Walking this WAY: Ed's Story

May 2024

Long-time WAY Widowed and Young member Ed has walked hundreds of miles and raised more than £10,000 for WAY since his wife Heather died 11 years ago. With more fundraising challenges in store in 2024, Ed talks about how walking has helped him – and what motivates him to keep going when the going gets tough…

How long have you been a member of WAY and how has the charity helped you?

I joined WAY at the end of 2013, two years and two months after I’d lost my wife Heather. That far into my journey I thought I was handling the loss OK, but I then hit a wall of depression and reached out to join WAY. I can honestly say that WAY has helped me immeasurably with my grief and the power of peer-to-peer support with other people who just “get it” is worth its weight in gold.

What would you say to other young widows and widowers is the most helpful thing about joining WAY?

No one understands just how brutal losing your partner at a young age can be. Family and friends will try their best to support you but, unless they’ve experienced it themselves, they really can’t imagine how it feels. For instance, I knew my wife was dying but even in the final days didn’t realise just how much it would hurt after she’d gone.

Young widows often find their friend group getting smaller as close friends struggle with what to say or the time it takes to grieve. WAY provides a ready-made group of people who, through peer-to-peer support, understand what it’s like to go through the loss of your partner.

How have the friendships you’ve made through joining WAY helped?

Eleven years after joining WAY, I’m still good friends with many of the WAYers I met in my first few years of membership; I met up with some of them just a few weeks ago. Over the years I’ve travelled across the UK and Europe with WAYers to meet up, shared holidays and even been as far as Brazil and Argentina.

Some fellow WAYers have been mad enough to join me on an ultra walk, including the London to Brighton, Thames Path and Chiltern 50….

How has walking helped you since your wife died?

When you’re first widowed the world can suddenly lose its colour – the one who brought the colour has gone. Getting out walking helps you see the colour again, especially if the sun is out or you’re walking through somewhere beautiful.

I’ve found walking is a great way to take time out and be mindful. Forget the headphones, forget the smart phone and you’ll find your mind slips into a more relaxed state as you simply put one foot in front of the other. Free of distractions it’s a great way to work through your grief in a slow but purposeful way.

How many miles have you walked and pounds have you raised for WAY over the years?

I think I’ve worked it out to 8 organised long-distance walks covering just under 330 miles for WAY. The two walks left this year will add another 80 miles to this total. I’m not quite a Proclaimer yet, well unless you include all the miles done training!

For WAY I’ve raised more than £7,000 (as of 14 May 2024) through my walking!

What motivates you to keep on going when the going gets tough?

Usually because the finish is closer than walking back to the start! But failing that I’m motivated by not wanting to let my supporters down, not wanting to let my late wife Heather down. The difference the money will make to WAY also motivates me – and because, in some very (very) small part, when it comes to walking, I’m quite stubborn. And I like the medals they give you!

Ed took on a 24-hour 49 mile challenge around the Lake District on a hot weekend in May to raise funds for Bowel Cancer UK and the Willow Foundation, as well as for WAY. 

He told us:  "I had hoped to finish in under 20 hours but the skies were clear and the sune was on overtime reaching 24/25 degrees. Walking up the two biggest hills on the route - Loughrigg and Wansfell Pike - with all the heat I'd taken on was horrid and my pace dropped. The second half, although challenging with boggy ground, loose stones underfoot and some sneaky hills was easier than the first half. With the night came cooler air and the chance to speed up a bit, despite being tired. I was really happy to see the finish line at 4am and ran over it!"

Fundraiser Ed walking in Lake District
Ed crosses finishing line

Ed's 4am finish