Experts say much of the advice on how to support young widows applies to any loss, but they also point to certain differences: For example, young widows are less likely than young widowers to remarry, and they take longer to do it. Though both sexes feel the death of a spouse deeply, they talk about it and possibly process it differently. Women are more apt to revisit the details of the loss repeatedly.
Hope for Widows Foundation was created primarily for women, Peterson said, precisely because research shows the genders grieve differently. The foundation will use the power of the Internet, which plays a significant role in widow support by bringing diverse women together, to offer online “how to cope with grief” webinars. They also plan on conferences.
Amber Sawaya, co-owner of Sawaya Consulting, watched a relative flail when her husband died; her company volunteered to create the widow-support site, donating hundreds of hours and raising money for it.
“When it happens,” Sawaya said, “no one knows what to say or do. We knew we could do a lot to help them.”
One of the most popular features of the site is the closed section, where users must be verified widows to participate in discussions. The women share tips and encourage each other. Blogs are written from different stages of the healing process.
Mejias’ husband of 28 years, Manuel, was diagnosed with advanced cancer. Because he lived 15 months, they “left nothing unsaid or undone. We had time to say goodbye and finish our life together. We were very blessed.”
Manny Mejias had the forethought to write a note for his son on the back of a favorite photograph. It became a treasured wedding present that mother and son cried over privately that morning with his best friend.
Both Manuel and Alanna Mejias were military; she said nearby Fort Hood has launched a project for military widows that includes helping them figure out practical steps to take care of themselves and their families.
Widows need online help and in-person help, too, Mejias said.
“Loss and grief are lessons for your entire life,” Gerst said. “When you reach a plateau, remember that’s a place where you can rest and decide in which direction you want to go.”
“Widows are vulnerable,” Dunn said. “Care for them and love them. At the other end, know they are strong and resilient and wonderful. ... Don’t exclude them and put them in Bubble Wrap.”
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