I set up a dating site for young widows because like Kelsey Parker we deserve love

Nicky Wake, 54, from Manchester became a widow when her husband Andy died in 2020, and has decided to set up a dating website for people just look her…

"There are 3 million widows and widowers in the UK with many of them considered young.

Kelsey Parker is one of us and her documentary Life After Tom shone a spotlight on the heartbreaking reality of losing your spouse and trying to navigate the challenges of grief and dating again.

I know this world all too well, as I lost my soulmate and husband Andy Wake in March 2020. He was a beautiful, wonderful gentle soul and the world is a much poorer place now that Andy isn’t here…

In 2002, we started talking on datingdirect.com – we were early adopters of digital dating! I knew from our first date that I had met the man I was going to marry. We talked about everything including the songs he wanted played at his funeral… little did I know that I’d be playing those songs so much earlier than expected.

We had a whirlwind romance. We moved in together the same year and married in a Jamaica beachfront ceremony in February 2004. Life was heavenly.

We even worked together at our company Don’t Panic Events. We really were the dream team.

We decided to start a family and we had our miracle Finn in November 2007. Andy was the world’s best Dad. He ran the family home while I was flying around the world delivering awards ceremonies.

I imagined we’d see Finn off to university and then grow old disgracefully…

In July 2017 my world started to fall apart.

I returned from a business trip to find a rather anxious Andy. He’d experienced chest pains but didn’t want to tell me while I was away. My blood ran cold. I frog marched him to the doctors the next morning. He came out of his appointment smiling and said: ‘It's nothing to worry about, the doctor thinks it's stress and anxiety'.

Andy was literally the most chilled person I knew so I wasn’t convinced. The chest pains continued and I insisted they did an ECG, which records the heart's activity. It showed he was actually having a heart attack. He was blue lighted to hospital while I followed on utterly distressed with Finn in the car. By the time we got to the hospital Andy was already in emergency surgery having a stent fitted. I brought him home a few days later and we were both thankful for the 'lucky escape'.

I was awoken by a terrible noise at 6am. Andy having another heart attack. I did CPR for 25 minutes before the fire brigade and ambulance arrived.

Andy was admitted to ICU for heart surgery and put in an induced coma. I saved Andy’s life but unfortunately his brain was starved of oxygen and he suffered a catastrophic brain injury. It became very clear that we weren’t going to get our happy ever after.

Andy was admitted to a specialist brain injury rehab facility, but there was little improvement. He didn’t know who he was, where he was or who I was. Seeing your wonderful, clever husband in such an angry, confused place with little quality of life was utterly heartbreaking. I made the very difficult decision not to take Finn to visit as I wanted him to remember his Daddy as the wonderful human being he was and retain happy memories.

In February 2020 Covid was hitting the headlines, in particular the awful scenarios in care homes where Andy now was. I just knew that was going to be the end of our story. In March we lost him.

Naively I thought I’d done a lot of my grieving when he was ill but it hit me like a train wreck. It was an awfully dark time.

After some time I was conscious of just how sad and lonely I felt. At 50 I was too young to spend the rest of my life alone and although I would never get over losing Andy or stop loving him I needed to try and move forward.

I started taking the first tentative steps into dating, I tried mainstream dating apps Tinder and Bumble before quickly realising that online dating had changed significantly in the past 20 years. There were no d**k pics or ghosting back in the day!

After a few disastrous dates I realised there had to be a better way. I had been blown away by the support of widow charities and widow Facebook groups. The talk at widow meet ups very often turns to dating and the challenges of dating again. And so I decided to launch Chapter 2 Dating; the UK's only dating app for widows and widowers to offer a safe and secure space for people to navigate their next chapter.

There is a rigorous sign up process where we ask all members to verify their widow status by sharing a link to an obituary or memorialised Facebook page or send in a photo of a death certificate. We review all sign ups daily and reject any suspicious profiles.

We believe widows and widowers are uniquely placed to understand each other and respect what has gone before. Chapter 2 is much more than a dating site, we are a community. The site also features a blog, advice, resources and a forum.

I genuinely want to create a force for good. If I can help widows or widowers find some joy and find their next chapter then that will help me make sense of my loss. I hope Andy would be proud that I’m making lemonade out of lemons and creating a legacy for Finn.

Maybe I'll find my second chapter too!"

Chapter 2 is offering free premium access until 25th January, where you can find possible support, friendship, companionship or a relationship

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