Facing the future with optimism: Claire's Story

December 2023

WAY member Claire shares how she is facing the Christmas and the New Year with as much optimism as she can since her husband of 20 years died in January…

On 22 December last year, my robust, healthy husband was rushed into hospital with severe Covid and flu. After treatment and more tests, he was then diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia shortly after Christmas. 

An action plan was put in place and he was moved to another hospital near our home in Birmingham in the early hours of 2 January to start treatment straight away. Jason was optimistic and in good spirits. But three days later, his condition took a massive turn and he was placed in a coma.

The critical care team worked around the clock, and threw everything they had into getting him well, but sadly he deteriorated even further. 

Life support was turned off at 3.10am on Monday, 23 January 2023. He was 52. 

Jason and I never had kids, but we do have large, loving families and a circle of close friends. We were all there to say goodbye. 

I’ve already had to navigate a lot of firsts without him: Valentine’s Day, my birthday, his birthday, and we have our 20th wedding anniversary, Christmas and New Year’s Eve followed by the anniversary of his death looming on the horizon. 

You have to learn coping mechanisms pretty quickly: How to navigate a life you never wanted....mountains of legal paperwork....how to deal with other people’s grief.....how to deal with people’s reaction to me when they’ve seen me for the first time since he passed......the decision to take off my wedding rings....finding your own identity....having to tell acquaintances who don’t know and ask ‘How’s your husband?’ It’s endless and exhausting...

Facing the future with optimism

Jason loved Christmas. The parties, the food, the drinking, spending time with family and friends, the presents. Family and friends have suggested that we go away, do something different and make new traditions. They think it’ll help me, but I want the comfort and reassurance that it stays the same. I want to dress up, laugh and enjoy Christmas, as we always did. I would want him to do the same if the roles were reversed. 

"I suppose I’m facing next year with optimism. I have to get through the first anniversary, but then I have to live my life to the full. I owe him that because he can’t do the same and I owe myself that, because I have a life to live."

For me, living life to the full means saying yes to more things. I’m on my own now, that’s not a great place to be sometimes, so I say yes to impromptu nights out, trips and holidays, new experiences. I keep busy and have a very full life. We loved to travel, so I have been away to Formentera this summer and have just come back from Budapest. 

I intend to visit all the places we’d always talked of going to before he passed. When he was diagnosed with AML, my husband told me that, if the worst were to happen, he wanted me to be happy, live my life and meet someone else. I’m not at the stage yet where I want to settle down, but I’m open to the idea of dating and meeting someone else. 

I also joined the peer support network WAY Widowed and Young, after it was recommended by another WAY member. I’m not young, but I’m not old either! (Converse have, and always will be my wardrobe staple!)  WAY has already been really useful and a safe space for me. I’ve received some great advice from members and have seen posts that really resonate with what I’m going through. 

I go onto the WAY online platforms every day, and always find the conversation relevant, useful and sometimes uplifting. If I’m feeling rubbish in the middle of the night, it’s helpful to see that others are facing similar struggles and that I’m not on my own. I’ve also connected with a couple of people who I chat with regularly. It’s so good to talk through things with people who’ve had similar experiences as you.  

I’ve recently had a couple of friends who’ve also lost their husbands at a young age this year, and have recommended that they join, as I think that WAY is an amazing group of people.   

Claire shared her story in Woman & Home.

Hear more from WAY members:

This will be Sarah’s first Christmas and New Year without Glynn, who died on 3 March 2023.

"He was such a fan of Christmas and loved going over the top on decorations and spoiling everyone! He made Christmas magical, and I’ll make it special in his honour.”

Read Sarah's story and how she will be having a 'Glynn-styled' Christmas this year...

WAY volunteer Tracey shares the story of how WAY Widowed and Young’s Secret Santa initiative came about.

This year she is organising for more than 170 gifts to be sent out to WAY members’ children across the UK, helping to share a little WAY love at Christmas.

"The motivation to keep going is literally the smiles, just knowing that I, and my fellow WAYers, have helped WAY families all over the UK smile, if only for a minute."


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Tips for members for coping with grief

We know how difficult Christmas can be for people who have been widowed young. As everyone around you is celebrating the festive period, we understand that no matter how many days, months or years you are from your bereavement, this time of year can bring a rollercoaster of emotions.

WAY members share more tips for coping with grief and loss at Christmas.


Some of our members will be sharing their tips and how they cope with grief and loss during the holidays in our #12WAYSofChristmas

We will be sharing them daily on our social media pages from 20 December through to New Year.