We first told Kate’s story in December 2014.
I’m sharing my story with you because I hope it will help other women to pick up the pieces of their lives and start again, just as I did.
The day John died started like any other. But I replay it like a movie in my mind. It’s around 8am on a Wednesday. I’m trying to persuade our 22-month old daughter Ellie to eat her breakfast whilst keeping an eye on Ollie. Ollie is only 8 weeks old.
John is frantically searching for his keys. I see him clearly: he’s wearing the blue shirt I bought for his birthday. He’s as handsome as the day we met. He finds his keys, hurriedly kisses us each on the forehead. And is gone. Literally. Forever.
Later, I hear the kind of knock on the door you imagine happens to ‘other people’. The policewoman says that John is dead. I can’t understand. It’s like she’s talking a foreign language. John can’t be gone. He’s only 38. He’s my husband, my kids’ dad. There has to be a mistake.
From that moment, everything fell apart. Suddenly I’m a widow at 39 with 2 kids. This wasn’t how it was meant to be. John and I had made plans. We had planned to do so much more together and with the kids. It feels like things can’t get worse. Then 8 months later I lose my job.
The period that followed was so dark I’ve blocked most of it out. Because I was struggling financially, we had to move house 4 times. That was really hard on the kids. I tried to be strong for them but I’ve never felt so alone in my life.
I fell deeper and deeper into debt. My confidence hit rock bottom. Day after day, I applied for jobs. Most times I never even received a response. Who was going to employ a shell of a woman like me? I felt worthless and I worried my kids would be taken away.
I heard about Fitted for Work through a social worker. I wondered what the service would be like. I felt really nervous about it all. But everyone was so warm and welcoming. I started the program and was introduced to the most wonderful group of volunteers. They did more than help me prepare for interviews. They helped me to stand tall and believe in myself again.
Together, we re-wrote my resume. And, when I was called for interview, they helped me practiCe questions and talk about my strengths. I couldn’t afford to buy appropriate interview clothes, so the Fitted for Work volunteers dressed me in a navy suit, matching scarf and shoes. I couldn’t believe people had given them away – they were all so beautiful. I hardly recognised myself when I looked in the mirror. I looked so professional. I couldn’t help but smile back at myself.
When I got the call to say I got the job, I had to stop myself from crying down the phone. I couldn’t believe it. After all the rejection, somebody wanted me. I’ve been working for a while now. Being a single mum is hard and I miss John greatly.
December will be difficult, knowing that other families are celebrating the holidays together. But things are looking up for us. I’m starting to feel connected to life again.
I hope you’re able to donate to the Fitted for Work fundraising appeal this year. Helping women, like me, get work means more than financial security. It means regaining your dignity, pride and importantly, hope.
Thank you for reading my letter.
*Models used and name changed for privacy reasons.