Photos by Anas Thacharpadikkal
When Wendy, 41 from the UK, lost her husband suddenly at the end of 2015, her life was thrown into turmoil. Here she talks about how this year she has found the strength to carry on and build a bright future for her family.
“2016 has been a year of massive change, challenge and growth for me. Following the unimaginable tragedy of losing my husband suddenly at the end of 2015, I found myself faced with not only my grief to deal with, but also my survival. How on earth was I going to manage and could I continue my life here in Dubai?
“I couldn’t begin to fathom leaving here after it being my home for 16 years. It would have been a good time to be closer to my family in the UK, but I met Michael here and we lived our entire relationship here, so I think I would have felt more disconnected from him if I left.
“The lowest point for me was after a few months when the dust settled. There was so much attention on us in the beginning and so many people coming and going and offering their help, and then it all stopped at the same time. They say it is usually after three months and, for us, this was coincidentally Christmas time so the kids were off school, but everyone was either travelling or busy. It was a very lonely time and I felt sorry for the kids as they did not see any friends over the entire holiday. I worked so hard to keep them busy but it was incredibly tough. I am not sure how I got through it. I cried a lot and focused on what I did have to be grateful for.
“At the same time, I was worrying about the costs of staying here. I had been a housewife for several years, trying to build my small hobby business and supporting my husband with his freelance business. But now I had to make some major adjustments.
“So at the start of this year, I put on my big girl pants, armed myself with a huge dose of courage, blocked out any self-doubt and negativity and set forth to rebuild my life.
“I found several new retailers to sell my handmade breastfeeding covers early in the year and found a manufacturer to produce them, so that I could step away from the sewing machine to focus on my children more. I still didn’t know how I was ever going to be able to afford to stay here, but I was determined to find a way.
“I met up with a midwife friend who told me her company, a reputable polyclinic, was expanding and she advised me to submit my CV. This was so exciting for me with my interest in birth work and my passion for supporting women with breastfeeding, I was really interested in being within a professional/medical team.
“A few weeks later I was invited for an interview and was offered a position there and then! However, they did not need me to start right away, which was perfect for me. I used this time to attend a course to teach baby massage and also to become a hypno-birthing instructor, which I am yet to complete.
“With my youngest ready for FS1, I enrolled my children into a new school, which was being built next to my home. The school was exactly what I was looking for and, to make things better, the fees were less than half the price of the school my daughter was previously at.
“So now I had to look for a nanny, I had never had help before so this was daunting for me. I employed my first candidate – Fatma is an angel and I often joke that she fell from the sky. My kids love her, I love her and she loves us.
“After a month-long summer break in Ireland, we returned to Dubai to begin our new life, new job, new school and new routine. And, thanks to Fatma, I have even managed to find time for a fulfilling social life and have got back to my passion for dance. I have even started jogging for the first time – taking care of my health has become a priority as, being a sole parent, I feel like an aeroplane with one engine left.
“The kids have been so amazing. I never underestimated their ability to understand the situation. I was always honest with them. I allowed them to see it is OK to cry and, more importantly, it is OK to laugh. I have an amazing counsellor, Helen Williams, who guided me on how best to help them and it was totally in line with my own instincts.
“In a nutshell, 2016 should have been my worst year yet and it certainly hasn’t been easy, but with the support of my amazing friends, a very caring community, the belief of my family, my faith and the inspiration of my children, there have been numerous positive changes, countless blessings and a great deal of growth.
“Losing Michael has made me live in the present moment much more – I want to live my life well in his honour, because he didn’t get the chance to. I’ve learnt that you can never prepare yourself for loss. But I believe that everything happens for a reason and, even if it doesn’t seem fair, we have to trust the process. I kept saying ‘it must be his time’.
“We miss him terribly and I am so sad that he is not there to watch his amazing children grow up. Grief is not something you get over... It is something that becomes part of you and stays with you forever – you just learn to live alongside it. I never want to ‘move on’ or ‘get over’ it. I will carry him with me forever.
“So bring it on 2017... I am ready for you!”
In loving memory of Michael Eugene Francis – husband, father, son.
Find more stories of real women whose lives were changed in 2016 here