Warning! This may not be a comfortable RCR read........
International Widows' Day - did you know that the United Nations declared today, 23June 2011, to be the first ever official International Widows' Day? There is an overwhelming need to bring the world's attention to the plight of women all over the world, whose diverse cultures at times mean that the death of their husbands signifies ostracism from society, homelessness, abuse, poverty and worse. Can it get any worse? Yes, it can. There are stories out there which make me want to be sick. And all this ON TOP of the devastation of the loss of their husbands, the fathers of their children.
The forgotten people.
But I am going to focus, not on the women in countries around the globe battling for survival in the cruelest, most inhumane of societies, uneducated, on the streets, ill.......
I am going to talk about the forgotten women down the road from you right now.
Do you chat to them at church and ask them how they are and listen to what they don't say?
Do you look beyond the smile at the empty eyes?
Do you ask them to dinner parties, or just to a girls' lunch out?
Do you include them on planned trips away with groups of friends (couples)?
Do you only ask them to dinner when you ask other single women?
Do you think they should be just fine because it is a while since their husbands died?
Do you wonder how they manage?
Do you understand how difficult and intimidating it can be to go to events alone?
Do you check on them when the weather turns wild?
Do you call to chat?
An endless list. This is just a little start to it. Some widows I know say that people they were once close to as couples no longer have anything to do with them. Others only get invited to girls only events. So many stories of things changing. Some people fear asking single women round. What? Unbelievable.
Widows notice these things, and stay silent, and hurt, you know. And at times, they may weep bitter tears for all they have lost. Silently, where no-one can see. And then they go out, smile brightly at the world, and die inside. It is not just the loss of a husband, you see. It is the loss of everything which made up their lives. And when friends go too, life gets very, very grey. There is a blog called Widow's Voice where 7 widows write each week. And another one - A Widow's Might and they are both full of stories which may not be all that comfortable to read, but they are real. Powerful. And they are places widows feel connected, and welcome. There is a lot of laughter there too. And tears as well.
Back to the questions I was asking......
The list is long, and bittersweet. Odd numbers are difficult, you see. And things change in so many ways when a husband dies. So many assumptions. So many misconceptions.
Asking anyone for help is always going to be difficult. Pride and self protection. Not wanting to intrude. Be a nuisance. The "I can cope" syndrome. Having to cope. Maybe not being able to afford workmen to do the things their husbands used to do. Widows can't afford to be wimps. There are heavy things to be lifted. Lawns to be mowed. Spiders to be dispatched. Mice to catch. Painting to be done. Furniture to be moved.
My heart aches for all the young women who are widows - the ones who have lost their soldier husbands, who are out of army accommodation faster than you can say Jack Rabbit, and left to fend for themselves. Often with tiny children. Things are supposed to be changing, but in this era of austerity, widows get a really lousy deal.
We are commanded to look after the widows in our society, you know. Check out 1Timothy 5:3. It is not only the ones in far off lands who may need help. The one down the road, old, young or in between, may need you too. Friendship is the best kind of support you can offer. The real kind.
If any widow you know stops entertaining, think...... maybe she can't afford to? Maybe her confidence has taken a knock? It is not that easy to entertain guests, cook, and do it all when there is just one of you. Practicalities.
I am lucky. I have survived things changing in the blink of an eye. I have friends and family around. But there are many - so many, who don't. They need you. And you. And you. And you. Long after the first few days or weeks. Or months. Or years.
And the universal truth here is that no-one has a clue. Not until it happens to you. Remember what I said all those years ago? It is like being in a strange land where you don't speak the language, have no guide books and don't know where to go or what to do, or how to do it.
Widowhood is a scary place.
And we all know that things get less scary when you are not alone.
And to all my widowed friends out there - you amaze me, inspire me, and make me laugh till I cry. None of us asked to join this society, did we? But I am glad you are there. I salute you all.