Death being an inevitable part of life means that you will, at some point in time, attend one or more funeral services. Following the service, most people will return to the comfort of their homes, the security of their jobs, and their lives will quickly pick up right where they left off prior to the service. As they say; life goes on. Everything returns to normal. But not so much for the grieving widow.
For widows comes a whole new “normal.”
Prior to the loss of their spouse “normal” meant living out their lives with their spouses, raising their children, attending family gatherings, and sharing all of the day-to-day trials and tribulations knowing that their best friend, lover, confidant and soulmate was by their side. Now day-to-day life can become a matter of survival which will include getting through the holidays, or perhaps raising their children alone. For many widows, it can also mean financial hardship.
There used to be a time when a widow would wear black so others would know that she was in mourning and grieving. Now that black is a fashion statement she will often need to tell people of her loss. Often times, immediately following the “I’m so sorry to hear of your loss” the next words spoken will be at least two comments she does not want to hear: “Give it time… time heals all wounds,” and “Everything will be okay.”
The problem is that the “time heals all wounds” comment only applies if it’s a flesh wound, and “everything will be okay” is subjective.
Regardless of how she lost the love of her life, be it by natural causes, illness, or an act of war, she was never emotionally prepared for his death. In an instant, her sense of normalcy has been replaced with overwhelming grief, anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression can be, and should be, treated with conventional medicine and/or alternative therapies. Sorrow and the grieving process cannot be treated by putting it into some sort of time machine and waiting for that magical date in the future when all signs of grief are no longer evident and everything is now okay.
Widowhood is a personal experience that does not fit neatly into textbook definitions. It’s also a vastly different experience depending on where you live in the world.
According to the 2015 World Widows Report (the only authoritative, comprehensive data source about the discrimination and injustice faced by widows and their dependents country by country and worldwide) there are currently 258,481,056 widows globally with 584,574,358 children (including adult children). Other facts from this very in-depth report include:
Some countries treat widowed women worse than in other countries, with varying degrees of treatment ranging anywhere from being treated a little different to being treated greatly different from other women, based on culture and social norms.
As an example, in parts of India widows are expected to devote the remainder of their lives to the memory of the departed husband. She is never allowed to emerge from mourning. Widows are often isolated from society in ways such as not being able to wear her jewelry; a sign of a married woman in Hindu culture. She may also be required to cut her hair, not so much as speak the name of another man, and wear a white sari to signify her widowhood.
In the U.S., widows are, for the most part, not treated any differently from other women whereas widows in countries such as Turkey and Indonesia are treated significantly different from other women.
A survey commissioned by The Loomba Foundation on the treatment of widows across a sample of seventeen developing and developed countries uncovered evidence of widespread widows’ disadvantage. Twelve of the countries saw at least 40 percent of respondents reporting varying degrees of widows’ disadvantage, from “a great deal,” to “some” disadvantage. On average, 63 percent of respondents reported widows being treated worse than the general female population, of whom 20 percent said “little”, 27 percent said “some”, and 16 percent answered “a great deal”.
We all grieve in our own way and on our own time schedule. While Widowhood itself is viewed – and treated – differently in various cultures, we all share the same human emotions and we all take each day one at a time, putting one foot in front of the other as we move towards whatever our own definitions of “normal” and “okay” may be.