Darren's Story

December 2023

WAY member Darren’s husband Chris died in January after suffering a brain aneurysm. The 44-year-old from Sheffield explains how he has navigated the past 11 months without Chris….

I lost my husband and partner of 23 years, Chris, on 12 January 2023. Chris had shown no signs of being unwell, but on New Year’s Eve he had fallen asleep on the sofa, woke up with a painful headache, which we initially thought was a migraine. Over the next few days, the headache was on and off, but Chris continued to work from home. On 6 January, he went to bed early as he had not been sleeping well and I had stayed up to make sure he was in a deep sleep before getting into bed. 

In the middle of the night, I woke up to find Chris had collapsed. I called 999 and the ambulance arrived within 10 minutes. I called his parents who came and collected me, and we joined him in hospital. We were told he had a brain aneurysm that had burst – and, on closer investigation, he had a blood clot deep in his brain. 

Chris went into surgery for eight hours and we were informed it went as well as could have and they hoped he would hopefully recover. Sadly, they could not bring him round from his induced coma and he suffered a massive stroke on 11 January, which he would not have recovered from. He was declared dead the next morning. We kept him on the ventilator as he was a donor, so we wanted to make sure anything he was going to give was healthy for the person receiving it. 

Life after Chris

This is the first time in my life I have lived and been on my own and it was a massive thing to get used to, knowing that – when I step into the house – there is no one to say hello, no one to hug and kiss me when I have a bad day. Me and Chris had made a decision, early on in our relationship, not to have children. We had discussed this at great length on many occasions and decided it was not the direction we wanted to follow.

"The house had gone from a vibrant place, to one of silence, still and calm."

Going to bed was probably one of the most challenging parts of all of this, looking over to Chris’s side knowing he wouldn’t ever be there again, then waking up walking into a quiet living room, not having anyone to talk to until I start work.  

At times, it has felt very lonely and I have found myself going outside, shouting at the sky, asking why he has left me alone. I am 11 months into this at the time of writing, and it has got easier over time, but I don’t think I will ever get fully used to being alone. I have had to accept what has happened, as I cannot live in the hope he will walk through the door, as I know he will not.  

Finding WAY

I was introduced to WAY in March 2023 by a friend at work, whose friend had joined a few years previously. I found out about the subgroups including WAYWOC for members without children.

For me, it was comforting to know there are people in the same boat as you, as you can feel like you are the only one. Hearing people’s journeys, understanding why you feel the way you do and being prepared for future feelings you may have from people further down the line is very comforting. But more importantly it was a feeling that I was not alone, that any time day or night I could vent, rant or ask from advice from people who knew how you were feeling.

It was also important to be in a space where I was not going to be judged and felt safe.

"Seeing how people who were a lot further into this process and suddenly finding themselves alone gave me hope that everything, eventually would be OK."

Hearing their stories, reading about their lives and generally how they felt at each stage has been really helpful. As part of a couple, you do everything together. You have the same friends, the same hobbies and, seeing how members had carved out new lives for themselves, taking on different challenges and doing things they may not have done previously was good to read.

Since Chris passed, I have flown on my own (and I don’t like flying), attended the WAY Big Picnic alone and completed a 26-mile hike for charity. I am now making plans for myself for 2024 and have lost the fear of doing things alone, as I know I am capable of doing it. Other members of WAY and WAYWOC instil that confidence in you – it will be OK and you can do it.

Looking to the future

I’ve booked two holidays with my friends and I try to book up my weekends with friends who live locally to keep busy. I also returned to work after six weeks and have had a very positive experience with everyone – management have been flexible towards the way my life has changed.    

Eleven months in and the good days outweigh the bad now. I am getting used to a new environment. I have also created new routines, just for me, that keep me busy, but also allow me the time to think about the life me and Chris had together.