Archive of ‘Awareness’ category

Hope For Widows Honors International Widows Day

By Tanya Smith


June 23rd is recognized as International Widow’s Day. Hope for Widows is honoring all widows worldwide each and every single day.

This day significant to widows, but also the children who have lost. Hope for Widows Foundation is committed to change and bringing awareness to the real issues of widowhood. Issues affecting even the unaffected, indirectly. They include poverty, starvation, prostitution, hate crimes, rape, depression, targeting of widows, anxiety, suicide and more. Widowhood is a large contributor to these and many more social trajectories.

“In some cultures, the death of a husband has meant exile, vulnerability, and abuse. But bereaved women are beginning to fight back.” – as quoted by Cynthia Gorney, National Geographic 

Every day is widow’s day to a widow. There is not one day that passes, that the day is not observed by a widow’s heart and mind.

I have immersed myself from my own experience as a young widow – found within the depths of my own soul the feelings and misfortunes, the rebuilding and growth, the effervescence of emerging as new hope and life re-births you and molds you into your afterglow. The timing always unclear, the pace different for each person, and the memory and loss etched into your being FOREVER, walking alongside you – EVERY single day.

I have listened to the stories of the women who have shared – have bore their heart out, have struggled with many things, carry the weight of many things. Each story, tragic and sad, each underlying tone filled with despair, but also a hunger and a want for more. A newfound admiration and purpose, calling to them in this life. Many wandering and navigating without navigation. Many trying to find direction, looking for some kind of hope – an answer and even a sign. I feel a pride in knowing them, though the life events that brought us together are misfortune – we have fortune with each other.

“When the United Nations in 2011 designated June 23 as International Widows’ Day, the official explanation was a somber one: that in many cultures widows are so vulnerable—to abusive traditions, to poverty, to the aftermath of the wars that killed their husbands—that widowhood itself must be regarded as a potential human rights calamity.” – National Geographic, Cynthia Gorney

Life moves forward for widows, but I can tell you “Life does not just go on” in the free way others may believe. You don’t just get over it. Loss changes a person forever, stays with a person forever.

At the heart of widowed woman is bravery, courage, strength, compassion, understanding and a want to be understood. Even as a tear trickles down and the hurt envelopes, they wear a warriors face, an openness in their eyes that they now understand life in a way that they hope many do not ever know and at times their understanding fleets them as the reality is just to encompassing, to understand.

They wear a warrior’s smile – you will see this smile in the video composed.

I started this article thinking, “I wonder who the very first widow in this world was?” I wonder how she felt? I wonder if she was embraced or thrown away? I wonder how loss changed her? Did she stay in her grief, or did she step into this new way of life, finding joy and hope? Did she even have a choice in what happened next for her, or did society choose? All of these questions swirling through my brain, wanting to do her and all of you justice, give justice! Thinking about this, I think of the thousands of your faces that I have come to share my own journey with. Faces, flipping through my mind, each face as significant as the next. Do you even know, how often you come into my mind, are in my prayers, and walk with me through my days? How I wish I could help each of you, how Hope for Widows Foundation is a place for us to come together in this way.

Imagine being the first. For all of my widow sisters and brothers, you did feel you were the first, didn’t you? I know I did. I went on a search, a hunt to find others who specifically went through the similar events as I did being so young and having a spouse die from a bee sting reaction. I still have yet to find another with the same exact situation, though I have found more than I could have ever imagined with different stories of loss and the feelings shared and understood. No other understanding I could have garnered from someone who hadn’t lost a spouse.

I often think of and relate that thought to one of my favorite childhood movies. The Last Unicorn.

I am the only Unicorn there is? The Last? That cannot be. Why would I be the last? What do men know? Because they have seen no unicorns for a while does not mean we have all vanished. We do not vanish. There has never been a time without unicorns. We live forever! We are as old as the sky, old as the moon! We can be hunted, trapped; we can even be killed if we leave our forests, but we do not vanish. Am I truly the last?”

This line holds so much truth, so much impact, and power. There is injustice in widowhood and most of that comes from society and secondary losses suffered that you least would have expected.

What I share will shock some. It has shocked me and left me minimizing my very own loss and the circumstances. I know my loss and no others loss should EVER be minimized and that each is SIGNIFICANT, however what I have learned has truly opened my eyes.

As I started connecting with women worldwide, I learned of many truths, many injustices. They leave me in tears, leave me needing to act, do something, anything to share their lives, their stories, to make an impact, to be the difference, to give support!

Just do something!!

That something is exactly what we at Hope for Widows Foundation are doing. You can help, just as we are helping.

At the end of this article I ask you to leave a comment and enter this hashtag #donate. You will be able to sign up and send an amount that you would like to contribute to our International Support effort. I donated $100.00 and this is how it helped.

My $100 donated, bought this amount of food for the orphans at the Dagoretti Childrens Home. My friend and widow sister Dianah sent me the itemized receipt without me even asking or needing this, she sent me a video of the children dancing and singing their thanks. It beyond moved me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope for Widows Foundation was able to help with school fees for an entire year for three children with the $130 donated.

“Hope for Widows Foundation has made many connections to women within the United States and Internationally. Our heart is with every widow and every woman or man who has lost their loved one. On this day and every single day, we see all of you and are here!” – Hope for Widows Foundation

Our International Hope Sisters Spotlight

Kenya

Dianah Wanjiku Kamande from Come Together Widows and Orphans.

Dianah is dear to my heart and you will soon know why. She was widowed in 2013. Today she is 35 and has accomplished much in her serving of widows and orphans.

A mother of two beautiful girls and such an example to them. She became a widow as a result of domestic violence when her husband of ten years came home and had planned to kill her and her daughters. when his attempts failed he turned the knife on himself.

Her injuries were life threatening. She had urgent head surgery and was fitted with 5 plastic nerves in her cranium. She also had hand surgery and was fitted with multiple metal plates because he had broken her left hand. She underwent breast surgery because he had pierced her right breast.

This is how selfless Dianah is – though it was a terribly tough time for her, it was at that time that she realized so many of her visitors in the hospital were widows and survivors of past cases of violence. As a survivor on her hospital bed she went through widow abuse. Her in-laws accused here of her husbands death. She was insulted and called a prostitute. While in the hospital her property and household items were taken. She quickly took action by enlisting her brother’s help. Turning to Google she began to check if the constitution of Kenya provided rights for her as a widow. She wondered if this was even clearly defined and what rights as a survivor of violence would be offered to her. Unfortunately there was nothing. This amazing woman sat on her hospital bed, requesting a notebook and a pen and she started drafting a widows bill.

After she was discharged she invited widows into her home, instead of them coming 15 as requested they came 25. Word spread fast. The second meeting hosted 66 widows. The third 337, the fourth over 750. Dianah rolled up her sleeves and started getting the exact number of widows in the country of Kenya. Widows are absent in statistics worldwide; the National Bureau of Statistics does not collect this data. Astounding right? She went further and contacted the morgues and started getting both private and public numbers of married men who passed every day and she reached out to these woman. She began gaining exposure in the media and soon the organization she registered on September 14, 2013 exponentially grew to 1.4 Million Widows by June 23, 2016, also known as International Widows Day.

Philippines

Philippine Hope Sister, Micah Juarbal

Micah is 29 years old and the mother of one daughter. At the age of 27 her journey of widowhood started. Her husband worked as a government employee in a nearby city. They were together but because of financial problems they decided that it would be best for her and her daughter to live with Micah’s parents temporarily. She continued herstudies for their daughters future.

Their wedding anniversary was April 14th. She expressed she would miss him so much to which he replied, “missing someone is normal, we need to sacrifice for our future”. The next day, her husband sent her and their daughter to be with her family.  On April 16th her husband went back to work. He would call them everyday. On April 18 at about 11:13 p.m. someone called her and she thought it was him, but when the lady spoke, Micah was shocked to hear her husband was in an emergency room, he had been hit by a car while on his motorcycle. Micah immediately got on a bus. When she arrived to the ER, she saw her husband lying in bed and having a seizure because of the head trauma.

She wanted to break down, but she couldn’t. After five hours passed when he should have had an immediate head operation, (it took this time because she had to find money and seek help from his friends), they landed in a public hospital because the private hospital wanted a downpayment before they would do the operation. On April 21st at exactly 8:35 while holding her four year olds hand,  his pulse rate dropped and that was when the doctor told them he was gone. The pain was excruciating. She wanted to go with him but needed to care for her daughter. She has continued her studies in college and is now in her third year. Her daughter in grade 2. Micah shares that she doesn’t like to be called a widow because for her and like so many others, she still is married to her husband. Where she lives, it is in a state of martial law because of ISIS existence. Everyday is horrible she explains. There are a lot of soldiers killed and she can’t imagine the wives waiting for their husbands to come home in a coffin.  She is focused on her studies as a way to honor not only herself, but her husband as this was his dream for her.

Amess Nthala

Amess shared with Hope for Widows Foundation that she had been praying and fasting for God to direct her and her group to our foundation.

She is a widow advocate and has worked with her church coming up with ideas to offer support to widows. They are planning a fundraiser at the church so that widows can start their own businesses.

Amess was married in 2004 right after graduating from high school. She suffered abuse from her stepmother and married young to leave home. This unplanned marriage was God sent. The man she called her husband brought love and comfort to her life. She gave birth to her first-born son Trust, that same year. In 2007 she gave birth to a baby girl named Mildred. This was the year when her husband felt a calling to become a pastor. I encouraged him to apply and he did. He was asked to interview. There was a rule that when going to the ministry interviews you need to take your spouse. Amess accompanied her husband as a witness. After the interviews they were surprised that they took both of them to go and study theology. Amess had never thought of studying or teaching Theology in her life. It was very difficult for her to accept at that time, she didn’t know God’s plan or purpose for her life.

Even still, her husband encouraged her. One of the interviewers told her husband that he saw something so unique in Amess. She became pregnant and was allowed to continue her studies. That year she welcomed a baby boy and he was named Joshua! Her husband was earning a certificate in Theology while she was earning a Diploma in theology. In the second year of her course she did well and qualified to be enrolled for a degree program. Her husband was very happy for her. She started the degree program in September of 2010 and then in November her husband fell ill. He was diagnosed with liver cancer; the prognosis grim being told he only had three months left to live. On March 22nd he died. Amess was distraught and at a crossroads not knowing what to do. She felt like quitting, but chose perseverance and graduated with her Degree in Theology in 2012.

She put in the work and excelled. The school asked her to help them teach Greek and Hebrew but on a voluntary basis. This arrangement suited her because the school helped her through her education and she felt it only right, that she give back. She was faced however with raising three children to take care of, so it became a burden to her financially. At that same time she had a friend talk to her about an orphanage. They called her to help on the spiritual side and administration. She went to help in 2013 and would still go to the Theological college to teach up until 2015. Up to she is still working as a volunteer at the orphanage without a signed contract. They are not able to offer a salary, but give her an allowance. She continues to have a serving heart while trusting in Gods plan and provision for her and her family. Her experience is one of trust and hope. She continues to serve in the hopes that she will be able to use what she has learned, sharing it with others and earning money to be able to support her family.

National geographic recently issued an article in the February 2017 issue. In this article it highlights the brutality of woman being disowned, thrown away, made to leave the life they know, raped, forced into prostitution, forced to drink the blood of their husband and sleep with a family member to cleanse them. This excerpt cited from National Geographic’s article in the February issue.

India (this information shared by National Geographic)

“There is a place called “The City of Widows”. The widows wake very early as one large vat of tea is made. They must get in line to have a ration of that and rice if they are one of the lucky ones for the day. The numbers are not reported but it is said there may be 10,000 widowed woman in this city.

They crowd the temples singing devotional songs, which are chanted all day long by the impoverished widows. They do this to earn hot meals, maybe a nighttime sleeping mat.

They live in shelters too, and in shared rental rooms, and under roadside tarps when no indoor accommodation will admit them. Vrindavan is about 100 miles south of Delhi, but the widows come here from all over India, particularly the state of West Bengal, where allegiance to Krishna is intense. Sometimes they arrive accompanied by gurus they trust. Sometimes their relatives bring them, depositing the family widow in an ashram or on a street corner and driving away.

Even relatives who don’t literally drive a widow from the family home can make it plain every day that her role among them has ended, that a widow in India, is forever burdened by the misfortune of having outlived her husband, is “physically alive but socially dead,” in the words of Delhi psychologist Vasantha Patri, who has written about the plight of India’s widows” – Cynthia Gorney, National Geographic

Uganda

When a spouse dies the term used is widow inheritance. You would generally think this means what is left to the widow who has lost her spouse. It has much different meaning unfortunately. This means that the in-laws illegally seizing all her inherited property as their own. The in laws also take her as a sex partner or wife for the relative of their choosing.

International Widows Day Background

International Widows Day (IWD) is a global day of focus for effective action to raise awareness and help widows and their children around the world. In 2015, there were an estimated 259 million widows and 585 million children in the world affected by widowhood, together with their family members the number is well over a billion people. For more information on the Loomba Foundation visit http://theloombafoundation.org/international-widows-day/

The Loomba Foundation put together a report in 2015 that details the research they performed to gather information on the number of widows per country. I have used Esri’s ArcGIS for Office solution to create an interactive map on my A Widows World blog that allows you to visualize this data worldwide.

Although, this is not 2017 data, this is the most current information I was able to gather. I credit the Loomba organization for their research, adopting this day, and the care and support they offer to recognize widows worldwide.

I encourage widows out there to live, take chances and go after the things that matter. Don’t stay in your sorrow and grief, honor your loved one lost and yourself by living a life that would make them smile and be proud. We all deserve that.

HOW OTHERS CAN HELP – visit the Hope for Widows Facebook page, comment using the hashtag #donate and you will be able to register and select an amount to donate. All money collected will be used to support our international hope sisters.

Article approved to be Cited from National Geographic:

For Widows, Life After Loss, by Cynthia Gorney, Photographs by Amy Toensing

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/02/global-images-of-widows-india-bosnia-uganda-discrimination-exile/

Tanya Smith, Hope for Widows Advisory Board Member, A Widows World Blogger & Owner of Addelise Inc.

About Hope For Widows Foundation

Hope for Widows is a national support system for, and developed by, widowed women. We help connect new widows with other widows to offer peer-to-peer support and other resources. By pairing new widows with women who have been where they are now, we help make connections that begin the healing process. Through our peer support, resource section, initiatives and conferences we support widows through the entire grieving process.

Crystals for Healing, Health and Wellbeing throughout your Grief

By Jill Hochman

 

Do you like stones? Rocks? crystals? Do certain ones of them have special meanings for you? Well, there could be reasons why. I am writing this to help explain what many people believe are healing powers of crystals.

Like with other spiritual healing methods, crystal healing is NOT medicine.It can be complementary to traditional medicine or it can just be something to help you cope with overwhelming emotions. To be fair, there are many people who claim crystal healing is pseudoscience.

Here is why I think they may be wrong:

  • Crystals are made up of chemicals and each has a unique structure. Their chemical structure reflects a balance of their electromagnetic fields or their energy. It is like with colors. The colors are the way that light bends when it hits a chemical structure. So if you take it as true that everything is made up of energy, then each crystal’s own energy can impact the energy of the things around it.

 

  • Each of us has energy centers in our bodies. These are called chakras in yoga, Reiki, acupuncture, and other forms of alternative healing. Each chakra has an energy flow to it that needs to be balanced in order for us to feel our best. So, the energy of a crystal can impact our chakras and can have an effect on the way we feel.

For a more scientific explanation, see this from the Book of Stones:

“When we bring the crystal into our electromagnetic field, two things occur.

The electromagnetic frequencies carried by the stone will vibrate with related frequencies in our own energy field through the physical law of resonance, creating a third larger vibration field.

The nervous system is attuned to these shifts in energy and transmits this information to the brain. The frequencies stimulate biochemical shifts that affect the physical body and shift brain function.(Simmons & Ahsian 2005, 28)

Each of our chakras and it’s energy flow is related to a color. These colors follow the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Red is our root chakra located at the base of our spines. Violet is our crown locate at the very top of our head.

The color of each crystal can help balance our energy flows by interacting with the energy of our chakras. If a chakra’s energy is blocked, the energy of certain crystals can help free it or vice versa if the energy of a chakra is overactive. It makes sense that the color of the crystal can be a reflection of the electromagnetic energy flow that it has. Some colors go together well, some conflict. Do goes the crystal energy.

There are lots of books and information on the web about which crystals can help with particular health or emotional issues. I find that a few crystals help me more than others.

 

  • Rose quartz (a nice pink stone) makes me feel less out of control with sadness when I hold onto one or hold it while trying to meditate.

 

  • Amethyst helps me realize my grief is real and that I can let it ce without feeling guilty.

 

  • If a day is especially sad and I feel I need some humor or something to perk me up a bit, I will hold sunstone.

 

Sometimes I put these stones in my pocket or bra (you know that extra picket we have) while going about whatever needs to be done.

Another helpful experience I have had with crystals is going to a crystal sound bath. Crystals can be shaped into bowls and played with a soft flannel type pointer that gets rotated around the top of the bowl. Each crystal bowl emits a different frequency which can help change the energy flowing through our chakras. The sound baths are extremely relaxing and one of my favorite treats.

Feel free to look up healing properties of crystals to see what may help you. Or, take a trip to a crystal shop near you and hold different stones. If one feels right, chances are it is something that might help you feel a bit better.

Read This Before You Judge a Widow’s Facebook

By Michelle Miller

He’d been telling me every day since I met him a month earlier, that we were going to get married, and so finally, I agreed to go on a date with him to Calico Ghost Town. He asked me to bring my eighteen-month old daughter.

It was May in the Mohave Desert, and so hot that I dressed my daughter in a soaking wet tank top and shorts to keep her from overheating. The tank top was pink.

We wandered up and down and in and out of the small tourist town that day unknowingly fabricating the bonds that would one day turn us into a family. “Wanna meet my grandparents?” He asked me as we loaded the baby into her car seat that evening.

“I’m not dressed for grandparents” I said, motioning to my daisy duke shorts and tube top.

Somehow we still ended up in the cozy living room of his kind grandparents watching my daughter color a page of their family scrap book that I would one day, after his suicide, ache for deeply to see again.

On our way back to my apartment, as my baby slept and the setting sun caused John to remove his sunglasses, I suddenly blurted out, “We are going to get married, aren’t we?”

He laughed and said, “I’ve been telling you that for a month!”

A week later, on Memorial Day weekend he moved in to my apartment and we began to plan for a fall wedding.

Three years later, on Memorial Day weekend we moved into our first home. I watched him sweat as he moved boxes and I nursed our son.

Seven years after that on Memorial Day weekend, John was gone forever, and I was deep into the home remodeling phase of my grief….which also happened to overlap with the slut phase of my grief.

I stood in the demolished dining room and called one of the contractors I had hired to remodel my house. We had sex on mine and John’s bed amongst the plastic room dividers and saw dust…all the while I silently prayed to him, “Please give me HIV so I can die.”

When that nice man left, I numbly showered. It’s weird how depression makes you unable to even feel the sensation of hot water. When I reached for the soap, John’s abandoned razor caught my eye as the afternoon sun reflected off its chrome handle in the shower’s window ledge. Just hours before he shot a bullet into his torso, he’d shaved his head and face. He wanted to look good in his casket. I had him cremated. As I held the razor I noticed a single chin hair caught between blades four and five.

Grief, is plucking a piece of his hair from blades four and five.

Grief, is clutching onto that hair as you fall to your knees in the shower.

Grief, is then crawling out of the shower, wrapping yourself in a towel, and saying goodbye to the hair you plucked from blades four and five as it is carried away in a stream of cold water; lost forever through the porthole of his former bathroom sink.

Later that day, a woman said that I seemed happy that John was dead because I was smiling in my latest Facebook selfie. With one comment, this lady invalidated my suffering. She made me ask myself, “Was I happy he was dead?” The seeds of guilt she planted in me that day grew to be forests that I still get lost in even now, three years later.

Before you judge a widow’s social media, think about my husband’s hair that was caught between blades four and five. Think about a despair so deep that you pray to contract HIV. Think about things you probably have never experienced because you, like that lady have not yet known a loss like this. Think about this story because chances are that one day you too will meet grief in the shower.

©Copyright Michelle Miller 2017

A Widow’s Reflection on Social Media Violence and Grieving the Loss of a Stranger

By Sabra Robinson

What cannot be said, will be wept – Sappho

Note: This blog is transparent about the emotional effects of witnessing a death on social media as a result of black market organ trafficking. My condolences are extended to the families of those killed online or by suicide by way of live or post video recordings. The opinions expressed in this blog are mine alone so please read at your own risk.

*******

You’ve seen them, you know, those violent and horrible videos of violence on Facebook; the ones that have several thousand likes, shares and comments and are not taken down until it’s too late.

I give myself a pat on the back for ignoring videos that display horrific crimes and suicides across the world. Nonetheless, one or two may come across my newsfeed that’s already set in motion and it meets the eye. Hence, the purpose of this blog.

I watched a video about two weeks ago that disturbed me horribly, so much so that it had me in tears. According to the caption, a young lady was lured unknowingly by the promise of a new job – a new life. Her journey was paid for in full but upon arrival, her dreams became a nightmare. She became a statistic out of the thousands of girls lured for the sake of trafficking, whether for sex, labor or for unintentional organ trafficking of human body parts. This lure was for the latter.

Why did I watch the video?

-I saw a young girl seemingly the same age as my daughter in an awkward place
-The start of the video intrigued me
-I was curious

There was no gore, no blood, no screams. She died a horrible death in a remote area electrified by the presence of her killers; she was their prized catch of the moment.

The video showed enough for me to realize that her death was unexpected, and she didn’t see it coming. My emotions got the best of me; I was infuriated that it was not removed sooner. I was infuriated that it was allowed to be shared over and over again. I was infuriated that Facebook had not yet removed this sadistic attack on a young life which accumulated thousands of comments tagging others to see.

Then I thought of her family and the other families of those whose deaths had not made it to social media. I thought about how the families may have provided a farewell party, anticipating their safe arrival and even much so, anticipating their portion of earnings to be remitted back to the household. But for this particular young woman, I asked myself, do they even realize she’s missing?

As a widow, what do you do when you’re faced with an assembly of emotions that you would normally reserve for those private grieving periods for your husband? You’ve already expressed your loss to a point which you’ve vowed to never weep like that again, but then this happens; a death is publicized publicly for the world to see.

I get that death happens and life continues on. But you try your best to move on and you can’t because you’re grieving the gruesome death of someone you don’t know, which makes it even more difficult (at least for me).

You can’t console them
You can’t touch them
You most certainly can’t help them

They’re alive one minute and the next they’re gone – permanently.

Depending on your beliefs, grief conditions us to prime the body for a burial or cremation of the loved one but in cases like this, it’s impossible because there is no body, there’s no visitation to view the body, there’s no funeral, no burial, no rites nor a procession.

How would you cope?
How do you cope?
How did I cope?

Since viewing the recording, I’ve changed how I allow my mind to receive and act on problematic online viewings:

I became aware of my surroundings, my social media, and email advertisements
I will be selective about what posts will flood my newsfeed and report violent videos and graphics if they somehow come through
I researched this horrific trend to see what I could do to help
I intend to speak to my therapist about it
I prayed for her family
I informed my daughter
I cried.
I wrote about it!

The video really shook my spirit. I kept reflecting on the young girl’s face of how innocent she appeared before her death. One moment she was alive and the next, she had her wings.

It could have been my child.

A few days after I reported the video, Mark Zuckerberg posted his plans to combat violent recordings and pictures posted on Facebook (I doubt if my reporting it was the cause of the post). Nevertheless, it brought a smile to face and gladness in my heart because it was acknowledged by a major social media company who vowed to do something.

I’m hoping that this young lady’s family and the families of the thousands of other men, women, and children can at least rest a little better in knowing that many of us care and we’re trying our hardest to do something about it, too.

My sincere condolences and prayers are extended to the family and I pray that justice is served swiftly to the murderers, deceivers, liars and cowards behind the cameras.

*****

Resources:

What You Need to Know About Human Organ Trafficking. 

Body Snatchers: Organ harvesting For Profit: Kidneys and other organs are selling to the highest bidder on the black market. 

The alarming number of children killed for black market organ trade

Raid on Illegal Body Part Selling Operation in Chicago, Warned In Hidden Colors 3

After Murders, Rapes Shown, Facebook Will Hire 3,000 to Check Videos

Feel free to visit more of Sabra’s writings at BlackWomenWidowsEmpowered.com