Rob shares his story for Men's Health Week

June 2023

WAY volunteer Rob shares how the online world helped him to make new friends and stay connected after his wife died for Men's Health Week.


It was in November 2020 that my wife Lorraine died after a year of cancer treatment, and during the second Covid-19 lockdown in England. I wasn’t totally isolated as I had both my grown-up son Dan still living with me, and our dog Penny. I was able to contact friends and family with phone calls, text messages or socially distanced walks. As time went on though, I could see that support dwindling as people went back to their lives.

I first heard of the peer support network WAY Widowed and Young from Lorraine’s best friend, as her sister had also been a member. Never much of a joiner, I put myself on the mailing list to find out more. That Christmas, though, on one of many sleepless nights, I stumbled across a blog from a young widow only a few weeks ahead of me on her journey. Emma wrote so powerfully and honestly that I felt compelled to respond, and in our email conversation she asked if I was a member of WAY. That exchange of messages convinced me to sign up. The worst had already happened. I had nothing to lose.

It was in the New Year of 2021 that I finally clicked “Join” on to a New Member Zoom call, wondering what I was letting myself in for. I was used to video conferencing on Teams for work, but this was going to be something far more personal. Yet it was a lifesaver. In the cold and dark of that winter lockdown, unable to visit anyone, I found the most amazing group of people. We were scattered around the country, from Scotland down to Kent, Bristol across to London, yet the host Kirsty brought us together in a safe space to share our stories and support each other. For the first time I could explain what I was going through and be understood by everyone who was there.

The power of WAY

After a couple of weeks, another member of our Zoom crew worked out that our respective stories had so much in common – same hospice, same funeral directors, same grief counsellor. With all the people joining in across the whole country, we realised that we lived less than ten miles apart. Janet and I met up for a chat at the cemetery where Chris and Lorraine are interred, and I’m honoured to be able to call her a friend ever since. That was the power of WAY.  Later in the year, Janet organised a trip to York where our cohort could finally meet up in person, rather than online, which was a truly special event.

I continued to join the New Member Zooms on each Saturday, until Wednesday evening sessions became available, which were more convenient. I stopped attending when I was about 13 months in, conscious that I was in a different place, and others more recently bereaved needed that space more than I did. 

When I was offered the opportunity to become an online volunteer to host the sessions, I jumped at it. 

"I knew what a lifeline those calls had been for me, and I wanted to give something back to WAY by ensuring this service would continue to be available for others."

I have always been a good listener, and thought some of my own experience might help someone else. It’s a huge privilege to welcome new widows and widowers in the rawness of early grief and see them form the same kind of friendships and connections as I had, gradually growing into their new selves as the weeks and months go by. There are also plans afoot to create a similar format for those over a year into their grief, and I am adding my support to the members who are developing this new initiative.

The Internet: a force for good

I work for a major manufacturer in the West country, in the IT Applications team, so for me the Internet is a tool to be used, though with its own dangers. It reflects the worst of humanity, yet I’ve also seen the best as well, as WAY members make friendships and support each other. I never used social media before I was widowed, as it never seemed to have much to offer. I joined Facebook purely to participate in the main WAY Facebook group and some of the sub-groups. I have found it useful for giving encouragement to new members and keeping tabs on events, rather than telling everyone what a great life I’m having. These are tools for us to control rather than the other way round and keeping that perspective in mind I’ve had no bad experiences so far.  


WAY Ambassador Norman has also shared how staying connected has helped him following the loss of this wife Helen.

Read Norman's story