When Celine (51) and Hannah (38) met three years ago, they were both consumed by grief, but they credit their friendship as marking the beginning of their recovery. Their obviously strong bond was forged out of a shared grief that few can comprehend.
They met through an organization called Widowed and Young (WAY), a Scottish national support group set up to help people who have lost their partners. Celine’s husband, Peter, died when she was just 44 and Hannah lost Jamie, her partner for 12 years, to esophageal cancer in 2015.
WAY is the only national charity in the UK providing peer–to–peer support to young widowed people – married or not, with or without children – as they adjust to life after the death of a partner. The organization now has almost 3,000 members across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and is hosting a series of gatherings this year, they call “Big Picnics.”
These are a chance for people who have been widowed young to get together with other bereaved families – and for non-members to find out how the charity works.
“It was such a relief to finally meet someone who just got it,” Celine says. “Hannah and I have laughed – and cried – together.”
“We can all go out for dinner and someone at some point someone will be crying into their glass of wine, but it’s okay. Nobody feels awkward, as we’ve all been there,” Celine says. “No matter what stage of loss you’re at, it never goes away. A song could come on that played at your wedding, or you pick up your partner’s favourite meal at the supermarket – and then you realise they’re not there anymore.”