Our Widowed Young Befriender Heather Bond, shares how connecting with others who understand has helped her move forward on her grief journey to a place of hope.
It was 2010. Life was very good. I was happily married with two children aged 6 and 9. Denis was a hardworking and loving husband who doted on our kids. We loved nothing more than spending our free time together and had just made exciting plans to spend Easter in Edinburgh.
At the end of February a stomach bug hit our house. One by one we all suffered its effects but bounced back after a few days. Denis struggled more than the rest of us. He experienced various pains and felt nauseated on a daily basis. His GP felt that he simply hadn’t given himself time to recover due to work pressure.
Resting didn’t help and he gradually got worse and worse. Instead of flying to Scotland on Good Friday evening we were sitting in A&E. He was admitted on Easter Saturday and a scan was performed on Easter Monday.
That afternoon a doctor and nurse came into his hospital room and they told us Denis had secondary cancer in his liver, which was terminal and there was nothing they could do to help him. Words are inadequate to describe the shock and disbelief I felt hearing this, and my brain struggled to process this information. How could my fit and healthy forty-four year old husband have just received such a chilling diagnosis?
Denis wanted to spend whatever time he had left with me and our kids. But sadly this never happened, he died in hospital on 11 April just six days after receiving the fatal news.
My world fell apart. Life was overwhelming and felt completely pointless. I was totally lost, gripped with fear and questions.
How could I raise my kids singlehandedly?
What would our future be like?
How could I go on living without Denis?
While on the outside I probably looked very strong, inside I was numb and in shock. But I hadn’t been given a choice – I had to keep living, even though the heartache was like nothing I had experienced before.
As each wave of grief hit, I felt like I was sinking deeper and deeper. Initially I had to just live hour by hour, then day by day, until things slowly started to improve.
I felt really isolated and lonely so I decided to join Facebook and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I soon connected with others who understood how hard the grief journey was and I realised it wasn’t just me who felt angry, scared, lost and a whole host of other out-of-control emotions. The groups were my lifeline, especially in the early days. In 2017 I became an administrator for one of these groups. I loved contacting potential new members and offering support and help within the group when appropriate.
A widowed friend told me about the wonderful service that Care for the Family provide to those widowed young, so I attended one of the weekend residential retreats that same year. During that weekend I gained a whole fresh perspective on grief. It felt such a safe place to share with others who understood first-hand the challenges I was facing. I also met wonderful people who I know will be friends for life, connected through the most painful of life experiences.
After that weekend I was asked to train to be a Care for the Family Widowed Young Befriender. I love volunteering with Care for the Family and also did some further training with Care for the Family to help lead support days.
I find that reaching out to help others who have been widowed young to offer them a glimmer of hope when they are at their lowest, as a befriender and on the support days, makes the heartache of losing Denis feel not quite as pointless.
Learning to live without my beloved Denis and his physical presence has been the most challenging experience of my life. There have been many low points, but significantly there have also been lovely times along the way too.
I’ve been privileged to see our kids grow into amazing, independent and resilient young adults. I have been blessed with a wonderful new relationship with a widower, who also has the same passion for helping others.
Being a young widow is a life I wouldn’t have chosen. I am on a different journey, but I’ve found it can still be good and rewarding. I have hope for the future.
If you have been affected by this and need support through your own grief journey, please book on to our online support events.