Finding support and friendship through WAY

July 2023

WAY Ambassador Emma Gray shares her story on International Friendship Day of how her friendship with fellow WAY Ambassador Emma Charlesworth has helped them both to navigate life after loss.

Emma Gray's Story

Photbooth photos of the two friends

“In our busy lives, finding friends who you can trust, who will be by your side during the good times and the bad, who will drop everything to be at the end of the phone for you, is not easy. And, it’s even more difficult when you are widowed because (thankfully) not so many people our age “get it”. 

Emma and I first met through Instagram… we linked up and followed each other having seen that we were both Ambassadors for WAY. I was five years into the widowhood journey but Emma had only lost her husband the year before from Covid. 

Automatically the conversation was easy… Emma mentioned that she had spent a lot of the first year of grief in shock and I shared how the shock of the first year actually helped me. Especially as a military widow, I had found that the denial enabled me to keep going when the going got tough. I then saw Emma post something on her Instagram about some worries she had about attending CarFest for the first time without her husband. We had been to that festival with my late husband (it was one of the bucket list things we did with our kids when he was being treated for cancer) and I had taken the girls on my own a couple of times since. I explained how old my girls were, where we were camped and offered that we would be there if she fancied meeting up, but I also understood that she might not want to if she was with a group of friends.

Emma  and Emma G

It is amazing how total strangers (but who have a common tragic connection) can be there for each other in a way that long-standing friends can’t. Emma then opened up to me about the wobbles she was having about going to the festival with her daughter and her friends and our friendship was born. I was so delighted to meet someone who instinctively understood so many of the emotions I had been living with since my husband died. I shared my story about how my girls and I first went to CarFest with my late husband when he was ill and we had been a few times since, with others and on our own. I opened up about how being on my own with my girls could be scary, how emotive the music was and how lovely it would be for our girls to meet. Somehow, in the huge crowds we managed to meet up. It was the beginning of a friendship that means the world to me.

Although a lot of our friendship has been remote: sharing stories on Instagram, texts and phone calls, we share the highs and lows of solo parenting, which is one of the hardest things I have ever done, and our grief journeys. Speaking to someone who has similar struggles is so helpful… not for any advice on how to fix things, because our situations can’t be fixed, but to have someone who can listen, empathise and support whilst we ride the rollercoaster of life. 

WAY friends understand the aching pain of loneliness and what it’s like to just want a hug and to be told that things will work out. Emma is someone who understands the triggers that stir up the grief emotions and I will be forever grateful for the stability of her friendship. Emma is the kind of friend that I feel safe and comfortable around… whether we’re doing shots at a party or having an emotional breakdown. 

WAY is a club that no one wants to join but I’m so pleased we found it – thank you to WAY for helping our worlds collide!”

Read more in Emma's blog 'Rainbow Hunting'.

Read Emma Charlesworth's story

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We are sorry you or a loved one needs to be here, but we all understand how difficult these times can be and we’re here for when you are ready.

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