There has been much written about single parents in recent weeks. But what does it take to survive as a widow, who is not a single parent by choice but by the cruel hands of fate?
There are 11.4 million widows in the country, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, some who are younger than the norm, which face a set of challenges all their own. These challenges include unexpected medical bills, the permanent loss of a loved one, and radical shifts in daily routines.
Deseret News National’s Lois Collins wrote about how some young widows can cope without a spouse. Here are 10 more ways widows can survive in the new world they’ve found themselves in when help is hard to find.
Learn to love the loneliness.
Part of being a widow is learning to spend time alone. But people don’t like to be alone, research has suggested. So, how can widows use loneliness to survive?
Well, being alone is something that people can get used to. According to The Huffington Post’s Alena Hall, people, no matter if they’re an introvert or an extrovert, can learn to accept loneliness and love it.
This is because loneliness has been linked to deepening other relationships, finding new hobbies and changing scenery. It makes people develop new skills and abilities they may not have considered before the event occurred.
Look forward to seeing your lost one again.
Jan Robinson didn’t know what it meant to be a widow until her husband Tony died. It was then that she sought advice on how to cope, and she published her findings in an article for Daily Mail.
In the piece, Robinson explained that thinking about the ways in which she would be reminded of her late husband or see him again in the afterlife helped her cope.
“As much as we were a happy family, I always looked forward to being alone with Tony again,” Robinson explained. “I used to tell the children: ‘Listen, sweeties, I married your father, not you, and I look forward to having him all to myself.’ ”
Have patience when people forget your lost spouse.
An important part of being a widow is not getting too upset when someone briefly forgets about the person you lost. Carole Brody Fleet, a speaker and award-winning author, wrote an article for The Huffington Post that explained how often families and friends will forget about the loved one you lost and not be there to help you cope.
The best medicine for a widow in that scenario is not to push those relationships away, but to accept that some people aren’t going to be there for you all the time, Fleet wrote.
“Part of your transitioning into a life post-loss includes dealing with relationships that may be in flux, evolving or perhaps even disappearing altogether,” Fleet wrote.
Take control of your life.
It might seem easy to accept loss and wallow in despair. But that won’t help you move on.
As Susan Alpert noted in an article for Noozhawk, widows should prepare to accept the life they’re living, take it by the horns and move on from the darkness when a loved one passes away. That’s the only way they can fully embrace the new world they’ve found themselves in.
“Consider getting into good physical shape with an improved diet and a schedule for training,” Alpert wrote for Noozhawk. “You might even consider a professional reboot — anything that gets you focused on something constructive can help you move on. Remember, you’re responsible for yourself. It’s you who has to take action.”
Join a community of people with similar experiences.
Like mentioned earlier in this story, there are millions of widows across the country — and they’re surely going through similar pains and problems.
One way to survive widowhood, according to one blogger, is to join a widow network.
Some of these networks include WidowNet, which offers resources and information for widows, and The American Widow Project, a social media network for widows. Young widows even have their own social networking site.
Look into short-term and long-term fixes.
The American Association of Individual Investors offers advice to widows on improving their financial situations once their loved one passes away.
“Because financial planning at this stage involves both a person’s emotional state and her financial state, many widows are pushed by well-meaning relatives and even advisors to make unwise decisions, or to make changes before they are ready to do so,” according to the AAII.
In this chart, the AAII explains what payments will need to be made in the short term for a new widow and what things will need to be figured out in the long run, too.
Some of the short-term fixes include paying for a funeral, checking on medical insurance and settling the estate of the late spouse. For the long-term, widows should look at organizing financial information, finding a financial adviser and creating a new retirement plan.
Go through the pain.
A new study found that widows tend to get through chronic or physical pain better than those who are married, according to Time magazine.
In large part this is because widows have to go through emotional pain for an extended period of time, and are used to enduring the feeling more than a married couple might be, Francine Russo wrote for Time.
This pushes the widow to accept the pain as her own, and not rely on others to remedy the situation.
Take care of your health.
Taking care of your wellness is an important part of being a widow. According to the University of Texas, weight loss is more harmful to widows than newly married couples because it may start an ongoing weight loss trend. Part of this is connected to how widows may be elderly, and weight loss for the elderly can sometimes be fatal, the study found.
"This is a big concern for population health as significant weight loss increases mortality risk — especially among the elderly," said head researcher Debra Umberson about the study. "We were especially concerned to see that weight loss following widowhood is significantly greater for African-Americans than for whites."
Understand that you can love again.
It is possible to love again. Psychology Today’s Aaron Ben-Zeev wrote that widows often seek someone new to love once enough time has gone by — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Being with someone new can help people cope and learn to rebuild relationships, Ben-Zeev wrote, which is crucial for widows to move on from the person they lost.
“Widows can profoundly fall in love, but their loving relationship might be complex as it is typically a three-hearts relationship,” Ben-Zeev wrote. “Just as such a relationship is possible when all three hearts are still beating, it is possible in this case as well.”
Accept the grieving process.
It’s not always easy being a widow. You lose your loved one out of the blue, and now you’ve got to move on with the world.
But Barbara Brabec, a relationship expert, wrote on her blog that widows should learn to laugh the pain away and embrace the emotions that come. Bottling up difficult feelings will only cause more pain and torment. Letting emotions out awill lead to greener pastures.