Nicky’s story: Finding Chapter 2

July 2024

WAY member Nicky Wake explains how joining WAY Widowed and Young inspired her to set up a dating agency for widows and widowers called Chapter 2. Now she’s raising funds for WAY through her company and by throwing herself into stand up comedy too. She takes up the story…


Can you tell us when you were widowed and how you navigated those early days of bereavement?

In July 2017, my darling husband Andy, my soulmate, suffered a heart attack at the age of 52. He was rushed to hospital, had stents fitted and a few days later I took him home, toasting our lucky escape. But that night the stents failed. He suffered a huge heart attack that was much worse than the first.

I did CPR for 40 minutes until the ambulance came. He was rushed to intensive care and put in an induced coma. Two weeks later, his consultant came to me during what became a bedside vigil and gave me the devasting news that Andy had suffered a catastrophic brain injury as his brain was starved of oxygen. He was completely incapacitated. He didn’t know who I was, who he was, where he was. He couldn’t walk or talk. It was truly devastating. 

We threw everything at it: rehab, physio, therapy, but to no avail. He was admitted to a specialist nursing home requiring 24/7 one-on-one care. He was angry, violent and confused. Visiting him was utterly heart-breaking and I had to tell our darling son Finn, then aged 10, that his Daddy was never going to recover. 

We then entered an awful stage of limbo of anticipatory grief. Three years later, Covid hit the headlines and I knew that was the beginning of our end. I got a call from the nursing home on 17 April 2020 to say Andy had contracted Covid and died. My world fell apart. I couldn’t visit him and we could only have 12 people at the funeral. I couldn’t even hug my friends and family. 

When did you join WAY and how did it help?

I was struggling with depression and anxiety. I sought grief counselling through the bereavement charity Cruse, which signposted me to WAY Widowed and Young.

The charity has literally saved my life: the peer-to-peer support, Facebook groups and online and in-person events helped me crawl from the depths of despair to acceptance and even hope. I have made some lifelong friends – an ambush of widow warriors who have become best friends, supporter and allies. 

Andy’s death made me re-evaluate my whole life, as I think we do as widows. I realised I needed a new sense of purpose to find hope and joy in my ‘new normal’ and help others like me.

 

What was the benefit, for you, of attending WAY meet ups?

I love live events. My day job is running an events agency so I believe in the power of face-to-face interaction. It’s particularly important for us widows to build new connections with people who inspire, support and understand what we are going through – the veterans among us support the newly widowed. You will make life-long friends. 

WAY’s AGM is inspirational, educational and a huge amount of fun. Until you’ve been on a dancefloor with 100 widows you’ve not lived 

What gave you the idea to set up Chapter 2?

When I was attending WAY events, conversation often turned to ‘have you thought about dating again’? ‘Have you found a chapter 2?’ I just started dipping my toe back in the online dating world. I actually met my late husband online in 2002 so I knew it worked… but online dating as a 50 something is very different. It’s like the wild west out there, full of rude pictures, married men and ghosting. I have the battle scars to prove it. 

I knew there had to be a better way. I thought there must be an app for widows and widowers as I honestly believe we are uniquely placed to understand each other. If you walk in my house, it is full of photos of Andy and my heart is full of memories. It takes a big person to not be intimidated by that and understand and respect it so I looked on the app store but was surprised to find there wasn’t anything!

I’m a natural entrepreneur so I saw an opportunity and seized it. I registered the domains and started to raise funding. Several of my investors are actually widows and widowers and WAY members – evidence of the strength of the WAY community. 

We launched in September 2023 and incredibly we now have over 7,000 members. We are more than a dating site, we a community and offer free-to-attend events with free drinks monthly around the UK.

Dating as a widow is complex and confusing. We aim to normalise it and provide practical help, support and advice.

BBC Morning Live

Can you tell us why you decided to support WAY through Chapter 2 and how this will work?

WAY was the natural choice as our chosen charity to support. I’m a huge believer in doing good with business and we recognise the incredible support WAY offers, which we can’t and won’t every try to replicate. 

We will raise money at our events with donation buckets. I’m not a marathon running kind of girl but I credit WAY in all PR and media we do, when I can. And my events agency has offered event support free of charge.

I’m also doing a stand up comedy course later this year, raising money for WAY. I have found being widowed an incredibly heart breaking and devasting experience. One of my ways of coping has been through using dark humour to try and make me and others smile and help those around me realise I am strong, I won’t break and I can have good days amongst the bad ones… 


BBC Morning Live

Nicky recently spoke to BBC Morning Live about widowed dating alongside WAY’s Chair Jo Sedley-Burke. You can watch the clip on iPlayer (about 30 minutes into the show on 2 July) here