Orna Raz

International Widows’ Day

Although we are widows every day of the year, the UN observes June 23rd as International Widows’ Day. The day is almost over, I found out about it just a few minutes ago, but still it is a good opportunity to write about this unhappy topic.

Most married women will find themselves widows at a certain point of their lives, but normally you don’t hear about widows and widowhood in the media, it is an unspoken topic.

My husband died when I was 52 (he was 55). It is not a young age, but not particularly old either. You are still not too set in your ways, but you are wise  and flexible enough to make a change if you wish to do so.

And once you are a widow you discover in yourself strengths and abilities that you never knew you had.

When I lost my husband I was at first overwhelmed and confused, but it was clear to me that I didn’t want to be a burden on my  daughters, who were in their early twenties, and that I was too independent to let anyone tell me how to live my life.

I was lucky: I had a good job to go back to, and as my husband was a university professor I was financially ok. Unfortunately many widows face economic difficulties on top of everything else.

Most of my good friends stayed with me, but I got a unexpected support from a social worker, a volunteer in the Israeli Social Security office,  whose specialty is grief counseling. For a whole year we  met once a week and she helped me get back on my feet.

About a year a a half later I met a man who was widowed as well, and we have been together since. Yet, in contrast to popular belief, a widow does not cease to be a widow even when she remarries.

Three years ago I opened a Facebook group for Israeli widows, I had no idea if  such a group could work as a support group for widows, but it has been successful. Today there are over 1,100 women in the group.

So even though it is true that we are also widows during the other 364 days of the year, it is important to raise awareness and to learn more about widows and widowhood.

I am thankful to the UN for devoting a special day to the widows.

About the Author
I hold a PhD in English Literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, specializing in writing about issues related to women, literature, culture, and society. Having lived in the US for 15 years (between 1979-1994), I bring a diverse perspective to my work. As a widow, in March 2016, I initiated a support and growth-oriented Facebook group for widows named "Widows Move On." The group has now grown to over 2000 members, providing a valuable space for mutual support and understanding.
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