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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.

Missing You on Father’s Day

By Christina Saunders

As I sit here I think about all of the Father Day’s that have passed by without you. There are so many things that I wish I could do with you but I can only dream. How I wish I could just spend the day with you. How I would love for the kids and I to take you out to dinner. I imagine seeing your smile or hearing your voice. There is so much I want to say to you. But I am thankful for the people who work hard to keep his memory alive.

I can recall a time when I was grocery shopping with my youngest daughter and ran into a friend of my father’s. The man was following me down the aisle of the store and I was beginning to get paranoid. I was thinking to myself why is this dude following us? Finally he approached me and asked, “who is your father?” I then told him Chris Ushry and he began to cry. I didn’t know what to say or do. I looked in his eyes and I could see the pain he was feeling. Right now I can’t even remember his name because I was so emotional watching him. He said, “your father was a great man and I miss him dearly.” I could feel my eyes flooding with tears. He then began to share how in school he was the outcast and my dad was his only true friend. How my father always took up for him and wouldn’t allow others to taunt him. He then said, “your dad was a gentle giant but others knew not to mess with him.” He wanted me to know that my father had a heart of gold. No he wasn’t perfect but he was a man of great character. Then he shared with me how when his family turned their back on him because of trouble that my father was right there to help him. He ended the conversation with letting me know that my father loved me more than anything this earth had to offer him. I cried the whole time he talked and as he walked away.

I shared that story to say this it’s stories like these that help me through the rough times. When I am missing my father like I am right now I can always think back to these stories. Knowing that he touched so many people and that he loved me makes me smile. Although I can’t see his face or hear his voice I can smile knowing that he was a loving man. It’s been 37 years since he left this earth and I still love hearing stories about my father. I now share those same stories with my children in order to give them a sense of who he was as a man. My mother made a album for me which was destroyed during a flood. I was devastated but some loving family members have offered to give me photos to make another one. I can never share the pain you feel as a widow but I can share the pain of a child. As a child I use to make cards on different holidays and put in my daddy box. This was therapy for me and it allowed me to feel close to my father. Now that I am older I make a bouquet of flowers and put on his grave. I sit there for a while and just share with him all that has happened in my life this past year. Some say I should stop doing that but I will never stop having that time unless my health keeps me from doing it. So tomorrow I will spend part of my time talking with dad as I do every year.

As I close out I want to say for those with children hold them tight as tomorrow may be hard for them. And in holding them prayerfully it will give you comfort as well. Try to surround yourself with love ones that can help you to make it through tomorrow. Peace and Blessings to you all.

13 Ways that Widows are like Toddlers

By Michelle Miller

I will not tell you to keep your chins up about Valentine’s Day.

I will not try to convince you that there are worse things than being a widow on Valentine’s Day.

I will not tell you to count your blessings.

I will not tell you to pray instead of drink.

I will not tell you that you should focus on all of the other people in your life who love you.

I will not tell you to focus on the love you and your spouse shared while they were alive.

And I will not remind you of how amazing it is to have the capacity to still be in love with a person you can no longer see or touch.

No. Optimism surrounding Valentine’s Day makes me want to punch a puppy, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

What I will do today, on the eve of national, “Your Romantic Partner is Alive, and Mine is Dead Day,” is attempt to make you laugh. There is strength in laughter and I know that I will certainly need all the strength I can muster for tomorrow, and I’m assuming if you are reading this, you will too.

I present you now with, “13 Ways that Widows are like Toddlers.” No, this will not “cure” you, and no, this will not bring your spouse back to you, but it’s the very best I can do for all of you today.

I am deeply sorry your romantic partner in life is not here for you to celebrate Valentine’s Day with. It is not okay, it is not fair and it never will be.

 

13 Ways that Widows are like Toddlers

1.We can’t be trusted to dress ourselves

My son once bit me because I would not let him wear flip flops during a hailstorm. I regret glaring at him behind his back as I dropped him off at Sunday School that day, because I get it now. I get what it is like to have your brain so clouded and busy that appropriate apparel rules become too complicated to adhere to.

After John’s suicide, I often found myself looking down at my feet in the grocery store to be amazed that I had been walking around all day with two different boots on.

Then there was the time I finally did my laundry (after only two and a half weeks of letting it rot in my closet), only to realize that I had not come across one pair of underwear. I checked my underwear drawer to find every piece of underwear I owned still unmoved from the weeks before. Yes, I had not worn underwear for two weeks.

Which brings me to my next point:

2. We are often naked

As toddlers, my children loved to be naked. This would have been fine and healthy behavior had it not always been in public. I don’t know if they were some sort of exhibitionists or just suffering from a hot flash, but it seemed like every time I looked away from them in public, I would turn around to find them stripping and streaking.

I can tell you for me though; the widow nudity had nothing to do with hot flashes or exhibitionism. It had to do with the grief-sex I was having and the return of my self confidence as I spent a few hours naked on a beach. And twice in a car. And a few times in other locations that I am sure will surface on the news via google earth and/or a surveillance video one day (Hi Mom and Dad!).

Who knew that nudity would be a part of my grief process?

3. We Have Nightmares

And they are fucking scary.

4. We are finicky eaters

News Flash: Toddlers don’t like vegetables. Shocking, yes I know. My son though, ate dirt, lint and whatever else he found on the floor with gusto. So one day I just started dropping green beans all over the floor in our house and low and behold, I had a toddler that ate vegetables. Oddly enough though, when I tried this with goldfish crackers he said “Ewww Mommy. Fishy dirty” and refused to eat them.

Much like my son (any my daughter who lived on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for 2 years) after John’s death my eating habits became strange and unpredictable. After his suicide, I didn’t eat for a week. Then the next week and for a month strait, every night I ate a bowl of peanut butter laced with half a bag of chocolate chips and washed it down with Vodka. Six months after his death I went through a phase where I only ate organic beef patties and two avocados a day.

Which leads me to the next one….

5. We have unpredictable bowels

I used to play a game in my head each morning when my kids were toddlers. It was called, “Will their poo be running down their legs and spilling out of their diapers today, or will they be sitting on their potty chairs making the same face I make when I think about my exes for hours on end?” I hated this game almost as much as I hated CandyLand.

So ya. It’s like that with widowhood too, only I was too embarrassed to purchase adult diapers, so I just ruined underwear…unless it happened to be during the aforementioned two week stint I went without underwear.

6. We have no concept of social norms

We will say and do weird shit that will make everyone around us uncomfortable. And then we will laugh about it.

7. We throw fits

In public. And we don’t give a damn about who is watching. My son once threw a fit at the bank because they had a Christmas tree up that had a star at the top and not an angel. I whisper-yelled at him through gritted teeth “you get your little bottom up right now! People are staring at you!” He then looked at me as if I was the crazy one, and proceeded to throw an even louder fit.

I never understood this until a year into widowhood when I found myself yelling at a woman, “Fuck you, you stupid-ass-bitch and your ugly ass car!” while in the child pick-up line at my kids’ elementary school. In front of a row of kindergartners.

I am no longer allowed in the west side pick-up line and I still to this day maintain my innocence.

8. We Just Want to be Held

Seriously, someone pick me up and rock me.

9. We are entitled

Both of my kids as toddlers thought that just by being born they deserved unlimited amounts of TV and assorted sugary pastries. Oh and they also wanted my complete and total undivided attention and my soul. I remember having a talk with both of them once in the car, trying to explain to them that other people in the world had it worse than them and they should learn to start being happy that they lived such a charmed life.

My son then asked me for a cookie.

Neither of them could conceive of a life where they weren’t having all of their needs met all of the time.

Fast forward to “The Widow Card.” It exists and it got me out of chores, traffic tickets, and work in addition to a lot of free drinks, meals, and spa treatments that first year in 2014. Then somewhere around 2015 people became less sympathetic to my widowhood. Apparently I had graduated to veteran widow status after the first year had passed, and I no longer was entitled to free shit. Or so they thought.

I am almost three years in to this shit storm, and I can tell you that I absolutely still need free goodies, a lot of understanding and tons of cocktails every single day for the rest of my life. I pull the Widow Card our frequently and I have no shame about it.

10. We need naps

Like three a day. Minimum.

11. We don’t know the days of the week or months of the year

Even when we sing that damn, “Days of the week” song, we still have no clue what day of the week it is. Widow brain is a thing people!!! I wrote a check two weeks ago with the year 2015 on it and a few months ago I sat at my kids school two hours before pick-up time because I was convinced that it was early-out Wednesday. Turns out, it was actually Thursday.

My daughter once asked me if Friday was purple. Why yes, yes it does appear to be purple now that I am a widow.

My son once insisted that Novebruary was a month and it needed to involve cake. Sounds good to me son!

12. Our living space is a huge mess

And no thank you, we will not be cleaning it up, and we will throw things at you if you suggest that we do.

13. We respond well to positive reinforcement

I once posted to my facebook how proud I was of myself for showering AND shaving my legs. I had an overwhelming amount of widows and widow supporters post gold star emojis in the comments. I felt all warm and fuzzy inside, much like I think my kids felt as toddlers when I would put a sticker on their little sticker charts to reward them for not sending me to the insane asylum that day.

Widowhood sucks. Every widow I talk to expresses to me their profound discouragement within the life they exist in. They worry that they are not grieving the “right” way. They worry that they are grieving too much. Crying too hard. Not crying enough. They judge themselves for the six-month-old pile of laundry. They get judged by others for their inability to just, “get over it.” I want to tell you all that you are doing just fine. Yes, you sitting there reading this with your hairy arm pits, ratted hair, and week-old leggings…you are WINNING. You clicked on a post with a funny title in search of laughter. Do you even understand how heroic it is to seek out laughter after what you’ve been through?!!

Gold stars and so very much love for all of you!

**Image from StuffMomsSay.com

© Copyright 2017 Michelle Miller