Tackling the challenges of bereavement through walking - Jacqui's story

Sadly in 2019 I lost my husband. I had taken early retirement two months before he died, and then when we went into lockdown I found myself on my own. 

I needed to get out and get over my grief, so I started walking. 

I’m lucky to live near the Pentland Hills outside Edinburgh, so I have access to the countryside on my doorstep. 

The fresh air has been important and really helped. We all get stuck in our routines and we forget that our wellbeing is enhanced just by being outdoors.

I also wanted to find a way to connect with people, so I joined Balerno Ramblers during the first lockdown in March 2020, after I found out about them through Facebook.

I didn’t think I’d know anyone in the group, but there was one person I knew from the community - and everybody else was super welcoming; going out of their way to make sure I was comfortable.

The group is as much about being social as it is about walking. On my first walk everyone brought lunch and snacks. It was only a six-mile walk but they made time for coffee stops and a lunch break. I’d only turned up with a bottle of water, but they made sure I had the chance to buy some lunch before we hit the hills. 

After my husband’s death, my children had been really concerned about me walking on my own in the hills. I like walks that are a bit of a challenge and strenuous, but sometimes I found myself getting stuck in bogs or taking the wrong path! 

Walking with a group means that I’m safer. It means I have plans and a social life. I feel calmer and it’s reignited my love of walking. 

Joining the Ramblers has connected me to a whole community. For example, last year walked up Dalmahoy Hill; a place that I’ve never explored before. I loved standing at the top together, with amazing views of the Pentland Hills in one direction and the Forth Bridges in the other. 

When you walk with the Ramblers, you meet people from different walks of life, with different interest and passions. You learn from each other. 

Lots of people in our group have walked with Ramblers elsewhere and even gone on holidays. This gives me the impetus to make the most of the opportunities. 

Last year I became a Ramblers volunteer. I’m coordinating our group’s walks programme and I’ve been on a Ramblers beginners navigation course in the Pentlands.

To find a Ramblers group near you, click here

Margaret McGrath

I joined the same group over 17yrs ago in similar circumstances. Grateful for the friendship, fresh air and exercise on a walk. We are lucky to have Jacqui join our group, she is a big asset