More than a friendship, a lifeline in someone who could truly understand
I've spoken before about an unnamed chap, who became widowed roughly 4 months before me and despite his own grief extended a hand of support. So when I was asked if I'd write a piece for WAY Widowed and Young on #InternationalDayofFriendship, I was only too happy as it meant I could talk more about Ben and how much his friendship meant to me when I was in the darkest of places.
My immediate experience after losing Lauren consisted mainly of 3 things:
The obvious grief response of inconsolable sadness.
A loss of all hope, which stopped me from being able to see past each day.
The most severe feeling of loneliness and isolation, despite being surrounded by an amazing support network of friends and family.
But, as I was realising that there was little anybody could do and certainly not a word that anybody could say that was going to ease any of these horrendous feelings, I started talking to Ben.
Ben had reached out to me a few days before Lauren died as he'd seen on social media that some of our mutual friends had shared our crowd funding pages, the information about our journey and realised that it sounded very familiar. I'm not sure he truly understood then, the difference he was about to make to me over the coming months.
Between our first message and Lauren dying, Ben shared with me the story of how he'd lost his fiancé Lydia a few months earlier, after she too had been diagnosed with a secondary spread of breast cancer. He offered me advice and guidance around the practical things that he'd encountered and charities that had supported him and his little boy Jack. It was obvious that our predicaments were relatively similar and little did I know that this would prove to be one of the most valuable things that I never knew I needed.
Earlier I wrote about the 3 feelings I experienced immediately after Lauren passed away. Dealing with the grief, loneliness and a complete lack of hope was torturous to say the least. But as the screenshot of my message to him shows, not all hope was lost. Because in Ben I'd found a beacon of light in the darkness, a lifeline even and although I couldn't see how I was going to survive, I had this living example of the fact that you can survive. Ben was able to offer me a comfort that no one else could, because he'd trodden the steps on this same path before me and was still going.
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.
Thank you Ben!
Thanks for reading and being a part of our journey!