My life path has never included poverty. Or prejudice. Or destitution. Or the feeling that my current life position was all I could ever expect. Overall, I have been greatly blessed. I live in a country where widows are able to inherit, own property, pursue a career, and manage their own affairs. Though prior to my introduction to the global state of widowhood, the concept of not having these privileges would never have occurred to me.
As I have grown as a woman, and as a widow, I have come to learn that here in America we have the luxury to grieve the men we love when they die. In other countries women without husbands are targets, thought of as bad luck, shunned from all social gatherings, shuttled from home to home, married to or made the concubine of their brother-in-laws, constantly concerned about how to feed their children, unable to be viewed in public, and in some countries if they do remarry they are required to give their children to their former husband’s family. The challenges of widowhood in the homelands of our sister widows are daunting at best. Imagine the way you felt when you realized your husband was dead, then follow that immediately with the thought that someone may be coming for your children in a few moments. Or that your home will immediately belong to another family. Or that your head will be shaved, jewelry removed, and your dress exchanged for a white funeral shroud. To add this misery to the searing pain of losing your husband is beyond my imagining.
Learning about the lives of widows in India, Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries has radically affected the way I view my own widow journey. Now I know life could be much worse...even in my darkest moments I was never in danger of losing my kids. This change in perspective has made me both grateful for my homeland, and determined to help my sister widows in some way. To begin work on this goal we will be discussing the condition of global widowhood at the National Conference on Widowhood in July of 2009. We will welcome representatives from six different countries to begin to build a network of support for widows around the world. Five American dollars can go a long way in a place where families survive on pennies a day. We can make a difference for women who don't have time to grieve the loss of the man they love...that is a luxury so many of them cannot afford. Join us in July to find out how. Our hearts can stretch a very long way, let's make a difference together.