On International Friendship Day, we wanted to share with you some stories of the friendship that have helped WAY Widowed and Young’s members to navigate their grief…
One of our Kent members, Julie (back left in photo) has formed some strong online friendships with fellow WAY members in her local area since she was widowed seven months ago. Recently, she has been able to meet up with her WAY friends in person for the first time, after taking part in virtual meet ups during lockdown.
“Meeting up with people who I had only chatted to online was very strange initially,” she told us. “With the local group we’d only ever chatted online so none of us even really knew what each other looked like. Our first meet was a picnic at our local park and we were all a little anxious initially (how do we even find each other??), but once we met up and started chatting it was great. There were lots of tears at our first meet as we shared our stories but the support and understanding we can all give each other is wonderful.
None of us feel like the odd one out and there is no awkwardness. We all get that we can have moments of sadness and happiness at the same time. We can talk openly and honestly. Our local group have met up several times now, and in fact are meeting again Friday and again the following weekend.
My WAY friends have honestly been my lifeline these last 7 months, and to finally get some proper hugs in person was just the cherry in the cake.”
Kent friends meet in person
New members meet up in person for the first time
Julie also recently travelled to Edinburgh to meet up with some of our Scottish WAY members, who she had met online at the regular New Member Zoom Meet Ups that started up during lockdown.
Julie told us: “We had all chatted on the Zoom calls for several months so when we finally all came together it was like meeting up with old friends. We had an amazing dinner together, an overnight stay and then a wander around the city for a few hours the following morning before heading home. It was so wonderful to meet my Zoom friends in person and I can’t wait for the next meet up.”
Scottish WAY volunteer Kirsty (left in photo below), who coordinated the Zoom meets and the in person get together, said: “It was amazing! It didn't feel strange at all. In fact, it felt like we had known each other for years. We laughed, we cried, we made new memories and are planning our next meet up.”
Kirsty added: “These friendships give me a chance to have people in my life who ‘get it’. No explanation is ever needed if I cry and I also don't feel guilty for laughing – they get that it is possible to do both, often within minutes of each other! They are friends, not WAY friends.”
New members meet in Scotland
Saturday night meet up goes offline for first time
A group of Scottish WAY members also started up a Saturday Night Blether on Zoom that helped them to get through lockdown. Recently they met up for a face to face gathering for the first time too (see below).
“After 15 months chatting on the Zoom Saturday Night Blether it was great to finally meet these three lovely ladies in person,” said Kathryn (back right), WAY volunteer for Grampian Highlands and Islands.
North Scotland friends meet up
Finding other people who understand
Last but not least, we wanted to share with you a blog written by WAY member Sam, who exlplains how his friendship with another young widowed dad has helped him to navigate widowhood and find his way to a community of other people who understand.
"His support, the conversations we were having and the hope that he provided me meant that whilst I was in the midst of dealing with this loneliness that isn't cured by company, I began to feel less alone. We began meeting up with the kids and going for walks in the park and it started to feel as though the support had become a two way street.
It was Ben's gesture of selflessness, the comfort that was provided by our conversations and the openness in which we could talk about grief and bereavement and it's impacts on our respective lives that eventually inspired me to sign up and join WAY Widowed and Young, persuading Ben to join with me too. I felt as though I wanted to pay forward his kindness and help others to feel less alone, but also that I might be able to replicate that same comfort multiple times over by becoming part of a support community of people that 'get it'.
Much like other friends I have made via WAY as our lives have grown around our grief, Ben and I have both started to fill our time in an effort to try and rebuild our lives and our messages and park visits are a lot less frequent, because, ultimately we don't need to check in on each other as much. But, in me he has a friend for life! Ben still provides me with hope now as I watch how he continues to rebuild his life positively, provide for his son and keeps smiling along the way and I cannot express enough of a gratitude for the help and support he gave me, without even realising what he was doing."
Read Sam's full blog at Making Lemonade here...
Sam with his daughter Molly