Widows


The features shared by all widows are that they are women who have been married and whose husbands have died. Beyond that, there is such a great heterogeneity among widows that there is no way of predicting the lifestyle, support systems, and identity of any one woman. Many factors affect these aspects of widowhood, such as the characteristics of the society and community in which she lives, the personal resources with which she and her husband built their lives, the circumstances of his death, and the personal resources with which she modifies, removes, or adds social roles and social relations to her lifestyle and support systems. What she is and how she lives are highly influenced by her self-concept and the identities she takes on or is given by others in social interaction.

The characteristics of a widowed woman's world that influence her throughout life include the presence or absence of resources for its members and whether and how these are available to women—particularly to women in different marital situations. The resources vary tremendously by society, and are influenced by forms and complexity of social development, by family systems, and by degrees of equality of opportunity to use or refuse resources.

Widowhood in America

In the United States there are great variations in the lives and identities of widowed women based on the geographical and social characteristics of the communities in which they reside, and the social, service, emotional, and economic support these communities provide. Some communities are active in outreach programs; others require initiative on the part of a member wishing to take advantage of them. An upper-class community provides very different opportunities to its members than a lower class or immigrant community. Ethnic and racial identities contribute their share of uniqueness to working within these support systems. Small towns offer different restrictions and opportunities than large cities for continuing and changing one's lifestyle. Personal resources include the ability to analyze a situation for what is needed or wanted and to reach these resources. Personal resources vary from woman to woman, but generally encompass economic support, personal ability to function, and approach to life, the status of the woman's health, and existing and future social and emotional support networks.

The Demographic Picture

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 199.7 million persons aged 18 and over in the United States in 1999, up from 159.5 million in 1980. In 1999, 95.9 million were men and 103.9 were women, continuing the trend of many decades. Both the number of men and that of women increased by over 20 million between 1980 and 1999. Out of these, 2.5 million men and almost four times as many women were widowed. To a great extent the difficulties of remarriage by widows can be attributed to this disparity. In 1999 only 8.9 percent of the men and 10.5 percent of the women were widowed. Although both white and black widowed women formed around 10.8 percent of the total of women, only 10.8 of the whites but 37.9 percent of the black women never married. Only 6.5 percent of Hispanic women were listed as widows that year.

Only 2 percent of children under 18 years of age were living with a widowed mother in 1998. Eighty-one percent of female-headed households were headed by widows aged 65 or older. While the percentage of widowed men aged 65 and over remained between 13 and 14 percent from 1980 to 1999, the percent of women decreased from 51.2 to 44.9 percent, mainly due to the increase in the proportion of those who were divorced, from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. Divorced men also increased in percentage, but the vast majority remained married. The older age of widowed women is reflected in their lack of educational achievement. Thirty-seven percent of all widows, compared to 16.5 percent of the total American population, never finished high school and a smaller proportion of the total never finished college or pursued postgraduate education. Many had been full-time homemakers or held only minimum-wage jobs so that their income in widowhood is dependent upon the husband's Social Security. As widowed mothers or older widows, they have the income of a new husband if they remarry, and informal exchanges of goods and services occasionally offer work for pay. However, many studies indicate that widows are not as poor as expected. Most live in metropolitan areas, while farm women move to small towns and those in retirement communities return to hometowns to be close to their children.

Traditional, Transitional, and Modern America

The situation of American widowed women can best be understood through the prism of social change in this society. Many Americans were socialized into varying degrees of the patriarchal systems, in the family and at large. In fact, as the American society became more complex and industrialized, gender segregation became extended from the home to the whole society. The social world became divided into what has been called "separate spheres," the private sphere of the home under the management of women, and the public sphere, worked in and managed by men. The latter sphere included the economic, educational, religious, and political institutions. In order to ensure the separation, a whole ideology of separate gender personalities and abilities was created and incorporated into the socialization of children, occupational, and other areas of life. Men were defined as natural leaders, logical, and able to invent complex systems. Women were defined as compassionate, emotional, and natural caregivers. It was therefore a waste to educate them with the tools needed to function in the public sphere. The two-sphere ideology carried the genders throughout life and obviously influenced marital, parental, and other social roles.

The Role of Wife

The situation of any widow is heavily influenced by her life as a wife and the circumstances by which she becomes widowed. Even in modern America, and with some of the variations noted, social class accounts for main differences in the role of wife. Lower or working class wives are often tied into family or racial and ethnic networks, affecting relations between husband and wife and affecting members of the social circle associated with that role. This statement is dependent upon a definition of "social role" as a set of mutually interdependent social relations between the person at the center of the role and the social circle of all those from whom he or she acquires rights and to whom he or she has obligations because of being the center of that role. It makes a great deal of difference if a wife's role includes active participation in her and her husband's immediate and extended families, her husband's coworkers and friends, neighbors, and the wider community. The husband's family may offer rights and demand obligations that can even exceed his mutual exchanges when he was living.

One of the changes between traditional American families and those striving for new, "modern" lifestyles has been the decrease in importance of the husband's extended family. This means that, although the family has lost much control over the woman's behavior as both a wife and a mother, it is also less available to provide support. One of the consequences has been an increase in the importance of the woman's family as a support system. In patriarchal, patrilineal, and patrilocal families the daughter moved away from her family of orientation upon marriage, and therefore the family was unable to both demand and supply support. In modern cases in which the mother-in-law is no longer close, the mother-daughter bond often increases in importance.

There are variations in working-class perceptions of the role of wife by social race. When asked how a wife influences her husband's job, white women in the Chicago area stated that a wife should avoid nagging her husband, because that can create problems in his behavior at work, but expressed resentment over the authoritarian attitude and abuse by the husband. Conversely, African-American women felt that nagging is necessary or the man will not work consistently or take responsibility for the family.

Middle-class wives of America living before the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when women began to enter the workforce in large numbers, became highly dependent upon the husband—not only in the role of wife, but in all other social relationships. Men freed from educational and economic control of their family of orientation acquired the right to co-select their wives and move wherever they found it necessary. They then joined the "greedy institutions" of the occupational world (Coser 1974). This meant that the wife's residence, the amount of economic resources she had available to her, and the people with whom she was likely to associate all became influenced by the husband's job and its geographical and financial situation.

There was an interesting difference in how white and African-American middle-class women responded to the question as to the influence of a wife on her husband's job. The latter were very conscious of the discrimination faced by the man in the outside world and sought to support him at home. Some of the white women stated that they themselves had no influence but that "those women on the North Shore" are influential and that companies insist on interviewing the wife before hiring the man (Lopata 1971, pp. 94–104).

The wife's obligations to maintain, rather than raise, the family status is even more important in the case of the mid-century upper-class wife. Her background was often similar to her husband's but she had to make sure that the residence, the children, and her own activities ensured their status within the community. Her voluntary contributions formed a major part of her role of wife, which included making sure that the children went to proper schools and ensuring that her children's marriages did not pull down the family status. At the same time, all this activity could not interfere with the husband as a person, in his job, and in his own community action. Thus, as much as the middle-class wife, she took on the role of protecting the man from distracting family problems, assisting in status-maintaining behavior, such as the entertainment of important business associates, and sometimes even directly helping with his job in a subsidiary position.

Becoming Widowed

The extent to which the wife in the not-yet-modern times of the mid-twentieth century was dependent upon the husband for economic, locational, and social supports, the family's position in the community deeply affected what happened when the husband became ill or incapacitate and died. It was hard for a widowed woman to retain the status she gained vicariously from the husband or to continue activities that maintained her status. She was often dropped from his associations, and lost mutual friends if marriage to him had been the connecting link. Financial losses might require movement into another community, which was difficult for both her and the children. If she had been a homemaker without skills for obtaining a job, her social life may have narrowed. Although the husband's family was not likely to have been very important to her support systems, unless upper class inheritance was significant, their involvement in her network would not likely be expanded after his death. Membership in couple-companionate circles was made difficult by the asymmetry of membership, leaving her often out of the loop, or restricting contact to only wives during the daytime. All these changes affected her role as mother, as the social circle of her children decreased or changed due to all the consequences of the death of the husband/father.

Throughout the twentieth century, there was a great deal of scholarly debate whether sudden or prolonged death is more difficult for survivors. Sudden death leaves a lot of "unfinished business," in that all marriages go through periods of conflict or tension that remain unresolved, and can carry over into widowhood. On the other hand, prolonged death usually requires prolonged care by someone, usually the wife. Relatively few people die in hospitals or long-term care facilities, although most usually spend some time in these. The home caregiver experiences many problems, including heavy work, physical nursing, role conflict when there are children, having to support other relatives, or obligations to jobs. The patient can be very demanding and angry, causing tension in the emotional state of the wife. In addition, it is hard for someone to watch a significant other weaken, be in pain and deteriorate, physically and mentally. Prolonged care can also result in social isolation, as the social life becomes constricted and associates cease to visit and offer support. Estate problems or fear of family members can add conflict difficult to deal with in a time of stress.

Certain types of death and dying are especially difficult for survivors. Suicide is difficult because it is easy for the wife to blame herself for creating problems or not providing sufficient support. Others, especially the husband's family, are likely to blame her. AIDS patients provide additional strains, due to both the myths and facts of disease transmission. Some forms of dying provide danger to the caregivers or others in the household, resulting in a protective stance by the wife, antagonizing the patient and other family members. Age of both the dying person and the caregiver is allegedly an important factor, partially due to what the scholar Bernice Neugarten defined as "on" or "off" time. According to Neugarten, people live according to a culturally and privately constructed time schedule. One is supposed to be able to experience certain events at specified times. Death in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries is supposed to occur when people are older, not in youth or allegedly robust middle age. Each ethnic and other socioculturally socialized group has its own interpretation of what is proper death, reason, time, and circumstance, and these notions all affect the grieving process and the widow's life role.

The situation of the actual death can also create problems for survivors and related people, often associated with the type and form of information received by the others. There are definite norms as to the transmission of such knowledge, to be followed by medical personnel, the police, and family members. Often a male member of the family, such as a son, is first informed with the obligation to pass on the news to others. Some hospitals have a special room in which the family is told of the last minutes of life and any messages from the dying. A particular problem exists when the death is not definite, as in missing in action cases during wars or if the body is not found.

Each culture has its own norms for closing off life with ceremonies of mourning in religious or public centers, cemeteries, or funeral parlors. In fact, the taking over of the ceremonies by funeral directors and staff is a relatively new phenomenon; family and religious leaders have served that function in the past. According to Geoffrey Gorer, death has become almost a pornographic subject, hidden from public view and discussion as much as possible, the ceremonies in countries such as America and England shorn down to the minimum (1967).

However, part of every ceremony surrounding death involves protection of those expected to be most affected, such as the children, parents, or spouse of the deceased. In some cultures with strong extended family ties, mothers are always honored as the ones who suffer the most, even before the spouse or the children. Funeral cultures assume that the most affected cannot attend to all the arrangements for the funeral and burial, so that someone else takes over. The "role of widow," in which duties and rights surround the woman with the assistance of circle members, has been narrowed in modern societies into a temporary one. Once it is considered finished, circle members of that role return to their own lives, leaving the widowed woman to work out her "grief work" pretty much on her own. Eric Lindemann, the first psychologist and psychiatrist who devoted himself to an analysis of what the survivors must do to adjust to death, defined this grief work as "emancipation from the bond of the deceased, readjustment to the environment in which the deceased is missing, and the formation of new relationships" (Lindenman 1944). The death researcher Helena Lopata added a fourth necessary accomplishment: the reconstruction of the self-concept and the widow's various identities in relationships with others. All of these are complicated processes, worked through in varying ways and time frames.

An initial study of older widows of the 1960s and 1970s found that the more education a woman had and the more middle class a lifestyle she and the husband built while he was well, the more disorganized her life became after his death. This is true mainly because Americans of this social stratum tend to be emotionally and socially in their various social roles mutually interdependent; so, much of the wife's life depended on the husband as the center of her various roles. Thus, not only the role of wife, but other roles such as mother, member of both sides of extended families, friend, and neighbor experienced changes that had to be worked out in new ways. On the other hand, the more the woman had these multiple roles the more personal, especially individual, resources she had to reconstruct her whole self-concept, lifestyle, and social relations.

Husband Sanctification

One 1970s study of the role changes and support systems of widows dealt with the tendency of some widows to describe their husbands in highly idealistic terms. Certain parts of the interviews would reflect a marriage that was not perfect, often problematic, with which an idealized description did not match. In order to address this discrepancy, the research team developed a "sanctification scale" of two parts. The first asked the respondent for degrees of agreement with polar terms such as warm-cold, superior-inferior, honest-dishonest, and friendly-unfriendly. The second was a relational segment asking for agreement with such statements as, "Ours was an unusually happy home" and "My husband was an unusually good man." The final statement of this scale was, "My husband had no irritating habits." There was great variation in the scores on the sanctification scale. Women who had a hard time in life, especially those people uneducated and living in poverty, tended to answer with extremes. People belonging to ethnic groups that sanctioned "speaking no evil of the dead" scored high. Those who defined life as hard scored low. Highly educated women would not agree with the final statement, nor did most married women upon whom the scale was pretested.

The process of sanctification performs several important functions for the widow. It removes the dead husband from current life into the safety of sainthood, and thus from watchfulness and the ability to criticize. Besides, if such a saintly man was married to her, then she must not be as bad as her depressive moments indicate. On the other hand, it has some negative effects. It can antagonize friends with living husbands who definitely have irritating habits. It can also discourage potential male companions who cannot possibly compete with the memory of such a saintly man.

Modern Identities and Self-Concepts

The need to reconstruct the self-concept and the identities given off or imposed by others is a complicated process that often lasts a long time. These concepts must be defined. For the purpose of this entry, identities are seen as those images of the person as she presents the self or as others see her.

According to the scholar Morris Rosenberg, a self-concept is "the totality of the individual's thoughts and feelings having reference to himself [sic] as an object" (Rosenberg 1979, pp. 7–8). There is obviously a strong interconnection between identities, as used in social interaction and the self-concept. When life situations change, both of these aspects of the self must be reconstructed. Some identities are carried throughout life and influence one's roles. The self and others use comparisons of how that person behaves and is treated in that role in contrast to others. The person also evaluates the self and all these evaluations and interactions influence the self-concept.

Gender identities are pervasive throughout life, sex determined by others at birth and socialization is aimed at forming and maintaining appropriate gender. The same is true of social race as defined in American society. Other identities such as religion, ethnicity, occupation, community, and organization are acquired at different stages of life, voluntarily or by others. Finally, many identities arise out of special events, such as graduation or widowhood. Some of these are transformed into social roles, when the person acquires certain characteristics and a social circle from whom rights are granted and to whom obligations are met. In American society, gender—by this definition—is not a social role but a pervasive identity that enters, in more or less significant ways, into various social roles. The feminist and related movements have attempted to prevent gender identity from influencing important social roles, such as physician or astronaut. The traditional and transitional two-sphere ideology is difficult to change so the process of decreasing gender segregation is slow.

In the 1980s the scholar Lynn Lofland concluded that modern society makes the death of significant others, such as a spouse, more difficult than traditional societies, because it has narrowed down the number of persons with whom the self has multiple connecting blocks. Less than a decade later, the scholar Rose Coser argued that modern societies with multiple and complex social structures and relationships free the person, especially women, from dependence upon a small circle of associates who insist on obedience to norms and restrict opportunities to develop multidimensional life spaces. According to this perception of social change, American society is increasingly modern, in that opportunities for educational and occupational involvement have expanded, not for everyone, but definitely for many women. Although the basic responsibility for the home and children still falls on women, husbands and increasing segments of society are willing to open resources making women less dependent upon spouses for economic and social life spaces. This means that widowhood is no longer faced by women whose whole lives were limited to the home and children, but by women

Visiting the cemetery on Veterans' Day, a war widow polishes the marble of her husband's gravestone. JOSEPH SOHM, CHROMOSOHM INC./CORBIS
Visiting the cemetery on Veterans' Day, a war widow polishes the marble of her husband's gravestone .
JOSEPH SOHM, CHROMOSOHM INC./CORBIS
who have developed other abilities and broader social life spaces, enabling the reconstruction of self and life in new ways once the period of heavy grief has waned.

At the same time, if one follows Lofland's argument, individualization and the expansion of the variety of people available for interaction and social roles has been accompanied by the reduction of the number of persons with whom close, intimate building blocks and threads of connectedness of human attachment are developed. This increases the significance of each person who becomes close. Lofland concluded that grief is harder in the modern Western world when one of these few persons dies. This is particularly true if that person is a spouse. According to Peter Berger and Hansfried Kellner, marriage among middle-class couples involves a complex process of self, other, and world reconstruction, carried forth through constant conversation and other forms of interaction. Relations with others must be more or less transformed with couplehood. This means that the death of the partner necessitates another reconstruction, but the process has to be taken alone, with only partial support from others. The significant partner is not there to comment and either accept or critique the changes of the self and the world the widowed woman is trying to accomplish. The self as a wife exists only in memory and the future self planned before the illness and/or death is not possible. The present may be lonely and beset with other problems, such as shortage of finances, the grief of the children, and other challenges with which the widow may not be able to cope. Friends and relations may start making demands as soon as the role of widow has withered.

The various forms and components of loneliness expressed by women in several of Lopata's studies accentuate the problems of self and world reconstruction. The widow can miss that particular person with whom a unique relationship was formed, having and being a love object, a companion in front of television, a sexual partner, an escort to public events, a partner in couple-companion friendship, someone sharing the household for whom meals and routines are planned, and even just a presence. The widowed woman must also deal with the identities imposed upon her by others. Elizabeth Bankoff's 1990 study of friendship among widows concluded that old friends could become troublesome if they insisted on the widow remaining the same. Many women thoroughly dislike the label "widow," with its traditional implication of an old, helpless woman who is perpetually in weeping grief. They also find it self-demeaning when associates do not consider them worthy of continued interaction. Thus, as the woman tries to change, often in uncertain and conflicting ways, people around her keep thrusting on her identities she may dislike and refuse to accept. The absence of the late husband may necessitate the survivor learning new skills and areas for building self-confidence—from caring for the family automobile to managing her finances.

The process of change in the self-concept is inconsistent and, like grief, has no clear-cut ending, as new situations and roles affect what has been reconstructed and old images remain in live memory. However, many studies have found widows very resilient. They deal with the pain of caring for a dying husband, the shock of the death, the need to learn to live in a world without the deceased, and the need to change relationships and reconstruct a new self-concept and identities.

Family Roles in Widowhood

The role of mother is obviously changed by the death of the children's father, but many factors affect the form and direction of such changes, including the number, gender, and ages of the children, as well as their prior relationship to the father, and the contributions or problems in the support system from the social circle of that role. The woman may not have complete freedom in relating with her children. Even in the twenty-first century, in-laws may have definite ideas about how the children should be raised, especially if the family is prestigious and inheritance is involved. Ethnic and people of color groups may have definite ideas as to the rights of the husband's family over these children and their mother. The financial situation may influence what she can, or wants, to do with and for them. In the historical past of American society "charitable organizations" often interfered with the mother in the absence of father, sometimes even taking the children away from her, as happened to thousands of New York children sent to the Midwest at the turn of the twentieth century. It was not until 1905 that the society decided that children were best off with the mother and even passed a policy of "mother's pensions," which unfortunately were not available in many states. Amendments to the Social Security Act gave widows with minority children special funds, ending when the offspring reached adulthood. Neighbors, schools, even the police can impinge on the rights of mothers, allegedly guaranteeing safety and proper socialization.

Children can cause work for the mother, but they can also form a major source of support. As mentioned earlier, mother-daughter relationships tend to be closer in America than in some other societies and closer than the mother-son tie. This is particularly true in subcultures with strong gender-segregation norms. As the children and the mother age, role reversal can take place, with the children, and especially one child, taking over some of the household chores, contributing to the family finances, and caring for the parent. These modifications in relationships can be painful, or relatively easy, depending on the kind of bond between parent and child and the behavior and attitudes of others, especially other children. Children might cooperate by providing support, or withdraw, placing the burden on one offspring.

Lopata's studies found that widowed women received little support from their in-laws. One-fourth did not have such living relatives. Only one-third reported that they were helped by in-laws at the time of death, and only about one-third of the in-laws said that they visited the widow or invited her over. Although in-law contact with the children was more frequent, only one-half said that in-laws gave the children gifts or money. These figures may indicate difficulties in the relationship while the connecting link was still alive, or else that one side or both felt the contact need not be continued. Widows reported that the grandparents were not active in the family. Of course, most of the widows in Lopata's studies were fifty years or older and the children were not of a dependent age.

The two Lopata studies came to one conclusion concerning the contribution of siblings questioned by the scholars Anne Martin Matthews and Shirley O'Briant. Respondents in Lopata's support systems study were given three chances to report someone as contributing to 65 different economic, service, social, and emotional supports, for a total of 195 possible listings. Only 20 percent had no living sibling, but relatively few even mentioned a sister or brother. For example, the highest percent of listings, only 14 percent, was made in response to siblings as givers of food, and 10 percent to siblings who help with rent or with decision making, perform housekeeping or sickness care, function as companions in holiday celebrations, or act as the person to whom they would turn in times of crisis. Twenty percent indicated that they helped a sibling with work outdoors, the highest of service supports. If a sibling appears in one support she (it is usually a sister) appears in several. Martin Matthews studied widows in Guelph, Ontario, which has a low mobility rate and O'Briant in Columbus, Ohio, in which mainly one sibling was active. Chicago is a large city, with high mobility and family dispersal, which may account for the relative absence of siblings in those support systems.

Other relatives do not appear often, especially in the lives of older widows, mainly because of their unavailability. This varies among the studies of various populations. However, more African-American than white widowed grandmothers took care of and even mothered their grandchildren. "Black grandparents were much more likely to take on a parent-like role with their grandchildren. . . . These grandparents saw themselves as protectors of the family, bulwarks against the forces of separation, divorce, drugs, crime—all the ills low-income black youth can fall pray [sic] to" (Cherlin and Furstenberg 1986, pp. 127–128). Lopata and Jessyna McDonald, who studied African-American families in Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., in 1987, found many widows living alone. One difference between white and African-American families was the fluidity of housing arrangements. African-American women may have children, grandchildren, even siblings and more distant relatives moving in and out, or she may move into their households more frequently than white women.

Women and Men Friends: Membership in the Community

Many widowed women, especially of the middle class, reported problems with married friends. Social events, whether at homes or in public places, tend to be built around friendships with couples. Respondents complained that they heard about dinner parties to which they were not invited. Some widows explained it in terms of jealousy of married friends who did not want an extra woman around their husband, or having a "fifth wheel" present (Lopata 1973, p. 151). More agreed that married friends were jealous of them than that the husbands actually propositioned. Such advances, if they happened, were met with anger. The widows often wanted male companionship, but not a sexual affair with a husband of a friend, endangering the other relationship. Also, many moved after the death of the husband and were located inconveniently to former friends. Bankoff reported that old friends were helpful only early in widowhood. New friends, on the other hand, accepted the widows as they were.

Close relations with men can become a problem for widowed women. Many simply do not want to enter into such interaction, and definitely not to remarry. They like freedom from prior constraints, do not want to take care of another sick man, and fear objections from children. Offspring often do not approve of such changes because of idealization of the father or inheritance concerns. In addition, of course, there is the ever-present knowledge of the statistical scarcity of available men the same age of most widows. Living men are either married or in poor health. Sexual relations themselves may be feared, with concern over physical appearance and experiencing emotions or difficulties of physical contact. Some widows do enter cohabitation arrangements, on either a part- or full-time basis, either in home or away. For the most part, widows who remarry desire such a relationship, lack inhibiting influences, are attracted to a specific individual, and feel that they can gain from the relationship, whether economically or from a parenting perspective. Walter McKaine's Retirement Marriage (1969) found conservative attitudes among "remarrieds," many of whom had ethnic backgrounds in which marriage rather than personal independence was very important. He notes that success in these marriages involves affection and respect.

American society has created many organizations whose membership is open to participants. Some of these are focused on providing resources, advice, companionship, or social events to the elderly, and some to the widowed. The American Association of Retired People (AARP) has developed the Widow to Widow program and many communities have variations on such themes. Other groups in which marital status is not a known characteristic attract people with special interests. In the past, widows felt like members of a minority group, with myths and prejudices against them, but active life in the twenty-first century appears to diminish these attitudes.

Becoming and being a wife, and then a widowed woman, involves complex processes of self and other reconstruction and changes in relations with different circle members. These are heavily influenced by many factors, such as the characteristics of the society and the communities in which a woman lives, and her personal resources. Becoming a wife involves relating to the husband but also to a whole social circle of the role, its composition, rights, and duties. An important aspect of American society is its patriarchal and related bases, modified by new forms of complex development, including opportunities and restrictions of resources available to all women, wives, and then widows. Personal resources include the ability to analyze and seek out resources at any stage of life. Although widows have gone through the trauma of an ill or suddenly dead husband, grief, loneliness, and the need to reconstruct the self-concept and identities, those who had a multidimensional social life space have been able to build independent, even satisfying lives. Others obtain support systems from families, friends, neighbors, and their community's organizations, with varying degrees of satisfaction. There are unknown numbers of widows in modern American society and its communities who live a very restricted life, but their frequency appears to be decreasing as societal resources become available not only in widowhood, but throughout life.

See also: Continuing Bonds ; Lopata, Helena Z ; Widowers ; Widows in Third World Nations

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HELENA ZNANIECKA LOPATA



User Contributions:

Kathryn Golden
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Aug 13, 2012 @ 7:07 am
Very informative and thought provoking;thank You.
Is a widow(of 20 yrs. whose husband passed suddenly in his robust mid-life entitled to an inheritance of her deceased mother and father in-laws(who I was very close to) property @ the shore when it is being bought out by the oldest son? This is grapevine information and I have not received any interaction from my extended family.
Sara
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Nov 27, 2012 @ 12:00 am
Mary, thank you for your encouraging note. You have alwyas been a blessing to me even though over the years we don't see each other much. Didn't realize it's been almost a year since I saw you last until I read this. I sent the invitation remembering the sweet story about a woman in your family who didn't marry until she was elderly, retired from missions and married a retired missioanry widower. I remember the joy you described and it reminded me of what I was experiencing since I met Mike. It's such an honor to be marrying such a sweet man who treats me like a princess. It's just a different season in my life and I'm going to enjoy it with someone totally different in this new season. God bless you my friend.I'll send an email with Brigitte's new email. Love you friend Gail

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