The death of a spouse in whatever form is not only devastating but also comes with a myriad of challenges.
For the woman, it is usually the beginning of unending drama with her husband’s relatives where she is stripped of her properties. In some cases, depending on her age, she may be forced to marry her late’s husband’s brother.
As widows move through their own experiences of grief, loss, or trauma after the death of a spouse, they may also face economic insecurity, discrimination, stigmatization, and harmful traditional practices on the basis of their marital status.
In many countries, widows do not have equal inheritance rights, and they may be stripped of their land, evicted from their home, or even separated from their children.
International Widows Day is a day set aside to address the injustice, discrimination and challenges faced by widows worldwide. It is observed on June 23 annually.
According to the UN, there are an estimated 258 million widows around the world, and nearly one in ten live in extreme poverty.
International Widows Day, an initiative of the Loomba Foundation was launched at the House of Lords in London on 26 May 2005 to raise awareness and amplify the voices of widows.
It was however adopted as an annual global day of action by the UN General Assembly in December 2010.
As a widow, no matter your age, moving on with life can be a herculean task.
However, here are some tips to get on with your life as a widow.
1. Be easy on yourself
During the grieving stage, you may be filled with so much guilt about the loss of your partner. You may get angry at your spouse for leaving you. You may even question your existence and why God has not taken you too.
Understand that this is just a phase and that everything will be fine. Allow yourself to grieve but go easy on yourself.
In times of grief, you may feel the desire to “speed up” grief. That’s a normal response, but unfortunately, that’s not really possible. Be patient with yourself and your grief. When you give yourself time to heal, you will find that peace might be waiting on the other side of your grief.
2. Take care of your physical health
Yes, this is the time to take your physical health more seriously. Grieving can take its toll on your body in many ways. You may find that you have headaches, difficulty sleeping, and loss of appetite.
A study found that the risk of death for the surviving spouse goes up, particularly in the first three months of bereavement therefore, taking care of your health is essential.
Get adequate rest and sleep and pay close attention to your body for any changes.
3. Seek support
You need support now more than ever as coping with the loss of a spouse is lonely. Studies as shown that the loss of a spouse also sparks the onset of mental health issues like depression.
Even though you may be inclined to go through this phase on your own, it will help you greatly if you reach out to people, family, friends, your church community, etc for support.
4. Rediscover yourself
Although it may feel disloyal, rediscovering yourself is a way of taking a break from your grief to do a little soul-searching. When you decide that you’re ready for a new purpose, look ahead to living your life on your terms and rediscovering your true self. It can be one of the more challenging and exhilarating things you can ever do for yourself.
Learning your true self can feel like starting from square one. You’ll need to know to act and be someone who is now without their spouse, partner, and companion. Ways in which you can embark on a journey of self-discovery are learning to live within each moment, figuring out your wants and needs.
Connecting or reconnecting to your spiritual or religious beliefs can help you overcome your grief the more you practice constant self-renewal.
5. Do things that you have never done before
As you work past the painfully vulnerable first stages of grief, start incorporating little things you’ve always wanted to do but didn’t. Get regular massages, exercise, take long walks, listen to music, sleep late, read uplifting books, travel to a new place, etc.
This is a good time to volunteer for a cause. Doing service work is an excellent way to get out of your own head. Serve your community to help shift your perspective and help lift your spirits. You can volunteer for one or more organizations, depending on your capacity. When you serve, it’s hard to stay sad.
Finding a group or community of people who have lost partners can bring a lot of relief. You are not alone in what you have experienced and it’s often easier to talk to people who understand. Grief groups and online grief support sites are helpful for connecting with others. If you are looking for a local group, you can reach out to a hospice or funeral home for resources.
The loss of a partner is devastating but it does make a difference to have support.
7. Express gratitude
If you are in a deep fog of grief, practicing gratitude can help shift your perspective. Try making a list of things that your partner said or did for you that made you feel loved and supported. What things did you appreciate the most about your partner’s presence in your life? What about your partner made you smile?
By cultivating a space of gratitude, you may begin to see that life can be sweet again. It’s okay to feel sad, but try to name something you are grateful for each time an unpleasant feeling arises. Gratitude is empowering and it has the power to shift you out of your dark spaces so that you can lean into the light.