Introducing the new publication from Rachel Green.... A Matter of Life & Death

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Rachel & Alex

Welcome to Green Widow. I am Rachel Green, the widow in question who, when my husband died suddenly, was Green by name and green by nature – totally naïve and ignorant of anything to do with bereavement. Having attended only three funerals in my 38 years, all of which had been for elderly grandparents, I was totally green about the entire experience of death, from organising a funeral to meeting solicitors and discussing wills. It was a completely new and unwanted world. As I was also 30 weeks pregnant with my first child, I also had very little idea of what being a parent would be like, let alone a single, bereaved one. For me, the combination of pregnancy and the death of my husband meant the end of my world.

This might be the situation you are facing at the moment. You may be struggling to come to terms with being a recently bereaved expectant mother, you might be feeling nobody understands and nobody has gone through what you’re going through now.

Perhaps you are a friend or relative of someone going through this, it could be your best friend you’ve known for years and you have never in all that time run out of things to talk about, but now suddenly you don’t know what to say to her. You may have a daughter or sister this has just happened to, someone for whom you would do anything to take away the pain, but this is the one time you can’t kiss it better or banish the anguish with a hug and now you don’t know what to do. There are pages on here specifically for you as well, written by my own best friend and my sister.

I wrote the book that this website is all about, 'A Matter of Life & Death', because when it happened to me, there was nothing in the way of support – no books, no help groups, no websites. Once I had adapted to my new life as a widowed parent, I felt very strongly that other women shouldn’t have to go through the dreadful experience of coping with the end of one beloved life and the beginning of another simultaneously without any help or comfort, and so the book came about.

A Matter of Life & Death is the documentary of five bereaved women, five much loved husbands and six babies semi-orphaned before they’d even left the womb. It tells how we found our own way through our bereavement and initial grief, what helped, what definitely didn’t, and a glimpse of life a few years later. There is also an update on this site on how life has moved forwards for all of us since the book was originally written. I wanted to document how the children in the book, who were either babies or toddlers when I put the
book together, have handled their situation as they’ve got older. I hope that will be of use and interest to those of you who perhaps have older children who are struggling with it all.

The stories may not apply to you, they may not even apply to anyone you know. But if they do, I hope it will help just to know you’re not alone in your grief, and whatever you feel, someone has felt it all before, even when you’ve thought you’re going mad and nobody understands .... someone does.

One of the questions I am often asked now is what advice I would give to recently widowed and pregnant women. Having thought about it long and hard, there are two things I wish someone had been able to tell me, things I wish I’d known or done when I was first widowed. One is to look after yourself. Your baby is number one as soon as he/she arrives in the world, but up to that point, you are. There are loads of people concerned about the baby, so let them – doctors, midwives, obstetricians, but until then, you are the priority. People around you will be worried about you and will be encouraging you to eat, sleep, think about the baby (when all you want to do is think about anything but), and it is hard to be strong and tough and stand up for yourself when all your mental and physical resources are completely depleted, but you come first. So if you can't sleep, that’s fine, it doesn’t matter if you can’t sleep for a day or two; if you don't want to eat much for a couple of days, that’s fine too, nothing will happen to the baby if you miss a couple of meals; if you want the odd glass of wine, want to scream and cry, rant and rave or just hide yourself away for a day, it's all fine - nobody else is going through this but you and you have to put yourself first.

The only other bit of advice I have is to accept any help offered, as long as it's of some practical use. People will be so wary of what to say to you or how to act towards you, even people you’ve known for years, that they'll be grateful to be doing something positive for you. So if someone offers to walk the dog, fix a leaky tap, set up a new laptop, do the garden, put up the baby's cot, take them up on it. And if it needs doing and nobody’s offered, then don’t be afraid to ask. It doesn't have to be major tasks, just small things that will take them 10 minutes and would have taken you a couple of hours. And when the baby arrives, accept the offers to babysit, cook you a meal, take the baby for an hour so you can get a rest. It doesn't make you a bad mother if you want to curl up in bed and cry your eyes out for an hour, it makes you a good one because you want your child to be safe and secure while you fall apart for a while. True friends will still be there, like mine are, for years ahead.

Special Thanks

The four women who took part in this book with me – Cheryl, Caroline, Helen and Louise - all of whom I have kept in touch with over the last few years to varying degrees, and now count Cheryl and Caroline among my very good friends as you can see in the Update section.

The professionals who gave their time so freely to talk to me and offer their expert advice, including ITV’s Denise Robertson, who supported the project from the start and gave up her time, of which she has so little, and her expertise, of which she has so much, in order to give this her support and endorsement.

My friends and family, who have been fantastic and on whom I continue to rely for everything from roof repairs and IT advice to childcare. None of you will ever really know quite how much I appreciate everything you have done and continue to do. Thank you so much.

WAY. The website and book were partially funded by a national charity for young widows and widowers called the WAY Foundation. Run entirely by volunteers who have been widowed at a young age, WAY provides a social and support network for men and women up to the age of 50, to help them and their families rebuild their lives after they’ve been shattered by the death of a partner. WAY was a big part of my own life for several years, when I sat on its national committee and then had the privilege of being voted Chairman for two years. It has also given me some truly exceptional friends.

Ultimately, however, those who unwittingly started this whole ball rolling deserve all my love and special thanks, my husband Ian and the most important person in my life, my daughter Alexandra.

What people have said about 'A Matter of Life & Death'.

‘Knowing that someone had been there and done it before made me feel normal again, it was so reassuring’.

‘We at the BBC had a very positive response from viewers since the feature was broadcast – one lady was so moved she watched it with ‘tears streaming down my face’, she told us’.

‘I can identify with you so much – you have described all the feelings I had and am still going through’.

‘You have given me hope for the future – a true inspiration’.

‘It does help incredibly to realise that you what you’re feeling is completely normal in such circumstances’.

‘Thank you so much for sending a copy of your book to our hospital. I cried throughout the first read and now want to read it again and take in every word. Reading it will be something I will always remember’.

‘I was truly delighted to see your book in the Midwives Unit. There are many people to whom I will pass the details. I wish you hadn’t had the experience to write this book, and yet am delighted to have found such a resource. Thank you.’

A printed copy of the book is available free of charge by contacting