International Widows Day is observed annually on June 23. It’s not a day marked with streamers, balloons, and cake. It’s probably not in fine print on your calendar and you won’t get a calendar alert on your phone. Show of hands: have you ever heard about it?
In 2010, the United Nations established the date to raise awareness of the needs and plight of widows and their families globally, nationally, and locally. My mayor in Greenville. SC has joined in the observance with a proclamation declaring the day as one to remember widows.
Widowhood is not the typical coffee or backyard picnic topic of conversation. It’s often the elephant in the room. Few women want to think about it. Men often don’t want to see that “affairs are in order” for their wives. It’s awkward, uncomfortable, and unpleasant.
Widowhood grants membership in a club a woman never wanted to join. She is thrown into on-the-job training without pre-requisite skills. Immediately, she gains first-hand experience she never sought.
As the day intends to, raise awareness of widows, does it surprise you approximately 1080 women will lose a spouse today in the United States? Women will begin their day married, and by midnight, change their conversations from “we” to “I”.
And did you also know?
- There are currently nearly 14 million widows in the United States.
- The average age of a widow in the United States is 58.
- There are an estimated 258 million widows around the world, and nearly one in ten live in extreme poverty..
- There are an estimated 2 million new widows worldwide from COVID19-a widow-maker. The number is likely to grow with the coronavirus continuing in many places and its related effects on health.
- In some countries, widows have no rights or assistance and are shunned.
- 70% of married women become widows.
- Some widows in the US are at poverty level, and 49% of 14 million US widows earn less $25K per year. Yes, some are financially independent. Financial status is just one aspect of widowhood.
Grief, loss, and widowhood are not categorized or measured by dollar signs or age. Widowhood is more than grief and the loss of her husband.A woman’s life changes:
Emotionally: the house is quiet and there is no one to share decisions or hugs.
Relationally:: married friends move out of her life, gradually, and sometimes abruptly. New friends may enter, but without shared memories.
Physically: fatigue and stress take their toll on health. A June 2020 survey taken by Modern Widows Club revealed 33% of widows had a mental or physical health diagnosis in the first year of widowhood.
Spiritually: initial “grief brain” makes even simple Bible reading and prayer a challenge. Even in the church, her couples’ groups become foreign territory.
- Has today’s blog surprised you with new information and is your awareness heightened? Think about reaching out to a widow and her children. Being present with out words is often the best comfort for a new widow.
- Perhaps you want to add your voice and heart to support in friendship and pray for a widow you know. Say her husband’s name and share memories about him. Her timetable for grief and re-entry is as individual as her fingerprints. No two women grieve and mourn the same way.
- Perhaps you want to look into supporting widows in war-torn and impoverished countries.
- Perhaps you are an activist who see flaws in our US system and want to advocate for widows’ (and widowers) rights.
- If you are a widow, look into Modern Widows Club as a way to find support and lean into life.
What has surprised you most? If you are a widow with additional insights, please share in the comments.
Though widows may be overlooked in society and are often on the periphery in groups, widowhood was not overlooked Biblically.
- Jesus sought care for his widowed mother as He died. (John 19:26-27).
- James addresses caring for orphans and widows in the New Testament (James 1:27).
- The prophet Isaiah seems to cover it inclusively:
“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:17 NIV
We need to cover it too.