“Being a widow is just one label, but it doesn’t define who I am.”

“Being a widow is just one label, but it doesn’t define who I am.”

By Judith Tebbutt for International Widow’s Day

It is almost ten years since I was taken hostage in Somalia and my husband was murdered on that same night, leaving me a widow.  We had been on the second week of a two-week holiday and looking forward to some rest and relaxation on a Kenyan beach resort. It was not meant to be, for little did I know it was going to be the last day I would ever spend with David.

For those six months I was held in captivity, my thoughts were taken up by surviving on a day-to-day basis, so I didn’t allow myself much headspace to think about being a widow; I was too busy being a survivor, which took every ounce of my being.  I was eventually released and rather than the end of a holiday it was the beginning of a new life for me as a widow.  It was only when I arrived back at our family home that reality struck; David wasn’t there with me.  Our bags had been forwarded back home and were sitting on a bed in the guest room with David’s hiking shoes visible in the open bag.

It was at this very moment I knew that I would be living alone, that visible tangible proof screamed out that I was now a widow.

Nothing could have prepared me for being a hostage just as nothing could have prepared me for being a widow.  I had shared my life with David my husband for 32 years; he was part of me, and I was part of him. Not having him was like I had lost a part of me that I knew I was never going to find.  However, I knew that I had to move on with my life and I had to make mine and David’s life together matter, he would live on through me.  And he has. My son and I set up the David Tebbutt Trust and support various charities connected with books and literature and we sponsor students studying for an MA in Publishing.

On a personal note, over the last almost ten years I have had to move on with my life and there have been some very dark times but also joy and new adventures.  In the early days I remember someone saying to me, “time’s a healer” and “the pain will ease”, but I didn’t believe them at the time; how could this pain and deep, deep sadness go away?  How could I ever find joy and laughter in life again? But I have.  For me grief was like a physical weight, it hung around my neck for years, but I am pleased to say that time does help and the pain is more durable and I have found ways to cope without David.

Being a widow is just one label I have but it doesn’t define who I am.  I am a woman first and foremost, I am a mother, I am a daughter, I am a sister, I am an aunt, I am a friend.  I am me, Jude, who is learning to live life the best way I can.

Judith volunteers as a trustee for Hostage International, helping shape our support for the family of hostages and hostages after they return. Judith was taken hostage by Somali pirates in September 2011 while she and her husband were on holiday on the Kenyan coast. Her husband David – former Finance Director at the publishing company Faber & Faber –  was killed in the kidnap and Judith was taken hostage and held in solitary confinement for six months. You can read her full story in her autobiography ‘A Long Walk Home’.  

Please help us deliver our work by donating here. 

International Widow’s Day is a United Nations Observance Day to highlight the impact that the devastating loss of a partner has on women around the world. 


June 2021


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“Being a widow is just one label, but it doesn’t define who I am.”
“Being a widow is just one label, but it doesn’t define who I am.”