A WIDOW from Wilton who all but died of a broken heart following the death of her husband has spoken of the joy she has finally found through friendship.

Christina Morrow, 75, became so depressed after she lost her beloved husband Ralph, she stopped eating and had to be rushed to hospital for a blood transfusion and iron infusion.

But today Chris says she has a ‘new lease of life’ thanks to one of the UK’s largest and oldest friendly societies, the Oddfellows. She now says she has a wonderful group of friends, wakes up feeling bright every day, and enjoys an active social life.

Chris, from Wilton, near Salisbury, is sharing her story as part of the society’s Friendship Month to encourage other people to make new connections within their communities.

She said: “Ralph was my soulmate, we loved to travel and I had devoted my life to him. I was his carer for 20 years and when he was gone, I was totally forlorn.

“I hadn’t always been able to socialise and maintain friendships like everyone else. So, I fell into a very deep black hole. I stopped eating, I didn’t leave the house, I slept most of the day and couldn’t sleep at night.”

Salisbury Journal:

Chris and Ralph ran a successful business together before taking early retirement when Ralph was diagnosed with Eosinophilic fasciitis, a rare muscle disease that paralyses the muscles. The pair were married for 39 years when Ralph died four years ago.

For almost two years, Chris hid her depression from her daughter Mandy, who worked as a long-haul stewardess and spent much of the time out of the country.

She finally got help when her shocked aunt came to visit and immediately called an ambulance because she feared for her health.

She said: “Mandy and I have a very loving relationship and because I hate to worry her, I went to great lengths to hide the true state of my health. But when my aunt arrived she took one look at me and called for help.

“The doctor looked at my test results and said I shouldn’t really be alive. It was the wakeup call I needed.”

She added: “I had a lot of counselling and support after hospital, but I realised I needed more than that, I needed friends.”

Chris, who joined the Salisbury Branch of the Oddfellows in May last year after cutting out an advert for the group, said: “It was as if a weight had been lifted from me. Having people who understood what I was going through gave me hope.

“It’s given me a new lease of life.

“My life had been looking after Ralph and I was totally closeted. He was the love of my life, so I didn’t mind, but now he is gone I need to reach out and find those friends again. Without the Oddfellows I don’t know what I would have done. They picked me up when I was down, they are there for me.”

The next events of the groups are a coffee morning at the Red Lion Hotel on October 10 at 10.30am; a skittles evening at The Swan at Stoford on October 12 at 7pm; and an evening social at the Ox Row Inn on October 17 at 7pm.

Angela Harmsworth, Branch Secretary for the Salisbury Oddfellows said: “Sadly, it’s very common to become isolated when we lose a loved one.

“But studies are beginning to show how regular company is essential to living a happier and healthier life. In fact, some would say that spending time with friends is as important as eating healthily or exercising. Friends aren’t just there to socialise with, they provide support and comfort in times of need.

“Most of us make our friends through work, family or education. As we age and our life changes, we have less access to these everyday social opportunities, which can contribute towards social isolation in a huge way.”

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Friendship Month, which celebrates the power of friendship, highlighting the need to keep social as we age, and as a way to signpost people to how they stay connected to their communities.

Angela added: “During Friendship Month, we put on lots of exciting events which are perfect for first introductions, but the Oddfellows is here to offer friendship and support all year round. If someone is unsure about what to expect, please contact us so we can put you at ease. If we know someone new is coming alone, we’ll always ensure there’s someone for them to ‘buddy up’ with until they find their feet.”