Unlike other days of remembrance, you probably won’t get a calendar alert on your phone.   Unless you are widowed the significance of the date escapes you. International Widows Day is observed annually on June 23.

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.

Widowhood is not the typical coffee or backyard picnic topic of conversation. It’s often the elephant in the room. No one wants to talk about it. Few women want to think about it. Men often don’t want to face preparing paperwork for their wives that acknowledges their brevity of life. It’s awkward, uncomfortable, and unpleasant.

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 59.
  • There are an estimated 258 million widows around the world, and nearly one in ten live in extreme poverty..
  • In some countries, widows have no rights or assistance and are shunned.
  • 70% of married women become widows.
  • A one-time lump-sum Social Security death payment of $255 can be paid to the surviving spouse if they were living with the deceased. This amount has not been changed since 1954.
  • A couple may have planned on two social security checks in retirement each month, A widow receives only the greater amount, despite having paid into the system if she was employed.
  • Some widows in the US are at poverty level, and 49% of 14 million US widows earn less than $25K per year but some are financially independent. Financial status is just one aspect showing widowhood is not a one size fits all status.
  • Emotionally: loneliness is real; 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. Dining room sets come with four or six chairs, not five. 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.
  • Mentally: Thinking is cloudy; forgetfulness is present.
  • Spiritually: initial “grief brain” makes even simple Bible reading and prayer a challenge. Even in the church, her couple groups become foreign territory.

Has today’s blog post surprised you with new information and is your awareness heightened?  Being present without words is often the best comfort for a new widow. But there are other ways too:

  • 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, so don’t compare “grief progress”.
  • Look into how to support widows in war-torn and impoverished countries.
  • If you are an activist who sees flaws in our US system, as it reaches (or doesn’t) widows, you may want to advocate for widows’ (and widowers) rights.
  • Think about reaching out to a widow and her children. Many are raising children as a solo parent.
  • If you are a widow, check out Modern Widows Club to find in person and virtual support groups and activities to lean into life. https://modernwidowsclub.orgAs a widow, can you form a group at your church for encouragement and life-giving activities?
  • How does your church  support widows? Can you add anything?
  • As a widow, how can you reach out to another?

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.

What has surprised you most about today’s blog post?  If you are a widow with additional insights, please share in the comments.

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