Society is made up of many types of personalities, family situations, economic states, etc. During the past years support groups have been developed for every type of crisis or need that may arise. These support groups are supposed to give comfort, advice and assistance along the way to individuals who share a common ‘problem.’ Of course, as the numbers of individuals facing a situation increase the need and size of the support groups increases as well.
In my early adult life I faced a crisis, a life situation for which there was no support group. There were no clubs or societies for those in my situation. There were no friends facing the same daily hurts, challenges, etc. that I faced. In the midst of this time I was in no condition to address the issue.
Now, however, I find it necessary to address it. During war times the incidence of those walking in the shoes that I walked in will increase and those of us who are around these individuals need to be aware of their needs!
I was widowed at the young age of 23 after my husband was killed in an automobile accident. I was left alone with 2 baby boys; 20 months old and 2 months old. The pain of sudden separation from my husband was compounded by the intense loneliness of having no one that I knew who could relate! Every widow that I knew was at least 30 years my senior!
Dealing with financial struggles is a huge hurdle for the young widow; life insurance either hasn’t been purchased or material goods have not yet accumulated or both. The older widow has the life experience of dealing with finances to aid her while the young widow has only just begun to face the pressures of adult life as a new family unit, now to be thrust into it alone!
While the older widow usually has a home, her husband’s accumulated bank account, his life insurance and many material possessions, the young widow is facing her new life with no home, a very small bank account, no or very little life insurance and very few possessions. Survival many times becomes the mode of daily life for the young widow in the midst of tremendous grief.
Another area of difficulty for the very young widow is the lack of camaraderie with friends. Most young people are either not yet married, or are newly married and beginning their lives together. A young widow friend can find herself alienated by her former friends. Sometimes this is due to of a lack of maturity on the part of her friends; they don’t know what to say, so they say nothing. With newly married couples the strain is caused when the young lady considers her newly widowed friend a threat to her marriage. Because of the “newness” of her own marriage, dealing with a friend who has suddenly become a widow can be overwhelming.
When the young widow has children her grief is in many ways compounded while at the same time the children can be a great comfort! Knowing that her children are a part of her husband brings great blessing to a grieving wife. The realization that they will spend their lives without their father also brings great grief to her heart. While many may have compassion on her situation, if one has not experienced this type of loss he cannot begin to fathom the intense and very physical pain the grief brings. The relief does not come in sleep, as she dreams nightly of her husband, nor does it come during the day as each moment something reminds her of his absence. The much needed support system for this young lady is missing in our society.
The hurdles a single parent faces daily are varied. Beyond the extra financial burden and intense loneliness, the widow with children also faces very practical every day struggles. Fatigue is very real! The logistics of Christmas shopping, birthday preparations, etc. are difficult when one is alone and has no family to help. I remember one specific Christmas when I had managed to purchase a bike for my son. It needed to be put together.
After hours of tearfully trying on my own I finally went across the street, asked for my neighbor’s help and got the bike together. On another occasion I wanted to purchase a Christmas tree. I could not physically manage this alone and had to ask again for help.
When one child required surgery, not only was I alone at the hospital, but I had to ask for help with my other child. You can only imagine the 3 week period that the 3 of us did not leave our home because both very small boys had serious cases of chicken pox, turned to scarlet fever. Simple things like getting food into the house can become impossible tasks. Car repairs, home repairs, etc. become burdens to a young widow who has suddenly been left on her own.
Of course over the years, sheer desperation causes anyone in this situation to learn how to do many new things. This doesn’t happen overnight however, and others need to be alert and aware of where help is needed and offer a hand. In my case, having 2 very young children, sometimes I just needed help carrying them in or out of a car. While practical, physical needs will vary with the different situations, so will the emotional needs of widowhood. Some of us just need someone to listen as we talk for hours about the spouse we suddenly lost. Others don’t want to talk, but do want company. Being sensitive to the needs of the one hurting is very important.
While many organizations and churches have programs that support the widowed, most young widows are out of place in these groups as well. The age difference and the varying needs can be a barrier. The emotional needs of the widowed are different from the divorcee, who also have growing resources available to them. My challenge to the readers is to take notice of those around you.
Don’t assume that someone else is meeting the need of your neighbor, your friend. If you are aware of a young widow in your area reach out to her in tangible ways. Be a friend to someone who has suddenly found herself alone. If you are a leader of an organization or church, seek to provide support for these individuals as well. You cannot imagine the blessing that you will be to a hurting soul.