A large percentage of our users on Stitch are widows or widowers. We are constantly touched by their stories and think it is incredible that they are taking steps to seek companionship after such a terrible loss.
We think it’s important to know that widowhood can be the most difficult and distressing time in a person’s life. When a spouse passes away, the remaining individual is left with a different lifestyle, a loss of dependence, and a broken heart. The tragic loss of a husband or wife can never truly be comprehended by an outsider, but many researchers have discovered a variety of statistics that may allow us to be a little more understanding of the nature of widowhood.
According to the US Census, nearly “13% of men and 40% of women aged 65 and older are widows.” While the psychological effects of widowhood cannot be generalized into one category and vary depending on the individual, the social consequences are much more clear.
The Gerontologist of The Oxford Journals states that, “widowhood is associated with income inadequacy, which is associated with lower automobile use, lower social participation, and higher loneliness and anxiety”. Quite often, losing a spouse means losing a social circle as well. No longer does the widow or widower feel comfortable attending couple events or spending time with their spouse’s friends. Far too often widowhood brings on self-imposed isolation from the community.
Moreover, as we age into our later years, we grow accustomed to our lifestyles and the people we live them with. As married couples spend more years together, they can grow more dependent on their spouses and consequently more reliant on that lifestyle. When a husband or wife is tragically lost, the widow or widower is left to adapt to a new lifestyle and a new sense of independence. Unfortunately for many, this leads to departure from previous social circles, which can result in loneliness, anxiety, and depression.
When married couples live together for many years, they create an economic system to support each other. Whether one spouse is the breadwinner of the couple or both provide an equal share in the finances, the couple becomes dependent on one another to establish a stable household. When one of the key components of this system is lost, the balance can be thrown off and the survivor faces economic challenges.
Women in particular have a very difficult time with finances after the loss of a husband. The Encyclopedia of Aging states that “widowed older women, on average, report lower incomes and are more likely to be poor than are other groups of elderly persons”.
Furthermore, the economic issues of widowhood bring greater stress to women than men. A 2014 Gerontologist study found that widowers were better with coping financially than widows, because men have greater economic support that “tend to offset the effects of other social and psychological factors”. On the other hand, financial instability triggered greater stressors in females.
Unfortunately, this is often the trend among widows today.
Aside from the general trends, many widows or widowers are able to cope with the changes in lifestyle – both socially and economically. Yet grief, intense worry, and unhappiness resulting from widowhood are much more common among widowers and widows than their counterparts.
Periods of grief can last various durations – a few months, several years, even a lifetime – depending on individual’s coping mechanisms. Those who have not experienced widowhood cannot truly empathize and understand the loss and devastation that individual is feeling.
This brief blog post can’t even begin to describe what it’s like to be a widow or widower. While everyone’s story differs, click here to read one from a widow that we feel better illustrates the nature of widowhood.
We would love to hear from any of our users that are widows or widowers. Feel free to share your story or thoughts about this time in life in the comments below.