Philip Mead standing in his garden

Things went from bad to worse for Philip Mead after his wife Val passed away. He missed her greatly and began having flashbacks of her death. Then he was involved in an accident that wrote off his car, leaving him completely isolated. But with a little help from the British Red Cross, Phil started to build up his life again.

Losing a loved one

“She was the person that led the way. She was a sociable person. I couldn’t do that… talk to people, mingle, and make small talk,” said Phil about his late wife Val.

After 47 years of marriage, she had passed away.

“When she died, it was really hard. I missed her. I started to get flashbacks. I could see her lying there, in the hospital bed. It felt so real, I could hear her struggling to breathe, and it was so vivid,” Phil said.

The grief became too much for Phil to deal with alone. He contacted a bereavement charity to see if he could get some support. But the waiting list was six months.

From bad to worse

Without support, things deteriorated. Bills and other letters started piling up, and Phil wasn’t sure what to do. He started to feel disconnected from the world.

Phil’s son and daughter bought him a laptop and hoped getting him online would help him to sort the bills, send emails and connect with family on social media. They encouraged him to go to the local library to get some classes on how to use it.

But Phil’s anxiety was still there. Then he was involved in a major car crash and although no one was seriously hurt, his car was written off and he suffered from whiplash.

Without his car, Phil soon became completely isolated, only leaving his home to go to the shop for things he needed.

“I just didn’t want to know about anything,” Phil said.

It was when Phil went to his GP about his whiplash, that he saw an advert for a local Red Cross service that helped people who felt alone or lacked confidence.

“I’d seen it before and thought about calling but never had,” Phil said.

“This time I knew I had to call them if I was ever going to get any help.”

Meeting the Red Cross

Phil was connected to Alan, one of our Red Cross volunteers.

“I told him that I was no good at going out, meeting people and holding a conversation. It’s not in my nature, that was my wife and I felt I couldn’t do it without her,” Phil said.

But Alan persevered and found out what Phil liked to do. He started to help him build his confidence and work towards going out and meeting people.

They started at a local café which had a computer room. Alan thought Phil could get some useful help with using his laptop.

“I got on well, I felt safe, but I knew that Alan was there. That helped me a lot. I knew if I froze up Alan would be there to help me,” Phil said.

Then Phil mentioned that he was a member of the University of the Third Age but had never been to a meeting. So Alan accompanied him to the next one.

The pair went out together a few more times, and Phil started to feel more and more comfortable around strangers. He was even enjoying himself.

“I finally felt like I was getting to grip with things, so I told Alan I wanted to try to do something on my own. I told him ‘I think I can start to meet the world.’”

Branching out alone

Phil started to go to the University of the Third Age meetings alone and began looking for other groups to join too. He even joined the gym.

“I’m getting back to my old ways, the way I was when Val was here,” Phil said.

“I just can’t say enough times – a few months ago none of this would have happened. I feel like even if something awkward was to happen now, or a social set back, that I could deal with it. That’s what the Red Cross has done for me.”

Play your part

Over nine million people in the UK (almost one fifth of the population) report they are always or often lonely. And life transitions, like those experienced by Phil, can be key triggers for loneliness.

This year the Red Cross is launching new services, funded by Co-op, to reach more than 12,000 adults experiencing loneliness and social isolation over the next two years. And you can help.

If you’ve got a little time to spare, we are looking for people to help those in their local area who are lonely or socially isolated. Just a few hours could help someone feel so much better.