The Army Widows’ Association (AWA) is an independent, volunteer-run charity that offers support, friendship and practical help to widows and widowers who have lost their soldier – whatever the circumstances. We joined members at the group’s AGM to find out how sharing their stories with others in a similar situation provided great comfort…
YOU may be surprised to learn that of the AWA’s 250 members, almost 40 per cent are under the age of 40 and less than a quarter have lost their loved one in combat, with illness being the most common cause of death.
Kate Spilsbury’s husband had served in the Army for 30 years when he died suddenly during a cycle ride last year. It was the first time she had attended an AWA weekend.
She told us: “I’ve had lots of support from friends and family but they very seldom talk about it; here someone will open up to you – and you find that you might open up to them.”
One of the AWA’s younger members, Emma Strang, is going through the process of moving out of her Army quarter.
Emma has two small children and admitted that when she first came to the respite weekend, she needed a break.
“Just having the independence to get here and then being in adult company was reassuring,” she said. “The Association helps with practical matters and you get a peer perspective on things from people who have trodden the path before you.”
The AWA works closely with PS4 Army Welfare and the Army Inquiries and Aftercare Support Cell.
It’s moving with the times too, offering support to recognised unmarried partners as well as running a closed Facebook group to ensure members can stay in touch.
The Association works behind the scenes to facilitate a better quality of life for its members.
Current chairman, Helen Townend added: “It’s about people finding support from others in similar situations, sharing experiences and problems, making new friends and finding inspiration from each other to laugh and to cry.”
Visit www.armywidows.org.uk if you know someone who could benefit from membership of the AWA or if you would like more information.
You can also follow them on Twitter @ArmywidowsA