The Malta Independent 26 June 2022, Sunday

Widows and widowers can grieve together, and start a new life

Sunday, 19 June 2022, 08:30 Last update: about 6 days ago

A group for widows and widowers to grieve together, share experiences and help each other start a new life has been in operation for the last 25 years.

Now, its chairperson has come up with the idea of a book which seeks to help men and women who have lost their partners find comfort and solace and, most of all, overcome their difficult moment as they aim to start afresh.

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Everyone passes from some kind of hardship in life with death being at the top of the list, Victor Galea, author of Qawsalla wara il-maltemp, told The Malta Independent on Sunday.

The book contains his personal experiences together with that of 16 others. “The book is not intended for widowed persons only, but for anyone who is having a hard time as everyone passes from some kind of hardship and grief.”

The group which Galea leads, Minus one, is exclusive to widowers under the age of 61.

Minus one is a group, which Albert Zammit started in 1997, after he attended a group with a mix of people who were grieving their loved ones. Zammit realised at the time that widowers needed a specialised group for them.

Speaking about the group, Galea said that it does not provide a cure but rather can be used as a support system for widowers, as they share their sorrows and wins together.

“You cannot put in the same group a widower in his 40s together with another one in his 80s as they do not have the same needs. When it comes to their life paths, they are on a different level,” he said.

Galea explained how when his wife Graziella passed away suddenly on 16 November 2015, he was struck with fear of not knowing what was coming his way. He added that when he started searching the internet for some answers all he could find were studies mainly focusing on women and the elderly as widowers and almost nothing on men. Apart from that, there was also nothing for men in their 50s.

Looking back, he said that after his wife passed away, he did not feel comfortable speaking about his emotions, but rather he preferred to write them down. From there he started to also write essays on other subjects which affected him, such as social media.

“When I became chairperson of the group on 22 March 2019 I started publishing these essays in the group’s newsletter and people were telling me how much they liked what I was writing as it was helping them,” he said.

Galea added that it was at that instant that he was inspired to write a book, compiling all his essays together with the experiences of others; a journey which took six years to complete. and was published this year.

He said that he does not agree with anyone who says that life must continue after a very close person passes away, “as you have to start from scratch”; to build new personal and social relationships.

"Death does not kill love, as when there is true love it remains in eternity. It does not mean that, because you have entered into a new relationship, you are going to forget your partner who passed away,” he said.

Galea elaborated how one cannot compare past and present relationships as characters develop with time.

Speaking about his children, Gabriella and Gianluca, who are both in their 20s, Galea said that they were more of moral support than he was to them.

He explained that everyone grieves differently and that is why there are a total of 16 perspectives included in the book; one of them written by his own daughter. He said that he left them as they were written, so as not to change the style.

Gabriella said that the main theme of the book is “grief, which is a universal human experience, and everybody is going to go through it at some point. This means that there is no need to be a widower to read this book and take something from it.”

She further explained that grief is something intrinsically human and that it forms part of the foundations that makes everyone human.

Speaking about the group, which has been evolving since 1997, Galea said that currently it has a total of around 150 members who meet every Friday for different events. He said that such events vary, sometimes they just decide to go and eat together, while other times they invite a professional speaker, like a doctor or dentist, to give them an educational talk.

One of the problems the group is currently encountering has to do with logistics as they cannot plan meetings in the long term. Galea said that the group is at present being hosted at Project House in Floriana, where they book for a maximum of three months at a time, for a weekly meeting. If Project House has another event, the Minus One group meeting has to be held elsewhere.

“We would like to plan long term but it would have to be an act of charity from some entity to allow us to use a hall as we don’t have the financial means,” he said.

The only financial income which the group has is coming from donations being given in exchange for the book, which is being sponsored by the Education Department.

The donations will eventually serve to help some group members who would be struggling financially.

Apart from that Galea’s dream is to see “a one-stop-shop in the future for widowers, where they can access the needed services with trained personnel as soon as their partner dies, especially where government departments, pensions and notarial documents are concerned”.

In order to celebrate its 25th anniversary the group is organising a mass in the Basilica of Christ the King, in Paola, on 22 June at 7pm.

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