Jo W
Posted by

Jo Watkins - My Story

Jo W
Posted by
03 Mar 2014

I’m 32. My boyfriend died when I was 29. Boyfriend never seems the right word for him because he was so much more than that, he was my life and my future. We had been together a year and a half and he had supported me beyond words when my Dad died of Motor Neurone Disease in 2009.

Gareth was diagnosed with ALL in June 2010, just after his 31st birthday and passed away at home in Wigan in September 2010.

After he passed away my Mum, Aunty, friends and Gareth’s wonderful family looked after me and I would not be here today without the love, care and laughter they gave me. However, the feeling of loss or of being lost cannot be described & nobody can take that away. I scoured the internet many a long lonely weekend to find other people in my situation who I could relate to without success.

I felt society didn’t see me as a widow because we weren’t married and hadn’t been together long but I was. The internet has many amazing support groups for ‘young widows’ but I found a young widow is generally classed as someone under 50 and I didn’t feel I could relate in anyway to a 48year old woman, married for twenty years with three kids. We hadn’t lost the same thing, neither was better or worse but those people had got to have the wedding & children that we would never get to experience.

I wanted to meet people my age who I could relate to, who would want to go for a night out and not to a camping weekend in the Lakes full of mums and their kids who’d lost husbands. I knew doing that would only remind me of everything we didn’t get to do. I wanted to meet people who understood what it was like to live this life at that age & I didn’t know anyone in my situation which led to huge feelings of isolation and loneliness.

I saw a bereavement counsellor for 6 months after Gareth died which was the best decision I could have made. I was desperate to feel normal again, not the girl whose boyfriend died and just be me and Counselling helped me start the path to get back to this point. It’s not for everyone but I would highly recommend giving it a go.

Someone told me once that there are seven stages of grief. I don’t know if this is true but I definitely experienced an enormous variety of emotions. Some days, high as a kite at how well I was coping, some days unable to get out of bed because I felt I had nothing to get up for. I learnt that this is normal and a healthy part of the grieving process and one to be embraced and not resisted. Once I started to get my confidence back, about 6 months after Gareth passed away I started to go out a lot and did everything I could to have fun. This was part of my grieving process in trying to be a normal 30 year old and I believe so strongly that whatever you feel you need to do it to get through that day or week or month, do it. As long as it’s not causing harm to you or others and it makes you feel better, do it, whatever it may be.

People will always have opinions on your behaviour and chosen coping mechanisms and people did with me but largely these people don’t know you well and have little understanding of the situation you’re in. Anyone who knows me well and carried me through that time did nothing but support me and you learn very quickly who is genuinely there for you. It’s a hard lesson to learn but a worth while one in the long run.

I sometimes used to go and visit Gareth’s grave after work if I’d had a bad day, just to tell him about it or even just to put off going home to any empty house. It worked for me, always made me feel better and that’s all that matters when you’re in such a desperate situation.

If you are reading this because you’re in the same situation as I was I hope this goes a small way to make you feel that you’re not alone and there other young people going through the same experiences and emotions as you may be.

I can’t say it won’t be easy because it wont, it will be so hard and it’s a long journey, but take your time, surround yourselves with people who make you happy and most importantly look after yourself and you will get there. I will never ever forget Gareth or stop loving him and probably never completely get over what has happened but I’m now at a point where I can look back on our time together and smile at how lucky I was of all the people in the world he chose to fall in love with me and I would never change that for anything.



Inspirational jo :) keep moving forward xxx


Jo. I am so sorry to hear about how you lost a loved one to Blood Cancer. People cope with loss in a number of ways and I dont think that there is a right or wrong way to cope-it's what works for you. I lost a special friend in 2010 (we supported each other through the good and the bad times of this illness-she had CML and i had AML) and today I still think about how this amazingly inspirational young lady coped with the inevitable when she learnt her time was nigh. She donated a lot of money to blood cancer charities and also helped to fund others private treatment-that was her way of making a difference. She inspired me to keep going and beat my illness and also to do more to help beat blood cancers. I also wanted to give something back to this wonderful charity whose research has made sure I'm here to tell the tale. Helping these guys to raise money to continue the fight is the legacy that my amazing friend left behind. Surrounding yourself with people who make you happy and also getting involved with llr is a way you can help fund research to find a cure so that no one else has to go through your terrible loss, and that all the Gareths can be cured. As one fellow patient put it recently-" one day it would be nice if getting leukaemia was just like going to the Doctors with flu, you get some pills from the doc, go home and rest for a few days and then it's gone" Research funded by llr has made such a huge difference. Their promise to Gareth and all other blood cancer patients and relatives affected by blood cancer is that they will not stop until they have beaten blood cancer. God bless you Jo.


Hi jo,
Keep going hun. Xx
I also lost my partner to ALL he was just 29 and I was 28. We were engaged to be married, we had an emergency wedding ceremony at the hospital. Sadly he lost his battle a week later.
There is always others out there in similar situations.
Dont give up hope.
Love and hugs xxx


Jo that is so lovely. Moved me to tears. But I so admire the journey you've been on & wish you all the best for your future. Onwards & upwards! X


Hi, you are just the type of person I wanted to meet after Gareth had died :) I'm so sorry to hear what happens to you & hope you are coping well and managing to be happy xx


Dear Jo,
I have ALL Type B, you find that even at my age of 48yrs this hit me like a brick, with in three weeks of thinking I had a virus I was rang by my doctor to tell me that Poole hospital would be ringing to tell me I had to go to hospital.
to say this was a bit of a shock it was. so you go in all innocent with your eyes wide open and slowly realise that you are on a cancer ward. the next day I was informed that I had leukaemia.
I have had the 1st stage and the 2nd stage chemo and now I'm just about to go and have my transplant on the 12th may, I do have very loving family and friends who have support me greatly. I wish that there was a group to support you in your hour of need.
I fine myself hopping that if some thing was to happen to me that my wife would be supported. when you are ill like this, you take your other half for granted a bit. But worst is knowing you are helpless to do any thing if the worst happen.
Very big hugs Jo you have a friend here x Garry

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