How Widowhood Affected Two Women
SANDRA is a widow who lives in Australia. When her husband died some years ago, Sandra’s immediate reaction was total shock. “The realization that I had suddenly lost my mate and best friend overwhelmed me. I really cannot remember how I made it back home from the hospital or what I did for the rest of that day. During the next few weeks, my fears turned into constant physical pain.”
Sandra has an older friend, Elaine, who has been a widow for some six years. Elaine nursed her husband, David, for six months prior to his death from cancer. Her grief was so intense that not long after her husband’s death, she experienced temporary blindness. Two years later she collapsed in public. Her doctor found no sign of physical illness. However, he discovered that Elaine had been keeping her grief bottled up, so he recommended that she go home and try hard to cry. “It took quite a while to work through my grief,” Elaine admits, adding that when lonely, “I even used to go into the bedroom and bury my head in David’s clothes.”
Yes, the death of a beloved mate can cause a variety of reactions, for widowhood really involves more than simply living without a husband. Sandra, for instance, felt for a time that she had lost her identity. Like many other recently bereaved widows, she also felt vulnerable, insecure. Sandra recalls: “Being used to having my husband make final decisions, I was suddenly left alone to make those decisions. My sleep was disrupted. I was tired and fatigued. It was hard to know just what to do.”
Stories similar to Sandra’s and Elaine’s are repeated on a daily basis the world over. Sickness, accidents, wars, ethnic cleansing, and violence in general are contributing to an increasing number of widows.* Many of these women suffer in silence, not knowing what to do. What can friends and relatives do to assist those adjusting to widowhood? The following article has some suggestions that may prove helpful.
Other women are in a situation similar to that of widows because their husbands left them. Although separation and divorce create problems of their own, a number of the principles discussed in the following article may also help women in these circumstances.