Just like Stanley Tucci, we lost our wives in the prime of their lives

EARLIER this month, Stanley Tucci revealed he's still grieving the death of his wife 11 years after she passed away.

Here, we speak to three widowed men who have also experienced the devastating pain of grief.

‘It breaks my heart that Lauren will miss out on all of Molly’s milestones’

SAM Robinson, 32, a marketing professional, lives with his daughter Molly, four, in West Malling, Kent.

“Arriving home from the hospice, my phone rang. Answering the call, I was filled with dread. Hearing that my beautiful wife, Lauren’s breathing was deteriorating because of the cancer she was battling, I broke down. By the time I’d driven back to see her, she’d died.

I met Lauren, a sales administrator, on a night out in October 2010, when we were both 22. She was kind, caring and funny, and without question The One. We married in May 2015, and in December 2016 we had our daughter, Molly.

A few months later, Lauren was alarmed when she found a lump in her breast. I was terrified, but I tried not to show it for her sake.

At first, the doctor said it wasn’t suspicious, but by June the lump had grown, and after a biopsy we were told it was breast cancer. Lauren was distraught, and I was paralysed by fear that she would die and leave Molly without a mum.

That August, Lauren had a mastectomy and began 20 weeks of chemotherapy. After her hair started falling out, we cried together as I shaved her head.

In May 2018, Lauren got the all-clear and was told she wouldn’t need to have a check-up for another three years. She decided to leave her job and we planned picnics and seaside trips.

We tried not to worry about the cancer returning, but just a year later, in May 2019, Lauren began to develop excruciating pain across her ribs. Scans revealed that the cancer had spread to her bones.

It was incurable, but she could expect to live many years still. Outside the hospital, we cried in each other’s arms. 

Determined to make Lauren’s remaining time perfect, we took dream holidays to Florida in November 2019 and Australia in March 2020, but by July she began to get really sick.

Lauren didn’t want Molly to be shocked when she died, so she explained that she had terminal cancer. She also created a memory book for Molly filled with photos and letters, and she trusted me to raise her to grow up fearless and to reach for her dreams.

Lauren spent her final few weeks at home, and most days I sat by her bedside holding her hand while Molly, then three, made her laugh.

She was moved to a hospice on August 4, where no family or friends were allowed to visit because of the pandemic, so only me and Lauren’s mum could be with her.

While she’d said she wanted me by her bedside when she died, I think she chose to let go when I wasn’t there to protect me and so I remembered her full of life.

Lauren spent her final few weeks at home, and most days I sat by her bedside holding her hand.

After returning to the hospice on August 5 last year, I was told Lauren had passed away. My world turned upside down, but in my grief Molly was my rock. When I sat her down and told her that Mummy had died, she gave me the tightest hug and said: ‘I love you, Daddy.’

It was a small funeral amid the pandemic, with only close family and a few friends allowed. Molly and I cried while we held hands. I am definitely still grieving Lauren’s death and I recently started counselling.

It breaks my heart to think Lauren will miss out on all of Molly’s milestones. Molly and I are closer than ever, and while before Lauren died I could only do a rubbish ponytail, I’ve now mastered bunches and plaits.

But it is lonely for me, as there’s nobody to do the bedtime routine with or share proud moments with.

Molly and I talk about Lauren a lot and I have kept her bedside table exactly the way she left it, so we can remember her.

While I can’t imagine dating or remarrying right now, I’m open to the idea in the future, but it’ll be a long while until I do. For now, my focus is Molly.”

‘I’ll always have Naomi in my heart – but meeting Laura has brought me back to life’

LEWIS Frowen, 30, a support officer, lives with girlfriend Laura, 30, a marketing professional, in Basingstoke.

“As my wife Naomi lay lifeless before me, panic flooded my body. I breathed into her mouth as a 999 call handler talked me through how to perform CPR, desperate to keep my wife alive.

I first met Naomi on a night out in Portsmouth when we were both 18, in August 2009. We married in July 2013 and planned to have children one day. I felt like the luckiest man alive.

However, In December 2018, on a trip to New York, Naomi got a cold. We flew home a week later, and the illness got worse. She was bedridden, but refused to go to the GP as she hated seeing doctors.

On January 14, 2019, she was having a nap when I checked on her, seeing with alarm that she’d turned blue and wasn’t breathing. I immediately called 999.

The operator told me how to do CPR, but I couldn’t get her breathing again. The ambulance rushed Naomi to hospital, and she was taken into ICU, where a doctor explained she had suffered a sudden heart attack, caused by a Group A Streptococcus bacterial infection.

She was placed on a ventilator in an induced coma and I was told to prepare myself for the worst. As Naomi’s parents and friends came to say goodbye to her, I was in shock.

I sat by her bed day and night, hoping by some miracle that she’d come round. But after she had spent five days in a coma, doctors told us there was nothing else they could do. They removed her ventilator, and she immediately passed away, aged just 28.

Returning home to an empty house was hard, but I was still reeling from shock. At Naomi’s funeral a couple of weeks later, I felt numb, but also guilty for not forcing Naomi to go to the GP.

I couldn’t believe that I was a widower at 28. After the funeral, I began suffering panic attacks as I ate my dinner alone in the evenings. Sometimes I’d get them at work and colleagues consoled me as I cried.

Though my family and friends were very supportive, I knew I needed to have professional grief counselling.

I couldn’t believe that I was a widower at 28.

My therapist suggested I try to focus on learning new skills to distract myself, so I had driving lessons and helped raise money for the ICU through cake sales and marathons.

I also joined a local branch of support group WAY (Widowed & Young), where I met Laura, 28. Her husband Jay died in a road traffic accident the same day Naomi had her heart attack, and she completely understands what I’ve been through.

We started seeing each other in August 2019, and on our first date at the beach we both cried as we spoke of our grief.

Laura is an amazing woman, and I am finally happy again.

We’ve just bought our first house together, and in the future, I’d love to get married and become a dad. But I’ll keep the memory of Naomi with me forever.

At Christmas, I put up a personalised bauble with Naomi’s name on our Christmas tree, while Laura puts one up for Jay. We often share stories with each other to keep their memories alive.

It scares me to know that at some point one of us will be widowed again, but I owe it to myself to live life to the fullest. Since losing Naomi, I’ve realised just how precious life is.”

  • For info on WAY, visit Widowedandyoung.org.uk.

‘I can’t imagine loving anyone else’

MICHAEL Coulson-Tabb, 50, a restaurant owner, lives with his son Teddy, three, in Whitstable, Kent.

“Holding Alys’ hands tightly as we said our vows, I was overcome with emotion. I was so happy to finally marry my soulmate, but also bereft, as we both knew that she was dying.

I met Alys at a pub in May 2014, and I instantly fell for her – she was so beautiful and funny. We made our home together in Whitstable and when, in November 2017, we welcomed our little boy Teddy, our family felt complete.

But in June 2018, Alys found a lump while checking her breasts. She was sent for tests, and a week later we got the news we’d been dreading – she had breast cancer, aged just 39.

I was in shock, but Alys was optimistic, saying she was young and otherwise healthy. At that stage, Teddy was only six months old, so too young to understand.

Alys started chemotherapy a month later and had a mastectomy in January 2019, followed by radiotherapy the following March. When I was alone, I cried with fear, but through the darkness, Alys still lit up my world.

On my birthday in March, she proposed to me by hiding a ring in a pair of my socks, which made me cry with joy.

Just weeks later, we were told the devastating news that the cancer had spread to her liver and lungs and was terminal. Alys was distraught that Teddy would be left without a mum, and sometimes I’d have to rush home from work when it all got too much and she said she was feeling suicidal.

Alys would tell me she wanted me to keep Teddy’s life as normal as possible after she was gone, taking him to the beach and to play on the boats. All I could do was hold her and tell her I would look after Teddy, no matter what.

Alys was transferred to a hospice in May 2019, where we got married. Just one week later, she died in my arms. Teddy was only 18 months when she died, and it broke my heart when he cried for his mum at night.

In the early days, I had panic attacks and there were times when I thought I would never get over the grief. Throwing myself into looking after Teddy was the only thing that got me through.

I keep pictures of Alys all round the house, and we sit and look at them together while he tells me how much he misses his mummy.

I have plenty of support from Alys’ family, but it is still daunting that, ultimately, Teddy only has me. I just hope I can raise him in a way Alys would be proud of.

In July 2019 I started having therapy to process the grief, which is helping. It’s been tough being a solo parent in lockdown, but I manage to keep the house clean and prepare dinner while Teddy is at nursery. 

I have no plans to remarry. Losing Alys was the worst thing that’s happened in my life and I can’t imagine having a meaningful relationship with anyone else.

I’d be so scared of having someone in my and Teddy’s lives who would get sick of hearing about Alys, and it would be unfair to them. I loved loving her.

Some days I wake up expecting to see her. Alys was The One, so for now I’m focusing on Teddy while I try to move on from losing the love of my life.”

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