospital, hospice, church, school, workplace staff room, florist, funeral director, or anywhere else willing to display one. Your local Tesco, for example, should be willing to put a leaflet up on their community board. The more we can spread the word about WAY, the more people who need our services will find us.
How can I get regular updates about the work WAY does?
Time to renew?
If your annual WAY membership is up for renewal all you need to do is log in to your member account on the website, and renewing your membership is quick and easy via our online payment system.
To continue attending local events and holidays, receiving WAY magazines and email newsletters, and getting access to our members only web community, you need to keep your £25 annual membership up to date.