Widower Gary Andrews who went viral with a doodle diary of his grief reveals in heartwarming new illustration how he told his teenage daughter he’s found love again after losing his wife to sepsis in 2017
- After the sudden death of his wife Joy, 41, from sepsis in 2017, illustrator Gary Andrews turned to his doodle diary documenting the family’s grief in drawings
- His scribbles on navigating life without his wife went viral after he shared them. He’s now dating new girlfriend Lisa
- Published Finding Joy on grief last year and has now revealed – in a drawing – how he discussed with with daughter Lily difficult subject of falling in love again
- Gary, 60, says his teenage daughter told him ‘Mum was your great love but if you’d met Lisa then, it would have been her’
Widowed illustrator Gary Andrews, who went viral with his doodles on dealing with grief, has revealed in his latest artwork how he discussed with his teenage daughter meeting someone new – after the tragic death of his wife four years ago.
Gary Andrews, 60, who lives in Horley, Surrey, lost the mother of his two children, Joy, 41, from sepsis in 2017, and saw his daily diary drawings about family life after loss shared thousands of time on social media.
Last year he published Finding Joy, a moving account in art of how the family grieved for Joy and this week he revealed – again in a doodle – how he discussed during a ‘bedtime chat’ with his daughter Lily how he had fallen for new girlfriend Lisa.
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After the sudden death of his wife Joy, 41, from sepsis in 2017, illustrator Gary Andrews turned to his doodle diary documenting the family’s grief in drawings’ – his latest shows how he discussed with his teenage daughter Lily finding love again
Gary, who lives in Surrey, lost his ‘soul mate’ of 19 years when Joy fell ill with what they both thought was flu in October 2017. He was away on a week-long work trip to Vancouver, Canada (Pictured on the their wedding day)
Gary, 60, says his teenage daughter Lily, right, told him ‘Mum was your great love but if you’d met Lisa then, it would have been her’ as the pair broached the subject of him finding a new relationship
The sketch sees Gary telling Lily: ‘You know although I love Lisa, I don’t love mum any less, right?’
Lily, sat on her bed, responds: ‘Oh yes, mum was your great love who you thought ‘she’s the one forever…’ but if you’d not met her, but met Lisa then, it would have been her.’
On Twitter, he captioned the drawing: ‘Bedtime chat with Lily about my new relationship. Marvelling as ever at her maturity and understanding.’
He reveals Lily also told him: ‘I’m just so pleased you’ve chosen someone nice’.
On Twitter, many shared their own experiences and thanked Gary for being honest about the conversation with Lily.
@thresholdweller wrote: ‘I’m delighted for you and your daughter’s approval. The guilt of finding love after bereavement can be overwhelming, but it ebbs as you feel support from others that you love.’
@Laura_Halifax added: ‘Lily is as amazing as she is because you and Joy raised her so well and allowed her to flourish into the young woman she is today. I am sure Joy would be very proud of you all.’
@braddersmk2 penned: ‘This so echoes talks I had with my kids 15 years ago after I lost my first wife to Cancer. Wishing you the same happiness with Lisa as I have with my 2nd wife, and continuing good rapport with your kids!’
He also shared a sketch of new love Lisa supporting him during his latest work on A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Gary lost his ‘soul mate’ of 19 years when Joy fell ill with what they both thought was flu in October 2017. He was away on a week-long work trip to Vancouver, Canada. She died while he was on the flight home.
He began writing a doodle diary to record family life before Joy’s death and, as a happily married father of two, his exquisite drawings were filled with gentle humour and sheer delight at his good fortune.
However, when he was blindsided by her death, Gary turned to his diary for solace, pouring his heart out on to the page to capture his grief and the struggle to cope as a single parent.
Memories: Gary and Joy, who died in 2017, with their children, Lily and Ben
His artwork quickly captured the attention of people on social media and in 2020, he published the drawings in his book, Finding Joy.
Last year, Gary, turned his talents to recording the family’s ongoing journey through lockdown too – from snuggling up on the sofa with his children to home-schooling.
As always, the ethereal image of his late wife, Joy, was often to be found in the background of his cartoons – her guiding presence in the family’s life as strong as it was before her tragic death.
In one image, Joy appears next to Gary as he watches daughter Lily baking a cake, with the caption: ‘She gets more and more like you every day . . . It’s beautiful. Thank you for that gift.’
Gary said at the time of the Covid pandemic: ‘It has brought the loneliness of not having Joy here back, which was going away before because life was so busy.
In his book: Gary reveals how he stretches himself with new activities and (right) documents the loneliness of being a single parent and missing Joy’s company
‘She still pops up in my drawings — not as much as in the earlier days, when everything was happening for the first time — but she is never going away.’
Of his wife’s untimely death, he adds: ‘When it first happened, the grief was all-encompassing. Her sudden and unexpected death was a massive shock to the system. It totally enveloped me.
‘The grief itself you never get over, but you learn to live with it and put it in a place where it’s manageable and you can control it.
Moving on: ‘She has gone but the love is still there’. (Right) Height of happiness: Ben finally has his birthday party
‘Now, it sits comfortably and quietly in a little corner — not defining me, but informing everything about who I am.
‘Being a solo parent is hard enough, and to have this pandemic and lockdown thrust upon us is tough, although I know a lot of people have it tougher.
‘It would be nice to have Joy here to bounce ideas off, to share the load, to laugh with, to tag-team the home-schooling with and just to sit on the sofa with in the evening.’
It would be the first of 700 doodles charting his struggle to fill the gap left by Joy as he embarked on the lonely, but ultimately inspiring, journey from despair to something closer to happiness.
Darling daughter: Celebrating Lily becoming a teen. (Right) Gin genius: Like many in lockdown, Gary’s social life has to become virtual
Drawing every night before going to bed, Gary sees his doodles as a way of immortalising the woman he married in 2004, after she graduated from York University where she had studied film, TV and acting.
Before her death, Joy ran a media company with Gary, who has worked as an animator on children’s TV series Fireman Sam and is currently directing Horrid Henry, and he often wonders what she would have made of this tribute to her.
‘People have told me the book has helped them navigate their own journey of grief. I’ve had terminally ill people tell me they’ve bought it for their spouses. It’s been unbelievably humbling and beautiful.’
Legacy of Joy: Gary can see so much of his wife in Lily. (Right) Party of one: Gary joins the Zoom revolution in lockdown
Gary hopes that Joy would have been proud of the way he stepped up to the challenge of bringing up their adored children alone.
‘Lily was ten when Joy died, so she was old enough to be able to process it and understand,’ he says.
‘Now she’s a teen and is dealing with all those things teenagers have to cope with as well as this, but it has made her a very strong and emotionally confident young woman.
Last year Gary said a new relationship wouldn’t ‘take anything away from the feelings I had before. Falling in love again is not cheating.’
‘We can talk about anything. Having to become mum and dad to her means that any kind of barrier there may have been has gone. It’s made for an open and close relationship.
‘Ben was seven when Joy died, old enough for it to impact him, but not old enough for him to process it.
‘He’s developed a dark sense of humour and he’s very funny. His defence has been to stick two fingers up at death, and that’s a pretty valid response.
‘Neither of my children is afraid to talk about what happened, we’re a great little team.’
‘The love I have for Joy is never going to go away. She’s gone, but that love is still there.
‘That love is now in a particular place, and there’s no reason why someone else can’t come into my life for whom I can have those feelings again.
‘It does not take anything away from the feelings I had before. Falling in love again is not cheating.’
Finding Joy (£16.99, John Murray) is available at all good bookshops
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