Life after loss for Mersey member Val

Updated: 13 Jun 2023

Val Rider, whose husband of 50 years died five years ago, talks about how the friendship and support of the Oddfellows helped her continue her adventures.

Globe-trotting together

After raising their family in Liverpool, Val and John travelled to the sunny climbs of the Costa Blanca and then found a loving community in the Lake District. But it was when returning to her hometown alone that Val faced her biggest challenges.

Val, 81, said: “We were adventurers and took plenty of risks, but we always did it together.

“John would naturally take the lead, he was funny and a great socialiser, if we went anywhere new or to something where there would be a lot of people, I’d push him forward and say you go first. Of course, after he died, I couldn’t do that anymore.

“I had to learn to go forward on my own, I sold my home in Cumbria and relocated back to Liverpool which was quite a big thing.”

Val Rider sat having a cup of tea with an Oddfellows Social Organiser Angela
Val, pictured left, at one of her local Oddfellows catch-ups hosted by Social Organiser, Angela Murray.

Finding a new comfort

Val said – despite having her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren around her, and having plenty of friends – it was a friendship society, the Oddfellows, which helped fill part of the hole left by John.

She said: “I miss John terribly, and I always will, but there’s something about going to the Oddfellows’ meet-ups that provided something my family and my friends couldn’t.

“I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I think it’s the fact that it’s so reliable and constant. I can look at the diary and see what’s coming up and I look forward to it and it’s just me, I’m not relying on anyone else.

“Grief never leaves you – some days I don’t want to get out of bed because John’s not there, but with the Oddfellows I have things to look forward to.”

Going solo

Val and John met when they were both working in the Liver Building in Liverpool in the 1950s, Val as a comptometrist and John as a clerk. They raised three children in Liverpool before John’s early retirement afforded them the opportunity to move to Spain. Missing the children they returned to UK shores, continuing their lifestyle by buying a home in Cumbria.

Val, who now lives in Gateacre, said: “We had a wonderful life together. We took chances but we had each other for support. I stayed in Whitehaven for about four years after John died and I was very happy there. I had a community of friends, but as I was getting older my three daughters were keen for me to move home so I could be nearer to them.

“It was very strange because every other step we had made together – we were married for 53 years – but I just got on with it and I’m happy I’ve made my own life here.”

Finding independence

Val added: “You have no choice but to start doing things on your own. I had to put my house up for sale and organise the move – which is quite hard when you’re 80! But I felt like I achieved something doing it.

“I joined the Oddfellows after seeing an advert in a magazine and thought ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ – and I’m so glad I did! There are plenty of activities to keep you busy, there’s always something to look forward to.”

As well as enjoying coffee mornings organised by the Mersey Branch of the Oddfellows, Val has also enjoyed a visit to Sefton Park and the Liver Buildings, where she and John met.

She said: “I have loved everything I’ve done with the Oddfellows. It’s a good laugh, it’s good company, and you meet people you wouldn’t otherwise have done, and who are in the same position as yourself.

“It’s not replacing John of course, but it’s provided me with some company. It’s hard being on your own, especially when you’ve been with someone for over 50 years.

“I’ve gained confidence as I’ve got older, but I still find it hard to walk into a room full of people I don’t know.” have to have something to look forward to, to focus on. I’m looking forward to things that are a week away – for me that’s enough.

Val at an afternoon tea event sat with two Oddfellows friends.
(L-R) Val in good company with Mersey Oddfellows Social Organiser, Angela Murray, and fellow member Edwina Rowlands.

Making plans

Val added: “It’s been five years since John died – some people say ‘hasn’t it gone quick?!’ but I think no, it feels like about 10 years since I’ve seen him. It’s just awful getting up and sometimes I have to peel myself out of bed.

“But you have to have something to look forward to, to focus on. I’m looking forward to things that are a week away – for me that’s enough.

“The other side of the Oddfellows is the financial support you can get for your membership. If you need legal support, or benefit support, you can ring them up and they will give you advice. It’s a weight off your mind to think that you don’t have to go through things on your own.”

Margaret Hughes, Branch Secretary of Mersey Oddfellows, who welcomed Val to the group for the first time in March 2022, said: “We’re thrilled to have Val as a member and delighted to know we have been able to provide her with some solace. Our members play a huge role in the success of the Oddfellows and Val has already become a valued member.

“Taking on a new challenge without your loved one by your side can be daunting, but we hope Val’s experiences will help encourage more people to take that leap and start by getting in touch with the Oddfellows.”

Val rider sat with her 10 friends having afternoon tea at an Oddfellows social eventMersey Oddfellows' local friendship group members meet for regular catch-ups.

Oddfellows friendship groups

As one of the UK’s biggest and oldest friendly societies, the Oddfellows is no stranger to supporting people through difficult times, whether that’s following a loss, relocating to a new area or those struggling with loneliness.

Feel free to:

  • Ring or email ahead – we can tell you what to expect or arrange for someone to meet you at the door
  • Give us a try – all guests are welcome and there is no commitment to join at any time
  • Ask us about which activities may suit you for your first event, for example where would you feel more relaxed – a walk, talk or coffee morning?

If you have lost someone close to you, when you feel ready to socialise again, why not give an Oddfellows friendship group a try? There's no obligation to join. Just come along for a taster.

You can find your nearest by using our Branch Finder, or use our Events Finder to search for social events and activities happening near to where you live or online.

Contact us to request your free information pack and local events diary.

Read more advice on making friends and building social confidence in our friendship guides section.

Read further real-life stories from our members about how the Oddfellows helped them to socialise again following the loss of a partner in our 'first steps' section.

Specialist bereavement support

The Oddfellows' teams are not trained to offer specialist bereavement support. If at any stage you feel that your grief is having a permanent impact on your life and your mood, or you are struggling to cope, you should talk this through with your doctor, or with a bereavement support organisation.

View a list of trusted specialist bereavement support organisations with advice services.