In a poignant reflection on personal loss, Nicky Wake, a widow, shared her profound experiences of grief and recovery following the recent news of Derek Draper’s death, the husband of broadcaster Kate Garraway. Her story, mirroring the struggles of many who have lost loved ones, offers a beacon of hope and guidance for those navigating the complex journey of bereavement.
Nicky, aged 51, recounts her life with her late husband Andy, whom she met in 2002 through an online dating platform, DatingDirect. Their marriage, spanning 13 years, was abruptly altered when Andy suffered a heart attack in 2017. Despite an initial recovery, a subsequent attack led to a catastrophic brain injury, leaving Andy unable to communicate or walk. The 2020 pandemic brought further tragedy as Andy, residing in a care home, contracted Covid and passed away in March.
Motivated by her personal experiences, Nicky ventured back into the dating world, only to find the process intertwined with her grief. This led her to create Chapter2, a dating app launched in November 2022, catering specifically to widows and widowers.
Nicky’s advice for those in the early stages of grief is to embrace the widow community, a supportive network for sharing and understanding loss. She recommends engaging with charities such as WAY Up and Way, which provide support based on age groups. Emphasising the importance of living in the moment, Nicky advises against self-criticism during the raw stages of grief.
She also suggests finding solace in literature that resonates with one’s feelings. Books like Pocket Full of Happiness by Richard E. Grant, Richard Coles’ The Madness of Grief, and Sheryl Sandbergs’ Option B helped Nicky significantly during her initial grieving period.
On the importance of counselling, Nicky stresses its role in navigating grief, especially for those with children. She highlights the necessity of accepting support from friends and family, emphasising that practical assistance can alleviate the burden of daily stresses.
For those supporting a grieving loved one, Nicky advises listening and asking questions to understand their feelings. It’s important to mention the deceased’s name, contrary to common avoidance, as it can evoke happy memories. Offering practical help is also essential, as it can significantly reduce stress.
Conversely, Nicky cautions against clichés and urges the bereaved to move on. She emphasises the distinction between moving forward and moving on, noting the sensitivity of language in these conversations.
Reflecting on Kate Garraway’s situation, Nicky expresses deep empathy: “I resonate with Kate as Derek went through a similar journey to my late partner Andy, who suffered a catastrophic brain injury and sadly contracted Covid and died in March 2020. Kate knew that there wasn’t going to be a happy ending, but that doesn’t take anything away from the pain. My heart truly goes out to her. The widow community is rallying around her; she’s a warrior and has a lot of inner strength.” This shared journey of grief and resilience underlines the importance of community and understanding in the face of loss.