There is no worse feeling than being alone. Tony Iddon says he only has 10 hours a week of social interaction and feels lonely for six days and 14 hours.
The 70-year-old, of Clayton Brook, has been left feeling bereft after his wife of 35 years, Thelma, died on Christmas Day 2017 following a sudden brain hemorrhage.
But one lifeline has been Friends for You, which offers support and new friendship. The club has now launched a bereavement group, New Friends For You, which meets every Monday at St Joseph’s Social Club, Harpers Lane, Chorley, every Monday at 7.30pm.
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He says: “I was in a right mess and I have gone through a very bad 12 months. It was the anniversary of her funeral earlier this month and I faced my first Christmas alone in 40 years.
“We never argued and we never socialised with anyone. It was just my wife and I. So now I find it hard to go out.
It is hard the very first time you go out when you are alone, but you have to do it.Tony Iddon
“But there is no worse feeling than being lonely.
“After a while I was put in touch with Marjorie Hayward, who founded the group Friends for You.
“She partnered me with a young lady from Coppull who comes out to see me every week which is a really big help. I have mobility problems after a big accident when I was younger so I struggle to get out.
“Marjorie sorts out transportation for me to come to the after-loss club on Mondays.
“More people like me need to go to this club as it is surprising how much it helps. It is hard the very first time you go out when you are alone, but you have to do it. There are not many men who go, but I would encourage more to give it a try.
“I get a couple of phone calls a week, from Age UK and The Silver Line and I have volunteers come from Friends for You and Lancashire Volunteer Partnership.
“When you add it up, that is 10 hours a week, but the other six days and 14 hours I am on my own. I have no family.”
Pauline Hilton, 67, of Chorley, attends after feeling lost without her older sister and parents.
She says: “My sister died in 2011 and my parents around 40 years ago but there is no time limit on grief. And this group is for any age – young or old.
“A lot of people feel isolated, especially at retirement age. Their social life becomes nonexistent and they don’t feel like going out.
“They don’t know where to go where they will feel safe. It is a massive thing to turn up to a group of people you don’t know as it can be daunting but we are a fun group and here to support each other.”
Dorothy Klemm, 76, of Euxton, says: “I lost my husband and two friends in the same year and I had a void. I volunteer with Friends for You and visit people.
“This new group – New Friends for You – is a great way to socialise with other people in the same boat.
“It gets people out of their house and together with others who are lonely.”
Marjorie Hayward, founder and chairman, says: “The raw grief that overwhelms the survivor is very difficult to cope with and although we visit weekly and help enormously, that is not enough.
“So the idea of beginning a social club for bereaved people took root.
“St Joseph’s social club is the ideal location with parking and good handicapped access.
“It offers us a private meeting room for chatting over board games and card games. There is also the large games room with pool, snooker, darts, TV and a bar.
“The club is open to anyone who is struggling with loss of any description in their lives. It will be run by people who have suffered loss and so they will be understanding, patient and empathetic.
“Its aim is to offer a friendly, supportive, safe venue for people to meet other people in similar situations for support, comfort, fun and companionship.”
To volunteer as a befriender or if you know a lonely person, call 07506 189128 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.