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пятница, 31 марта 2017 г.

"We’re not perfect, but we’re beautiful"

These four super-women show that real beauty isn’t just about model looks, but courage, bravery and the ability to inspire others

'I refuse to let my burns hold me back'



Raiche Mederick, 16, is a media student who lives with her mum in Romford, Essex. She says:
"I was 18 months old when a house fire left me with third-degree burns over 70 per cent of my body. My brother Tyrel, then three, was playing in my room and accidentally dropped a lit match he'd somehow got hold of on to a flammable blanket in my cot. If it hadn't been for Mum dragging us outside a few minutes later, we'd both have died.

The women who prove real beauty isn't just skin deep
Tyrel was also badly injured with 30 per cent burns.
I was on a life-support machine for four months and needed round-the-clock care. I can't remember the accident, but Mum's told me Tyrel and I needed so much medical attention, the Billericay Burns Unit in Essex where we were treated was unable to accept any more patients as staff tried to save us. Thanks to their care, we both survived.
But surviving was only the start. As well as having five of my toes amputated, I've endured 30 skin graft operations over the past 14 years. The accident has left me with a facial disfigurement and permanent scars on my body. My head was so badly burnt that I lost most of my hair.

While I've never known anything other than the reflection I see in the mirror, others aren't so accepting. I can't walk down my own street without strangers gawping or, worse, looking scared of me.
When I was six, mum took me and Tyrel, now 18, to Disneyland. It was supposed to be the holiday of a lifetime, but when I got there I felt frightened and self-conscious. I'd never been surrounded by such huge crowds before and I found their horrified looks incredibly upsetting.

Raiche at Disneyland
At primary school, my classmates avoided holding hands with me during PE and didn't want to sit next to me. This only got worse at secondary school when children used to point and laugh. But Mum always told me to hold my head high and be proud of who I am.
I've never let my scars hold me back. After finishing my GCSEs, I secured a place to study media at college and I'm determined to become a music journalist. I also enjoy dressing up in the latest trends. If it's a special occasion I'll wear a wig, but I usually cover up my head with a scarf.
All of my friends have boyfriends, but I've never had one. I'm not ready for that step yet, but I definitely want a relationship in the future.
I've never blamed Tyrel for what happened, although he blames himself and that's affected his confidence. I'm much more comfortable with my appearance than he is.
For 10 years, I've volunteered at the Burned Children's Club in Essex. It provides rehabilitation support for young burns victims and their families. I've helped raise £500,000 through charity events and I also offer support to children wanting to know the reality of living with scars. It was a real boost to my confidence to win a News of the World Children's Champions Award for this charity work in March. And I was thrilled when Sharon Osbourne offered to be a patron of the charity after meeting me at the event.
I think true beauty comes from the inside, so I don't worry about my appearance. It's more important that I help other burns victims feel confident about their looks."

'Losing a leg didn't stop my beauty queen dreams'


Chloe's inspired other young amputees
Chloe Jones, 20, is a textiles student from Nottingham. She says:
"Just because I've lost part of my left leg doesn't mean I'm not still a beautiful woman. I proved that in May when I became the first amputee on the catwalk at the Miss Nottingham beauty pageant.
Six months before, I was walking home from university when I was hit by a car that had mounted the pavement after being shunted by a van. Lying under the wheels, waves of excruciating pain hit me. 'I've broken my leg,' I panicked. But when I looked down, what I saw took my breath away. There was blood everywhere and the lower part of my left leg had been almost totally severed. I could see the bone sticking out and my limb was just hanging on by some muscle.
I began to cry hysterically. Although I could feel the pain, it was hard to comprehend the mangled mess was my leg. When I arrived at the hospital, a doctor told me that I needed an amputation.
As I was wheeled into theatre my mind was racing. I thought about amputees I'd seen on TV and struggled to get my head round the fact I was going to become one of them.
Coming round from the anaesthetic, I asked to see how my leg looked. The sooner I did it, the sooner I could start coming to terms with what had happened. Pulling back the blanket on my bed, I saw my knee wrapped in bandages. Below that, there was nothing. Just a space where my leg had been.

Chloe with her fellow beauty queens
At first I felt very low. Would my life ever be normal again? Would I be able to walk? Would a boy ever fancy me? When people visited me and sat on the bed where my leg used to be, I'd cry. And I suffered from 'phantom' pains in the part that had been amputated.
The van drove off after the accident and the driver was never found. I felt angry that I had been left disabled and the person who caused it would never be punished. But as I looked at other people on my ward, depressed from losing limbs, I realised I couldn't let this ruin my life.
I was in a relationship at the time and, although my boyfriend Tony, 19, was a great support, we broke up just before I left hospital, two months after the accident. He was worried my injury would stop me enjoying a normal life and his fears pushed us apart, although we're still friends.
At the moment I use a wheelchair but I'm hoping to be fitted for a prosthetic leg soon, and my doctor has promised me I can get one that will allow me to wear my fave heels.
Entering Miss Nottingham was my way of showing how far I've come from those early dark days. It seemed like a really positive way of proving to myself that I could do whatever I wanted, even though I'm an amputee.
I loved taking part, wearing evening gowns and sexy nightclub wear, and wheeling myself down the catwalk in my chair. And I won the title of Miss Charity for the fund-raising I'd done for a local children's hospice.
Since I took part, young amputees around the world have contacted me through Facebook to say I've inspired them, which is fantastic. While what happened to me was devastating, I've found a courage I never knew I had.
I might have had my leg amputated, but my life isn't over. In fact, it feels like it's just beginning."

'Baring my body told the world I'd survived'




Sharon Adams, 46, is single and lives in Reading. She has four children - David, 27, Emma, 25, Lisa, 24, and Kirsty, 22. She says:
"Not many women my age would post topless pictures of themselves on Facebook - especially not after four children! But the photos were my way of showing the world I'd survived cancer. Baring my mastectomy scar was me saying: 'I'm still alive, still here and still beautiful'.
I'd never done anything like it before, but I wanted to strike a chord with other women who'd had a mastectomy and encourage them to be proud of their bodies too, while at the same time getting others to check their breasts.
I talked it through with my daughters, who all thought it was a great idea. My daughter Kirsty took the photos.
After putting them on my Facebook profile for all my friends to see, I received messages and phone calls telling me what a brave, inspiring act it was. So it was with disbelief that I read a message from Facebook saying they had removed the images because they were judged to be 'sexual and abusive'. I didn't know if I could appeal their decision and felt furious and helpless at the same time.
But nothing could have prepared me for the reaction of my friends, family and complete strangers who set up a Facebook group campaigning for my pictures to be put back online. Almost 1,000 people joined as my story spread across the web. Facebook eventually retracted its comments and I was able to re-post the images.
I'm now in touch with a lot of women who have had breast cancer, including two who had lumps investigated after seeing my photos. Knowing I've made a difference, and hopefully saved some lives, makes me so glad I had the courage to post those pictures.
It seems a world away from when I was first diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in January 2009. I immediately decided to have a mastectomy - I wanted the cancer out of my body as soon as possible. I had the op a month later, and as soon as I came round from the anaesthetic, I went to the bathroom to see what I looked like.
Nothing prepares you for seeing the body you've known all your life permanently changed. My right breast was gone. In its place was an angry red scar and my body looked lopsided, incomplete.
At first, I felt shocked and overwhelmed. But, after 10 minutes, a sense of relief washed over me. The cancer threatening my life was gone. My children weren't going to lose their mum to this disease. That was what really mattered.
After the initial shock wore off, I realised I did still feel attractive. I wasn't any less beautiful - and I was still me. In a few weeks, I'll have my other breast removed too because I don't want to give the cancer a chance to return. I'm not nervous. I know I can live happily without my breasts.
My scars are my battle wounds. They're a symbol of my fight for survival, and a reminder of how lucky I am to have won."

'Bullies made me bald - now I'm a model'



Shanea Gaiger, 39, from Barry, South Wales, lives with her husband John, 39, and their four daughters, Jade, 17, Derryn, 15, Tasmin, 11, and Mercy, five. She says:
"Posing in front of the camera for a modelling job, it's hard to believe that just five years ago I wouldn't even look at my reflection in the mirror unless I was wearing a wig.
I started losing my hair at eight years old after being badly bullied at school. Doctors diagnosed me with stress-related alopecia and by the time I was 11, I was left with just a couple of tufts. My baldness gave the bullies another reason to pick on me and my school years were miserable. There weren't the same wigs available for children then as there are now, so I had to make do with thick hairbands and headscarves to hide my head.
As a teenager, I had no confidence and was certain I'd never get married and have kids. Who'd find me attractive?
My hair briefly grew back when I was around 14, and for the first time in years, I felt normal. I even had a boyfriend for a while, although it wasn't serious. But when I was 19, my hair began to fall out again. I was devastated.
Then, when I was 20, I met John. We were both in the Army - I worked in admin and he was a soldier - and there was an immediate spark. I explained about my alopecia straightaway and showed him my head. He told me I was beautiful and that he loved me, not my hair, but I couldn't believe him. I didn't love myself - how could anyone else?

Shanea now does modelling
Even when we married three months after meeting, with me wearing a hat, I still found it hard to believe he could find me attractive. For years, I hid under wigs. But after my youngest child Mercy was born five years ago, I realised I didn't want my girls growing up seeing their mum ashamed of how she looked.
I decided to lay myself bare for the first time ever and asked a photographer friend to take some photos of me naked and without my wig. When I saw the end result, I cried. Having wasted years hating myself, I finally felt beautiful.
After the photographer put the photos on his website, I started getting enquiries about modelling, and since then I've worked on everything from posing for a nude portrait to appearing in a fine arts magazine.

While in the past I'd hide at the sight of a camera, now I love showing off my baldness. Being bald is who I am. And I'm not going to hide ever again."
This article has 12 comments
Well done to all of you, but I was like Sharon in Aug 08, after having had the same. Aged 42.
It has been sheer hell, but after Reconstructive surgery, then having it removed after 1 year,Ii now have implants in and the scar looks alot better after applying oil each day.
I wear my prettiest bras every day and have learnt to except it.
My tumours were caught weeks away from spreading after I checked myself for 9 YEARS, as I lost my mum to the awful disease in July 01.
July 10th, I am CELEBRATING AS 2 years since Diagnosis. I am winning at this so far.
Well done for the feature. 
By Sue Helps.. Posted June 13 2010 at 6:55 PM.
Wow, you women are so brave and inspiring. Thank you, NOTW, for featuring such positive stories. 
By Cookie.. Posted June 12 2010 at 7:45 PM.
All brave Ladies and all beautiful within, I would be proud to be in their presence. And I'm sorry for all the ignorance you have faced from small minded people, who don't deserve to be on the same streets as you.. thank you..
By Kenn Thorogood.. Posted June 12 2010 at 11:20 AM.
A big hug to all the women. X
By ninna.. Posted June 10 2010 at 10:12 PM.
Well done! Thank you for sharing. Chloe still looks stunning!
By Bill.. Posted June 6 2010 at 11:12 PM.
I am 38 years old and was born with a tumour on the right side of my face. I have had 12 operations. I would like to share my experiences with others and how strong and confident the effect has made me.
By chris stitson.. Posted June 6 2010 at 6:16 PM.
i have got vitiligo, it has been with me since i was about 4 years old. i have been through different feelings with it over the years. especially when it was really noticable, dark brown patches with my white skin. i am now nearly all white, my hair still is brown, with some grey in. it is lovely to know we are all different in life, we all get insecure with who we are. sometimes it is difficult to except the way we are. especially when you see perfection in papers with people with lots of money to improve themselves. but money cannot always buy everything, eg, happiness,stopping you from getting older, also health. when i feel a bit down with my looks i try to remind myself the lovely life i have. you are welcome to contact me any time, if you would like to do an article about being pale with vitiligo, or about living with vitiligo, and what it is.
By lorraine vincent age 38.. Posted June 6 2010 at 4:51 PM.
Truly beautiful and inspirational all the ladies should be applauded.
Thank-you for the article
By Ben.. Posted June 6 2010 at 2:16 PM.
I'd be proud to date any of these brave ladies!
By Ken Clark.. Posted June 6 2010 at 9:35 AM.
I don't judge a book by its cover,
Or the size of my next lover.

For I seek the beauty within,
And not just that upon the skin.

For there is beauty in all I see,
Though some would disagree.

Fortunately, they are but a few,
With ignorance in what they do.
By James Stonier.. Posted June 6 2010 at 7:47 AM.
I'm so glad these girls are so beautiful and brave to live their life despite their small setbacks. They all should be very proud with themselves.
By Turry.. Posted June 6 2010 at 2:39 AM.
thanks ladies for sharing.

четверг, 30 марта 2017 г.

Find my mate A DATE! We answered her best friend’s SOS to make over her love life

Melissa Stewart’s dating track record is enough to send Cupid to the dole queue. But could Fabulous fare any better? We answered her best friend’s SOS to make over her love life

THE MATCHMAKER



Kat Davison, 29, lives in north London and works in publishing. She says:
Matchmaker Kat (left) with dater Mel
"Think of a dating disaster and Mel's had it. From the guy who lunged at her with his tongue just a few minutes into their first date, to the bloke who spent the entire evening ignoring her and chatting to some drunk Australian about rugby. She's been there, got the 'hideous hook-up' T-shirt!
We always have a giggle about it, but I can tell she's disappointed when another date doesn't work out. So I figured I might have better luck picking a man for her! That's why I called Fabulous - I knew they'd help me find her a hottie, and give her the confidence to go for it. Plus, I thought it would be a lot of fun getting to choose Mel a date from a line-up of 10 Mr Maybes.
In the past, she's tried everything to find her Mr Right, from Mysinglefriend.com (I wrote her profile!), to wine tasting and lonely hearts ads. Despite this, she's still optimistic - she's not the sort of person who'll ever settle for second best.
Mel's a brilliant friend and great fun to be with, but I worry this fun side is all that potential boyfriends see. She lacks confidence on dates and says she's rubbish at flirting - she's more likely to crack a joke than bat her eyelashes.
I've lost count of the number of times she's called me to say a boy wants to be her friend rather than her boyfriend.
I'm hoping a Fabulous makeover will give Mel the confidence to try a sexier look on dates - she needs to unleash her inner flirt. Then I know she can seal the dating deal."
Mel is primped and preened

THE DATER



Time for some Dutch courage!
Melissa Stewart, 28, lives in Bristol and works in publishing. She says:
"My mantelpiece is groaning with invitations to friends' weddings this summer, and for once I'd like to not be the single girl stuck at a table of smug couples.
The last time I had a serious relationship was four years ago, with a guy I met while doing a postgrad course at uni. It fizzled out after eight months, when we finished our courses and moved to different cities for work.
I've been happily single since then, throwing myself into my career. But recently, as friends have begun to settle down, I've really wanted to meet my Mr Right. And boy, have I tried hard to meet him!


Stylist Lucie helps Mel pick an outfit
First, I tried speed dating - but it was so unrealistic. It's ridiculously intense, and you can't possibly make a judgement on a potential partner in just three minutes.
Internet dating seemed like a good idea, but the drawback is everyone's guilty of overselling themselves - me included. I've felt under pressure to live up to my online profile, or I've been disappointed when the guy I meet in real life doesn't match up to his.
The personal ad I placed did lead to a few nice dates, however the chemistry just wasn't there.
I worry I'm just not good at the whole 'dating' thing. When I'm nervous or trying to impress a guy, I tend to rely on my sense of humour. I think this can make me come across as quite a 'matey' girl - one boys want to take to the pub for a pint rather than romance.
Ready to go!
I'm also quite feisty and have strong opinions. Maybe men feel threatened by me.
I'd really like to meet a guy who's fun and doesn't take himself too seriously. Personality's far more important to me than looks, although I am a sucker for a bit of stubble! If I had a 'type' it would be cool indie guys who are really creative and laid-back.
I'm always up for trying something new, so having a makeover and going on a blind date picked out by Kat is another dating challenge to add to my résumé! Plus, she knows me better than anyone so I trust her to pick me someone nice.
I'm a bit nervous, but more excited, and I can't wait to get some tips from the stylist and relationship coach on improving my dating technique. Who knows what will happen?"
THE GUY



Kat chose Richard Shrimplin, 29, as Melissa's blind date. He lives in south London and is an architect. Kat says:
"Fabulous gave me a choice of 10 men to pair Mel off with, along with a photo of each one and a dating history.
Some I discounted based on their looks alone - they just weren't Mel's type. Some seemed a bit smooth and full of themselves, which she hates in a guy.
After careful consideration, I chose Richard. He's been single for a couple of months and has tried internet dating, like Mel. Plus he's tall, dark and handsome! He's also an architect, which suggests he has a creative streak."
THE EXPERTS



Before her date, Melissa had a consultation with relationship coach Georgina Burnett (left). She says:

"One of the main things standing in the way of Melissa and a successful relationship is her belief that she's not good enough, and that she's not what guys are looking for.
This feeling of inadequacy is rooted in a lack of confidence in her dating behaviour - caused by a succession of bad dates. She's putting the blame on herself for them not working out, when they probably just weren't the right men for her.
Although she's comfortable in other social occasions, she feels she's too casual on a date, and not flirty enough. She gets nervous and goes into 'mate' not 'date' mode.
Before she met Richard, I worked with Melissa to draw out her femininity. Sitting up straight will make her feel more elegant and making eye contact will give her confidence. I also advised her not to dominate the conversation with jokes and wisecracks.
All of this should help her make a distinction between the person she is on a date and the person she is when she's hanging out with her friends.
By repeating the mantra: 'I'm comfortable and happy with myself' in her head, she should push out some feelings of inadequacy."
For information on Georgina's relationship coaching, see Footprintcoaching.org.uk.
Fabulous stylist Lucie Clifford says:
"Mel has quite a prim and proper approach to dating fashion. Normally, she wears jeans and a blazer or a tea dress and ballet pumps. She never wears heels, and always has her hair down and unstyled.
As the relationship coach had worked on bringing out Melissa's inner elegance, I wanted to reflect that new-found confidence on the outside as well.
Mel's got an amazing figure, which I wanted to show off in tailored clothes. So I chose a monochrome body-con dress with a deep neckline to accentuate her curves. But getting her into a pair of killer four-inch heels took more persuasion - and practice to get her strutting sexily. After adding statement jewellery, a sleek up-do and a set of falsies to flutter, our girl was good to go."
 THE DATE



We sent Melissa and Richard to London's Malmaison Hotel for dinner and drinks.

Richard tries out one of his best one-liners










Mel says: 
"My initial impression of
Richard was: 'Wow - thank you, Kat!' He was gorgeous!
I was really nervous when I arrived at the hotel, but he quickly put me at ease by chatting away and making me laugh. If he had any first-date nerves, they didn't show.
Mel's confidence mantra works a treat
We chatted non-stop over a delicious dinner, and discovered we liked a lot of the same films and books.
Because of my makeover and the chat I'd had with Georgina, I felt more confident than I normally do on a date, and I think that came across.
Richard and I got on really well, and I definitely fancied him. But I'm not sure he fancied me back. Although he was very complimentary about my makeover, I just got the feeling I wasn't his type in the looks department.
Because I live in Bristol and Richard is in London, starting a relationship could be tricky. Logistics is clearly something Kat didn't consider when choosing my date!
But is it love at first sight?
As much as I fancied Richard, I'm sorry to report there wasn't any snogging at the end of our date. We did, however, swap phone numbers. So next time I'm in London, I hope we'll meet up as friends.
One thing that I have learned is Kat's clearly got great taste in men - I'd definitely let her set me up on a blind date again.
With my improved confidence I'm feeling really optimistic about meeting the right guy for me and wowing him with my dating prowess!"
For more information on Malmaison Hotel, London, see Malmaison-london.com.
THE VERDICT



Richard says: "I've never been on a blind date before, but my evening with Melissa was great. She's a very natural girl, easy to be with and a lot of fun. She looked absolutely stunning, stylish and elegant - a definite thumbs-up from me.
However, although we had a really fun evening, the spark just wasn't there for me. But having spent an evening in her company, I don't think it'll be long before she's snapped up!"
Kat's got great taste in men - she can set me up again
Kat says: "Mel sometimes moans she doesn't feel sexy, but after her makeover, she looked hot! She'd never have picked that outfit herself, but it really worked, and when she checked herself out in the mirror, I could see how confident she felt.
After the date, Mel and I met up for a bit of a post-mortem. She said that, at first, she was a bit intimidated by Richard's good looks, but once they got talking she relaxed and started really enjoying his company.
I'm glad I picked well, and I may meddle in Mel's love life again. Next time, though, I'll choose a guy who lives in the same city!"

среда, 29 марта 2017 г.

'Together we learned to love again'

When these women's lives were ripped apart by grief, the friendships they formed gave them hope for the future

From left to right: Johanna, Gemma and Sarah are now good friends

'I felt I betrayed his memory'


Gemma Greenbank, 29, is a secretary and lives in Thulston, Derbyshire with her four-year-old twins, Holly and Ellie-May. She was widowed four years ago.

"When I married Carl in August 2004 and promised to be with him 'till death do us part', I never imagined those words would come true so quickly.
Just two years later, I wept as I watched him take his last breath and felt his hand go limp in mine. He'd lost his battle with the disease that he'd fought twice before.
Cancer had been a part of our lives since we first met in 2002 and Carl was in remission after treatment for leukaemia.
Soon after, he said he'd always wanted children, but had been left infertile by chemotherapy. However, he'd had some sperm frozen so he could try for a family when he was ready.
Some women would have run for the hills. Not me. I was already in love with Carl. Nothing could change my feelings for him.
We married less than a year later after he proposed on my 22nd birthday at the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
A few months after our wedding, we started IVF to try for a baby. Our third cycle was successful, but by the time we found out, Carl was in intensive care with a serious chest infection.
Thankfully, he pulled through and a few weeks later we went for an early pregnancy scan. As a heartbeat pulsed on the screen, Carl's hand tightened around mine. Then a second dot flickered to life beside it - we were having twins!
But as my bump started to grow, Carl's health faltered. He kept getting chest infections and was always on antibiotics or in hospital.

Carl with newborns Holly and Ellie-May
Doctors explained that the bone marrow he'd received to treat his leukaemia was attacking his lungs. He needed another transplant, but he was too weak for surgery. There was nothing more they could do. The handsome, strong man I'd married just months earlier became grey, and needed oxygen 24 hours a day.
Still, he came to every scan and read all the baby books with me. Then, when our daughters, Holly and Ellie-May, were born by Caesarean on May 11, 2006, weighing 5lb and 5lb 1oz, Carl was the first to hold them both. 'This is a new chapter of hope for us,' he smiled, kissing my cheek.
I tried to believe it was true. But once the girls arrived, Carl's fight disappeared. I often wonder if he hung on just long enough to meet his daughters.
Within two weeks Carl was so frail he couldn't get out of bed. He was just skin and bone and was too weak to feed himself, let alone cuddle his daughters. I felt helpless.
In July, he was transferred to hospital. One night he said to me: 'You know I won't be here to see the girls through school, don't you?'
I just smiled and told him to be positive, to stay strong. We never talked about him dying. From then on, Carl slipped in and out of consciousness. He died on July 28, 2006, aged 31. Our girls were just 11 weeks old.
With my new friends I could be honest about how I felt
At first I was numb. Then came the crashing, overwhelming grief. I don't know how I'd have functioned without our babies. When the twins were asleep, the silence closed in around me. I was 24, a widow and a single mum. How was I going to cope?
After the funeral I looked for support groups, and came across the WAY (Widowed And Young) Foundation, which helps men and women whose partners have died. I began chatting to other widows and widowers online.
I didn't want to worry my family with how low I was feeling, but with my new friends I could be honest about the darkness I really felt. They shared their stories and reassured me that's perfectly normal.
Some members spoke about dating again, though I wasn't sure if I'd ever be ready for that. Then, in April 2007, I met Justin online. His wife Jacinth had died from cystic fibrosis earlier that year, aged just 26.

Gemma married Justin last year
At first, we just chatted about our lives, and how we were coping with our loss. Then we met in person on a WAY weekend event.
I was surprised to feel an attraction to him. He was warm and kind, and friendship blossomed.
When he asked me out to dinner a year after Carl's death, I felt guilty that somehow I was betraying his memory. But we realised we couldn't change what had happened - we had to carry on with our lives and try to find happiness. Slowly a relationship developed.
I was nervous about telling Carl's parents about Justin, but they were pleased for us. Justin and I got married last September and we're expecting a baby in August. The girls love him and often call him Daddy.
There are pictures of Carl everywhere at home. He'll never be forgotten. He's their father, my lost love and will always be a special part of our family."
'I was a bride, then a widow within a year'


Sarah Wilkinson, 34, a property developer from Abingdon, Oxfordshire, was widowed in 2005.

Sarah has found support from her friends at WAY
"It was 5am on June 12, 2005, when I heard a knock at the front door. Pulling on my dressing gown, I went downstairs, fully expecting to find my husband, Jason, on the doorstep.
He worked the night shift as a supervisor on the railways and it wouldn't have been the first time he'd forgotten his keys.
But it wasn't him. It was two policemen. My body began to shake uncontrollably as they told me the man I'd married just seven months before, my soulmate, was dead. He'd been hit by a train while overseeing the laying of the tracks.
I refused to believe it, and it wasn't until I saw Jason's bruised and battered body in the morgue the following day that I finally accepted he was really dead. My tears dropped on to his face as I kissed him for the last time and whispered goodbye. He was just 33.
My body shook as they told me my soulmate was dead
Days later, over 400 people attended his funeral, many standing outside because they couldn't get a seat. Organising the service gave me a focus in those first, horrible days after he died. Jason wasn't religious so we had a humanist service and played some of his favourite music, including One Step Beyond by Madness - I knew it would have made him smile.
I didn't cry at the funeral, I felt too numb. But alone in our bed that night, I sobbed for hours, my grief so raw it hurt.
Just three weeks after Jason died, I returned to work as a recruitment consultant. I thought going back to a routine and doing normal things would help me. It didn't.
I'd snap at the smallest thing. I spent my days biting my lip to keep the tears inside until I could run to my car and weep, huge waves of grief washing over me.

Jason and Sarah on their wedding day
At home by myself, I couldn't bear to watch TV or listen to the radio. Even eating and sleeping were difficult. It all seemed too normal. Instead, I sat in silence, staring at photos of Jason and remembering his laugh - it broke my heart. He looked like a real tough cookie in all the pictures - bald and broad - but I knew the man inside...marshmallow, soft and gentle.
We'd moved to a bigger house just before Jason died because we'd wanted to have a family. Walking around the empty rooms at night when sleep escaped me, I couldn't help but think I should have been pregnant. I should have been turning the spare room into a nursery. Jason should have been getting excited about being a daddy. I'd been robbed of the future we should have had together.
Three months after Jason died, I was diagnosed with depression and referred to a counsellor. She told me about The WAY Foundation, explaining I might benefit from talking to other people who'd lost someone. I wasn't sure. Sharing my feelings with a bunch of strangers? Then I thought about Jason and how he wouldn't recognise the woman I'd become since he died. Maybe talking to people in similar situations would help me find the old Sarah...
So, I went to a social event organised by the group. And, surrounded by people who understood, I didn't have to pretend that I was fine when really my heart felt as though it had been ripped in two. They'd all been there, they knew how it felt.
Since that first meeting, I've made some very close friends through WAY, including Gemma. We meet up regularly and it's so wonderful seeing her bump grow.
Recently, I've even started dating again. I'm very upfront, and tell the men I meet about Jason. So far, every man I've been out with has been kind and understanding.
I know Jason would want me to be happy, but I've still not met anyone who matches up to him. Maybe I never will. But I'm young and don't want to be alone forever. I hope one day I'll be able to love again."
'I didn't know how to be on my own'


Johanna Horne, 32, a project manager from Silsden, Yorkshire, was widowed in 2006.

Johanna has found happiness four years after Matthew died
"I remember going to a wedding six months after my husband Matthew died. Someone tried to introduce me.
'This is Johanna...' they began, not sure what to say next, still afraid to mention his name in case I dissolved into tears.
I didn't know who I was either. I met Matthew in 1995 when I was 17. We'd been together 12 years, all my adult life. For so long I'd been one half of 'Matthew and Johanna'; I didn't know how to be on my own.
Matthew was a big character, with a sense of fun and adventure. Life was never dull with him. His hobby was racing motorbikes. He loved the speed, but I was terrified he'd hurt himself.
When he decided to stop racing because we were planning a family, I was relieved. 'I just want to compete in two more races,' he told me. That was in July 2006. And a month later, the first of those final races was his last.
I was at the race but I didn't see the crash. I noticed the red flag, which signals there's been an accident. I strained to see Matthew, but I couldn't, so I ran towards the medical centre.

Johanna and Matthew tie the knot
The doctor explained Matthew had been taken to hospital. I prayed he'd be OK, thought he must have broken an arm or leg...But a nurse gently told me Matthew was dead. He was just 32. The crash had killed him instantly.
She led me to the room where Matthew lay. He was still warm and looked like he was asleep. I took his hand in mine and begged him to wake up. How could his heart, so full of love, not be beating?
Returning home that night, I just couldn't believe he'd never be there with me again.
I helped organise his funeral, but it passed in a blur. I didn't feel like I was there.
For months after his death, I got angry when I saw a couple holding hands. And seeing a woman with a baby was torture, because they had something I'd lost.
One night, unable to sleep, I went online and came across the WAY website. At first I chatted with other women, then I started going to the meetings. It felt wonderful to cry with people who sympathised, but didn't try to fix me; to laugh and not feel judged for being happy. And I've met some great women, including Gemma and Sarah.

Johanna and Ian with son Harry
Gradually, I began to realise I might one day be ready to meet someone new. That happened in June 2008, when I met Ian in a local bar. We hit it off straightaway.
As soon as things felt serious between us, I gently told Matthew's mum and dad about Ian, how understanding he was and about his gorgeous children, Oliver, nine, and Laura, 13. I even suggested they might like to come and watch Oliver play rugby -one of Matthew's favourite sports.
They were amazing, and have really embraced Ian. Now, our son, Harry Matthew, born on August 21 last year, has five grandparents who all love him so much.
Ian lost his mum and brother in a car crash, so he understands grief. Losing a husband and meeting someone new is like having a second child - you don't stop loving the first one, you just find more love for the second.
On the anniversary of Matthew's death, I did a skydive. It seemed like a fitting tribute. I hoped he could see me and that he would be pleased I've found happiness again."
Celebs who've loved and lost



Courtney Love, 45 (left)
Lead singer of Hole, Courtney was widowed when her husband, Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain, then 27, committed suicide in 1994. Their daughter Frances Bean was 20 months old.
Faith Evans, 36 (middle)
Despite having separated from Christopher Wallace, aka the Notorious BIG, Faith was devastated when he was shot dead in 1997. He was 24. She continues to raise their son, PJ, now 13.
Natascha McElhone, 38 (right)
Actress Natascha was 36 when her plastic surgeon husband, Martin Kelly, died from a heart attack in 2008. The couple had just celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary and Natascha was three months pregnant with Rex, now 18 months old. The couple have two other sons: Theo, 10 and Otis, seven.

This article has 7 comments
i lost my soulmate ,best friend ,husband of 24 years, in january 2009 aged 46 we were childhood sweet hearts had been together 32 years he died suddenly of a heart attack 13 days before our 25th wedding aniveriary .we have 2 grown up children and 3 gransons we all miss him loads the pain is sometimes to great to bare . but my gransons put a big smile on my face which helps with the healing process and i think i might join as you don,t like to bother people with your pain but i assume a problem shared makes it better .
By gwen moss.. Posted August 9 2010 at 11:57 PM.
Hello,

I found your stories profoundly moving and I am so sorry that you all went through this too. Well done for having the will and courage to carry on so bravely. Your stories were very sad but aslo inspiring!
I too have made some lovely friends thanks to the Way Foundation and I am so glad that this organisation exists.

I lost my dear husband 10 years ago, he was 46 and I was 42. Our children were aged 13 and 10. They are doing very well. My daugher having graduated from Leeds University now lives in Australia working as a geologist. My son is at Reading University. They are doing so well, and are happy and I am very proud of them.
I hope to meet someone again one day and I wish you all lots of happyness for your futures.

Many thanks for sharing you stories,
Best wishes,
Lizzie
By Lizzie Kerkhof-May.. Posted May 25 2010 at 7:22 PM.
Lovely to read your news. I lost my husband in Jan 2007 in a car crash and WAY offered me massive support. I have 3 girls who were 9, 7 and 7 months at the time. Chatting online to other widows who understood made a huge difference and I made some lovely friends. I met Gemma and Justin on WAY gatherings at Centreparcs and Stratford. Having been a bit out of the loop for some time I'm really happy to hear their news.
I was absolutely sure I didn't want another relationship but life is strange and I have met a wonderful man who I love very much. I agree with Johanna about being like loving a second child when you find a new love. It never replaces the person you lost but it takes somebody special to understand that. Myself and my 3 girls are in the midst of preparing to move in with Iain and his 3 children in halfterm next week. New beginnings. 
By Jane Pyne.. Posted May 24 2010 at 9:39 AM.
Hi
I lost my beautiful husband ten years ago this August he was 38 and we had four young children. I still struggle to this day its hard thinking about what hed be like now but I think he would be proud of us as the kids have done him and me proud. Our youngest has since been diagnosed with a life threatening illness and has had a huge battle for the last four years. My husband would be heartbroken to see what she has had to go through but as he donated his organs he gives us insperation to carry on he was and still is our hero. I bet there are so many young widows going through similar experiances and its nice to share storys. We are all very brave
By Liz Phillips.. Posted May 24 2010 at 8:04 AM.
i read the stories with interest the one difference being i was 53 when my husband died he had a heart attack and died Dec 29th 2005 i was devastated he was my life good looking loved life and so funny and worshipped football which he played he has been dead 5 years this year but i have this feeling in side which has not gone and i sleep on the sofa since the day he died i have my daughter and granddaughters but i am lonely but cant imagine life with anyone else but i miss a man's company and to talk to but i am 58 there's not much about for my age in my town Burton on Trent
By carol taylor.. Posted May 23 2010 at 4:37 PM.
Girls, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your stories, i too lost my gorgeous husband in 2006. Although i have built up a new life I still feel very, very sad and i struggle at times. I was a member of way but i just couldn't be bothered with anything and i forgot to reniew my membership. You have inspired me to sign up again, i think i under estimated just how important it is to talk to people who understand. I don't have many friends now as most of them drifted away from me when Ryan died, i think i probably did push some away too.

Thanks again, you are all brave and an inspiration!

Love Claire xxx
By Claire Hunt.. Posted May 23 2010 at 11:06 AM.
Well done girls ,I know you all through WAY and you are all beautiful Ladies with so much life .
IF anyone knows someone who is young and lost their partners please do not hesitate to mention Way to them .It has been my lifeline for 4 years now .
 
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