Family man Brian Gribben was heartbroken when Sheila, his beloved wife for almost 59 years, died of cancer in 2021.
Brian, 79, who grew up in Bethnal Green and used to work as a meat porter at the famous Smithfield Market, was just 17 when they met and 19 when they got married in October 1962. Their lives were full of jokes and laughter.
“We were like a golden couple,” he says. “Everything went right for us.”
Now he cries every day, he says. He tried antidepressants but could not stand the physical side-effects.
He gets wonderful support from his family and is clearly bursting with pride in his grandchildren.
But ultimately it is meeting up with other people in the Healing Hearts bereavement support group in Chigwell, Redbridge, who are going through exactly the same thing that helps him most.
“I didn’t want to go,” he says. “I didn’t believe it would do any good, but it has cheered me up like mad. I don’t know why but I come out of there like I am dancing on my toes.”
It even helped him through a second terrible loss in 2022, when his younger daughter Lee died suddenly of a brain tumour at the age of 51, just over a year after her mother’s death.
Through his sobs he told the group he didn’t know if he was crying for Sheila or his baby, and they understood.
“They are such nice people,” he says. “I never miss a meeting.”
He was put in contact with them by social prescriber Simarone Sahota, from Wanstead and Woodford primary care network.
Her role is to listen to people whose health is suffering because of problems that can’t be solved by doctors, and to connect them with groups and activities that can help.
Simarone phones Brian every month to check how he is.
“She is the most charming young lady,” he says. “She would calm anybody down.”