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The Widow's Might

My husband's death forced me to change in ways I never wanted to.
2008This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

I am part of the fastest growing demographic in the United States. We are targeted by new-home builders and surveyed by designers. We are a lucrative niche for health and beauty products, and financial planners invite us to dinners. It's no wonder the marketers are after us: 800,000 join our ranks every year.

Who are we? We are the invisible among you—the widows.

Studies show that widows lose 75 percent of their friendship network when they lose a spouse. Sixty percent of us experience serious health issues in that first year. One third of us meet the criteria for clinical depression in the first month after our spouse's death, and half of us remain clinically depressed a year later. Most experience financial decline. One pastor described us by saying we move from the front row of the church to the back, and then out the door. We move from serving and singing in choir to solitude and silent sobbing, and then on to find a place where we belong.

With my husband Bob's exit to heaven, my daily life has changed: my calendar, my checkbook, the thermostat, the contents of my refrigerator, and even the look in my children's eyes when they step through the door on holidays. My living space is more cluttered. I seldom use makeup. I am now familiar with the smell of car oil as I sit in Lube Right waiting for an oil change. There are other changes so private and personal they cannot be shared. Loneliness and solitude are not descriptive enough of the space that becomes the cocoon of the widow.

Had I been faced with these facts five years ago, I would have stated, "It can't be so! In the community of believers, we support each other." But I look back on my own responses to women who had become widows and realize how little I understood, ...

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