On International Widows’ Day
Losing your husband is a painful, scary experience that no one can truly prepare for. The death of a spouse changes your entire world. It also leaves many widows in vulnerable situations. It takes an emotional toll, surely, but oftentimes a physical and financial one, as well. This is why, since 2011, the United Nations has marked June 23 as International Widows’ Day in order to draw attention to the plight of 258 million women across the globe who are forced to carry on without their rock, the person who made them feel safe and cared for, and their partner in life.
In many parts of the developing world, women whose husbands die become invisible. Their voices and experiences all but erased from their cultures and communities. Even if you aren’t living in a developing nation, though, living in widowhood can feel like a lonely, despondent experience that those around you just don’t understand.
Here are a few things to remember about widows’ experiences, from the voices of women who are living in grief after the loss of their husbands.
Widowhood is Not ‘One Size Fits All’
All losses are not the same, and all grief experiences are singular. A young woman who loses her husband while her children are small faces a different grief journey than an elderly woman who loses her husband of fifty years. Not all widows grieve the same way or even face the same version of loss, but they are all in a relentlessly awful bereavement for the man they loved. Be gentle with the widows in your life.
Widowhood Can Be Deadly
Studies from the Harvard School of Public Health show that widows have a 66 percent greater chance of dying in the first three months after losing their husband. This is most often because widows neglect their own health as they grieve. Consider how you can help a widow with self-care during a difficult time. The simple act of making sure she has healthy meals at her disposal can go a long way.
Widowhood Isn’t Just Lonely, It’s Often Solitary
Being lonely is a feeling you can experience whether you are truly alone or in a large group of people, and many widows do feel quite lonely. However, it’s important to remember that widowhood is often solitary, too, which is a different concern altogether. There may not be anyone around to help with upkeep around the home or to ensure the car gets its needed maintenance. Remember that the widows in your life may need your help with very practical matters, even if they aren’t vocalizing this need themselves.
Losing a husband is a painful, scary experience and all widows will be forever changed by it. If you hope to be a support system for a widow in your life, ask questions about her unique experience and about how you can best be a friend during such a challenging chapter of her life.
If you are a widow yourself and facing feelings of being invisible, forgotten, or misunderstood, know that your experiences are valid. On International Widows’ Day – and every other day of the year – please feel encouraged to speak up about your emotions, your experiences, and your needs here in the ForeverMissed community. You are not alone.