My husband died seven years ago without warning. We were watching television when suddenly he had a huge blood clot in the lung which closed down his breathing.

I felt crushed, stunned. 

Then three days later I had a blood clot in the lung too. My daughter was with me and dialled 999. She said, “I’m not losing my mother as well.” 

I was in hospital for weeks, then at my daughter’s for months to recuperate. When I was finally allowed home, I became more reflective. I decided I’d survived for a reason. 

I needed to make the most of the rest of my life.

Having the courage to try new things

I’ve developed my own philosophy of living. It gives me hope and optimism for both now and the years ahead, despite my bereavement.

And to my surprise, I sometimes feel as if I’ve found my voice since I’ve been on my own.

Dick and I ran a sports shop together. He was the front person, dealing with the customers and the buyers, while I did the books in the back. I’ve now stepped outside my comfort zone.

It’s so easy to say no to something because what we’re being asked is a slight stretch beyond what we’re used to. The ‘new me’ will try to say yes.

Sheila Snelling
Sheila Snelling: alone, but never lonely

I’m no longer frightened to try new things. I was given a smartphone this year and I’m learning to use it. I see the importance of getting to grips with a tablet. My grandchildren won’t put pen to paper but they will suddenly text me, which is lovely. I’ve tried to move into their world.

Through my contact with the youngsters, my horizons have stretched and the world has shrunk. New York is on my bucket list. A youngster might take it for granted, but I would treasure every minute.

My grandfather volunteered in the First World War but was killed at Passendale aged 41. Last July I went to the Menin Gate with my brother and son for a 100th anniversary ceremony of the battle, where I met the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Very special.

We’re all part of our roots and I don’t think you can escape that. I went to 11 different primary schools because of bombing and evacuation during the Second World War. Two of my teachers were killed by doodlebugs. At one stage we were taught our lessons surrounded by coats hanging up in the basement. It was a time of banding together.

When Dick and I married in 1955 we didn’t have a fridge or a TV, just a bed and a cupboard from my parents but it was a time of hope.

When I was younger I was more inclined to think I was right about things, which can be isolating. Now I know life’s not all black and white. On the other hand, there seems more and more reason to say and do what I think is right – not just go along with the crowd.

As a child I always liked a sense of order and to do things to the best of my ability. I’ve learnt that failure doesn’t matter. If you start from that standpoint, all sorts of possibilities are opened up to you.

I've found something I never thought I'd have

There’s a huge void in life without my soulmate and I struggle at times.

Grief doesn’t go away but I get better at dealing with it, helped in part by the deep faith I shared with my husband. I’m blessed with my family and I crave those familiar faces and ancient bonds. I graciously accept help from Independent Age and am grateful to the NHS for keeping me propped up. I remember life before it was there.

I find that when you’re getting old you have to move towards people and be friendly or people will think you’re not interesting. It works! When I was first on my own I didn’t know how I would cope or how to reach out to people but I have.

I feel I’ve been given an extra lease of life, not just for my own benefit but more widely than that. I tend to look forward. I try not to have regrets. I’m alone but would never claim to be lonely. I’ve learnt to live with myself as I am.

I’m blessed in many ways. Independent Age is one of them.

For more stories, visit www.independentage.org/TalkAboutDeath

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