Since my husband, Kevin, lost his fight against cancer eight years ago, my journey has been one of self-discovery. Having been in such a close partnership for 10 years, I initially felt very exposed and vulnerable.
Kevin had a brain tumour which was diagnosed only nine short months before he died. Although the period leading up to his death was very painful, we were grateful to have time to prepare ourselves and our two small boys for his departure.
I was incredibly well supported by friends and church family in the early days after Kev’s death. They helped with meals and child care, and I was grateful for the space and time this gave me to grieve in my own way. But I knew that before long I would have to adjust to my new situation. It was time to form a new identity, to discover who I was as a person in my own right, rather than as Kevin’s wife.
I attended my first Widowed Young Support (WYS) weekend a little under a year after Kevin died. It was so good to meet others who’d had a similar experience to me, and to learn that there is no correct way to grieve; people grieve in many different ways and over varying timescales. The workshops and advice helped me to see that my struggles and emotions were quite normal, and I left with a very real hope for the future.
The past eight years have not always been easy. I found becoming a lone parent very challenging, but I have learned not to be too tough on myself. I am, after all, being both mum and dad now! I try to keep the channels of communication open with my children, and maintain very short accounts. I have also always tried to make sure I get some regular ‘Mum time’, even if that simply means taking a long bath with a glass of wine and a good book! Time out is crucial.
Going to college played a huge part in forming my new identity, giving me a greater inner confidence
Three years ago I decided that I would like to train as a midwife. School had not been an easy time for me and I left with very few qualifications, so in order to apply to do this degree I had to sit GCSE Maths and English, and then complete an Access to Higher Education course. I felt incredibly nervous applying for college, and was very unsure of my capabilities. I have now completed all three courses and have achieved grades far greater than I ever thought possible. Going to college played a huge part in forming my new identity, giving me a greater inner confidence. More importantly, it provided me with the opportunity to meet and form friendships with new people who saw me simply as Fi, not as Kevin’s wife or Chris and Dan’s mum. Taking up a new hobby, attending a course, or joining the gym or an exercise class can be a great way to make new friendships. I still have some great friends dating back to my life with Kevin, but friendships can change when two become one and I am really enjoying my new-found friends.
In November last year I attended another WYS weekend and was really encouraged by how much I had ‘moved forward’ in my own journey. It was, as ever, an amazing weekend and a time to reflect and draw advice from those around me. Alongside my faith, WYS has been a great encouragement to both me and my children and I hope that reading my story has also given you some hope.