In the winter of 1994, rather suddenly, I found myself widowed. With a ten year-old son and a thirteen year-old daughter, I had good reason to overcome all emotional adversity and to carry on with as much determination as I could muster.
It is written somewhere that it takes two years to get your head around bereavement. With regard to certain elements of day-to-day living this is true for me, but the love I had for my husband and the role he played as a father, son and brother, was huge and when I was asked later on by well-meaning friends if I contemplated meeting someone to fill this space, the answer was always no!
Eight years later and with the subtle cajoling of the same well-meaning friends, I decided to open my heart a little. I knew hardly any single men and did not want to join groups or classes for the purposes of dating, so decided instead to look online. I thought about general sites, but was not comfortable with the idea of dating someone who might not relate well to the trauma of bereavement. Whilst I do not underestimate the heartache of divorce and separation, I felt that I would rather meet those who had been down a similar road to myself.
I spent quite some time looking for a dating site specifically for widows and widowers and found none. It was at this moment that I decided if there wasn’t a site out there for widowed people then there should be and in an instant widowsorwidowers.com was born.
My first objective was to see if I could actually afford to do such a thing. Back in 2004, it was not an easy process to set up a dating website. Many pages and plenty of know-how were needed. Fortuitously, my son had a friend who was involved with web design and who happened to have a template for a dating website, which we were able to reconfigure to suit our needs.
In July 2004, after a great deal of work, re-writing the template and planning an efficient marketing strategy, I was ready to launch!
For several years I enjoyed a steady growth of business; the membership database grew, as did the number of relationships. At this time I continued to have a full-time job, while still being the sole operator. Creating advertising and marketing material, daily moderation and dealing with payments all took up a great deal of time.
In 2012 I was able to take things to another level, which coincided with a significant upsurge in the use of online dating. Since then, with the input of an ever expanding team, the site has grown and developed significantly, allowing me to realise my dream of bringing even more widows and widowers together across the globe.
Today, our greatest proportion of users are aged between 50 and 60, however we also have a high percentage of users within the 40-50 and 60-70 age demographic. Over the past two years we have seen an upsurge in the 70+ and 30-40 age groups, which is a positive sign that we are appealing to all segments of our niche.
During the 12-year journey, we have gained a lot of experience about dating post-bereavement, which we share via blog articles and on social media. We try to ensure that our users feel supported every step of the way and that we take the bringing together of widows and widowers seriously. We also provide useful resources for finding support groups and recommended reading from authors experienced in the field of bereavement and widowhood.
All those years ago, I would never have thought that the business would be where it is now. With a constantly growing membership, I feel reassured that by transforming what was an extremely challenging and testing period of my life, I have been able to create something that truly serves the widows and widowers community.