How we met: ‘It felt strange to like someone so soon after losing my son’


Show caption ‘It’s important to find a sense of happiness again after tragedy’ … Anil and Clare. How we met How we met: ‘It felt strange to like someone so soon after losing my son’ Anil, 63, and Clare, 54, met in 2014 at a support group for bereaved parents. They split their time between south Gloucestershire and Surrey Lizzie Cernik Mon 9 May 2022 11.00 BST Share on Facebook

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In January 2014, Anil was left devastated when his eldest son, Wesley, died in a motorbike accident. “I went into shock; it was all a blur,” he says. “People were kind and tried to help, but I was in a massive pit of grief that I couldn’t get out of.” That summer, he joined a group for bereaved parents. “It was really helpful. It felt like the only place you could be yourself and didn’t have to put on a brave face.”

At the group, he met Clare, who had also lost her son, Matthew, in a motorbike accident. “The group became a lifeline for me,” she says. “At the first meeting I went to, the group leaders told me about Anil, because he had lost his son in such similar circumstances. We met at the next meeting.”

Although Anil felt they had an immediate connection, he was wary of coming on too strong. “I liked her straight away, but it’s hard to know where your emotions are in that situation, so I questioned my feelings,” he says. Clare felt the same way. “He seemed like a very sincere and genuine person, but it felt strange to like someone so soon after losing Matthew.”

Before Christmas, Anil asked Clare if she would like to meet for coffee. “It ended up being a nine-hour date with dinner,” he says. “I offered to go to the inquest into Matthew’s death with Clare in the new year, because I’d been through it myself and knew how traumatic it was.” In the end, she went with her ex-partner, but Anil brought her flowers afterwards.

In the new year, they began to meet more regularly and by February they were a couple. They started spending so much time together that Clare’s children eventually guessed what was going on. “They were really pleased for me,” she says. Anil’s younger son has also met Clare and is happy for his father.

Although they relied on each other for emotional support, they also laughed together. “It sounds strange, but it wasn’t all doom and gloom – we needed to laugh too,” says Anil.

They spend their time between Anil’s flat in south Gloucestershire and Clare’s house in Surrey, with their rescue dog, Widget. “We love going on long walks together,” she says. Since losing their sons, the couple have faced more challenges together. “My children have had some health problems, but Anil has been a huge support,” says Clare. “My mum has dementia, too, and he helps me out so much. He’s always so calm and kind.” In 2016, Anil had a heart attack and was nursed by Clare. “I moved into her place at the time,” he says. “It was so nice not to feel isolated while I recovered.”

They continue to support each other in celebrating the lives of the sons they lost. “I do an annual 18-mile walk following the routes I used to go on with Wesley,” says Anil. Clare’s son also loved the outdoors. “He adored animals, too, so getting the dog has been great. When I’m walking with Widget, I’m reminded of Matthew.”

The couple plan to travel to Anil’s native Sri Lanka and they love cooking meals together. “Anil really appreciates the simple joys in life,” says Clare. “He’s always patient and we love laughing together. He understands that it’s important to find a sense of happiness again after tragedy.” Anil believes their positivity keeps them going. “Life has thrown a lot at Clare, but she’s very resilient,” he says. “I think it helps to keep the memory of your loved ones alive.”

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