Men’s Health Week: how the Internet is helping young widowed people stay connected

June 2023

To mark this year’s Men’s Health Week, which turns the spotlight on men and the Internet, WAY Ambassador Norman Smart shares how going online has helped him to stay connected through the pandemic and beyond… 


"My world came to a complete stop in the early hours of the morning on 23 February 2014 (or so I thought) after the death of Helen, my wife of the past 13 years.

I didn’t know how I would cope. I had moved to Reading in 1998 to escape a toxic relationship so I wasn’t looking for a new partner – let alone expecting to fall in love and get married. So here I was, living in a town with no family or any real friends close by. Those friends I did have were Helen’s, all of whom have since slipped away.

Then I heard of WAY Widowed and Young, a charity I’d never been aware of, or wanted to join, yet it’s the best thing I ever did. I found so many new friends and made so many connections through the charity, becoming Area Contact for Berkshire and helping to coordinate meet ups across the county. 

"Through the charity, I slowly but surely began to start rebuilding my life."

Fast forward to March 2020, there I was, like so many other people, watching the news channels as the Prime Minister announced that the United Kingdom was going into a Coronavirus lockdown. I remember thinking: “how we are going to cope, not being able to have contact with our support networks?” All social events were to stop. This was WAY’s life blood. It’s what the charity does best.

Sure, we all knew about emails, texting and how great mobiles had become, but would they prove to be any substitute for the face-to-face meet ups that had proved to be such a lifeline? Overnight, technology I had never heard of became popular: Zoom, Teams, Facebook Rooms and other sharing platforms came to our aid. Along with a string of new phrases that were shouted across the country. The most often heard, I guess, was “YOU’RE ON MUTE”!

Staying connected 

Before long I was looking forward to being invited to online WAY meetings and gatherings. Who knew you could have a WAY Big Picnic in your own home yet still be talking to your friends across the country as they rolled out the picnic rugs too? There was and still is online Bingo hosted by WAY members. It started as one, then two, then three and before long four hosts putting on once a week sessions. Then this increased to twice weekly sessions. Players kept on coming and the numbers grew. Even now, three years on, there is a regular core of hardy WAY members still hosting and playing bingo together every week.

During one moment of madness and in keeping with the vibe of Eurovision, I hosted an online Eurovision Party. There were flags, fancy dress, the lot! It was to date one of the longest Zoom sessions I’ve ever hosted, lasting long into the wee hours!

All this shows that, as a society and a charity, it’s possible to refocus. Meetings no longer need to be in person to help people connect. Now our friends are a computer keyboard click away. 

"You don’t need to feel cut off and alone if you’ve been widowed at a young age – or if you’re lonely for any other reason."

If one thing good came out of the pandemic, we can all now connect with each other like never before. As well as online meet ups, WAY members also chat via Facebook and through a members only website. We even have a virtual Man Cave for widowed men to get together and share their thoughts.

WAY has been such a lifeline for me and I urge anyone who’s struggling to reach out for support. You don’t have to keep going on your own. There are other people who understand what you’re going through. Friends and connections are never more than a mouse click away."


WAY Volunteer Rob has also shared how staying connected has helped him following the loss of this wife Lorraine.

Read Rob's story