A globe-trotting great-grandmother from Gateacre, Liverpool, has hailed the Mersey Branch of the Oddfellows for helping her continue her adventures as a widow.
The Oddfellows is a friendship group based across Merseyside which provides social events for its members.
Val Rider, who was born in Hunts Cross but travelled across the globe with her husband John, said the society has helped her overcome the first steps of socialising again after the loss of her husband.
Val, who met John when they were both working in the Liver Building in the 1950s, said: “We had a wonderful life together. We took chances but we had each other for support.
“After John died I had to learn to go forward on my own, I sold my home in Cumbria and relocated back to Liverpool which was quite a big thing.
“I joined the Oddfellows after seeing an advert in a magazine and thought ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ – and I’m so glad I did! There are plenty of activities to keep you busy, there’s always something to look forward to.”
Val, who moved to Gateacre to be nearer her children following John’s death, added: “I have loved everything I’ve done with the Oddfellows. It’s a good laugh, it’s good company, and you meet people you wouldn’t otherwise have done, and who are in the same position as yourself.
“It’s not replacing John of course, but it’s provided me with some company. It’s hard being on your own, especially when you’ve been with someone for over 50 years. I’ve gained confidence as I’ve got older, but I still find it hard to walk into a room full of people I don’t know.”
To help residents overcome the difficult first step to socialising again after loss, the Oddfellows group in Mersey is inviting visitors along to its events for just three minutes.
The unusual offer is based on the ‘Three Minute Carrot Method’, which gives you permission to stop or leave something after three minutes instead of feeling daunted by staying for an hour.
The technique was suggested to the group by Clinical Psychologist and author, Dr Jennifer Wild, who was asked for her advice on ways in which people can rebuild social confidence after losing a partner.
Margaret Hughes, Branch Secretary of Mersey District Oddfellows, a not-for-profit which brings people together in the community for social activities, said:“Going to something new for the first time can be nerve-wracking, especially if it’s the first time an individual has really put themselves in a social setting without having their partner by their side. That’s really tough.”
“We’re here for you when you feel ready to socialise again. We’d obviously love people to stay for the entirety of our events, but we also recognise that people move at their own pace. So, if you decide that three minutes is enough for you that day, that’s totally fine. If you want to stay longer, then that’s great also.”
Dr Wild, who has written a series of blogs for the Oddfellows, commented: “The Three Minute Carrot Method gives you permission to stop or leave something early. After your three minutes you can decide if you are going to turn around and go home, or if you are going to carry on. You’ll find, more often than not, that you will carry on. But by giving yourself permission to leave it relieves the pressure.”
Margaret added: “When Dr Wild explained this technique to us, we wanted to share her advice more widely as it could be the thing that encourages someone to take that one small positive step forwards.”
The Oddfellows’ Mersey Branch organises social events for its members across the area. It holds a regular meet-up at Hale, Rainhill, Childwall and the Wirral, where newcomers are always welcome to come along and give it a try.
Upcoming events include a cuppa and a chat on Tuesday 21 June in Hale Village Hall, and Friday 24 June, at Childwall Abbey Hotel.
“We say ring or email us ahead of your first event to let us know you’re coming, so we can explain exactly where we meet and we can expect and welcome you,” added Margaret.
In addition to attending regular social events, Oddfellows members can access financial benefits and welfare support, with a dedicated care helpline and citizens advice team, and a travel club.
Anyone wishing to attend an upcoming event or to receive a local events diary, contact Margaret on 0151 639 2777 or email Margaret.Hughes@oddfellows.co.uk.
Further information about the Oddfellows can be found at oddfellows.co.uk/firststeps.
Dr Jennifer Wild is a consultant clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Oxford. Her book, Be Extraordinary: 7 Key Skills to Transform your Life from Ordinary to Extraordinary, is about how to transition from ordinary to extraordinary.
To read Dr Wild’s series of advice blogs, written especially for the Oddfellows, go to oddfellows.co.uk/news.