Being widowed can be one of the most overwhelmingly traumatic experiences that women face in their lives. Losing the closest person to you, the one you trust, love, care for and who is your closest friend, all in one go, leaves you feeling desperate and on your own.
It is estimated that each day, around 500 women in the UK will become widows and about 180,000 children under the age of 16 years will lose a parent.
Bereavement can result in a great longing for the departed person and a period of upheaval and adjustment which may take years. All parts of our being may be affected - emotional, physical, spiritual and social - but the overriding feeling is one of intense pain, or grief.
Widows living in the UK sometimes struggle to have their voice heard by the mainstream government system. The result is that widows can become some of the most marginalised group in society, yet are often those in greatest need, whether in terms of financial help, physical or mental health, or emotional or practical adjustments to their lives.
Following discussions between WNC and one of its partners, Widows for Peace through Democracy (WPD), the WNC agreed to support its work to try to gain a clearer picture of the experiences of widows in the UK. We therefore decided to carry out a short consultation by asking those with experience of widowhood, to complete a Questionnaire about their experience of widowhood.
The overriding objective is to establish a clear understanding of the lives of women after they have been widowed, and where possible, help to bring the outcomes from this exercise to the attention of policy makers and Ministers. Much of the information needed to do this is most usefully obtained directly from those who have lived through the experience.
Our short consultation has been running over recent weeks and the deadline for returning completed questionnaires has now passed. We want to thank all of you you have taken the time to complete and return the questionnaire and your responses will now be worked on over the coming weeks. Further information will be provided following this analysis.
If, having taking part in the study, you feel you would benefit from advice and support, we would encourage you to contact one of the agencies listed below (that provide specialised support services to widows and people who have suffered bereavement), or other organisations that you know of and who may have helped you in the past.
National Association of Widows (NAW)
The national Association of Widows offers a wide range of services to those newly bereaved, including a national and branch programme of social and other events, member contact lists, an on-line discussion forum, telephone befriending service and regular newsletters. Membership is open to women of all ages.
Tel:0845 838 2261 Website:www.nawidows.org.uk
Cruse Bereavement Care
Provides practical issues resulting from bereavement. They offer bereavement counselling on the phone, face-to-face or through local support groups.
Tel: 0844 477 9400 Website:www.cruse.org.uk
The WAY Foundation
Offers self-help, social and support networks for those who have been widowed and are under 50 years of age. They work to help those widowed at a younger age to help re-build their lives through local groups and events, supported on-line chat rooms, regular newsletters, email and organised holidays.
Tel: 0870 011 3450 Website: www.wayfoundation.org.uk
The National Bereavement Partnership
The national telephone helpline for people who have been bereaved
Tel:0845 226 7227 Website:www.natbp.org.uk
War Widows Association of Great Britain
The War Widows Association is a charity campaigning to improve the conditions of War Widows and their dependants in Great Britain. Its work encompasses those who have suffered bereavement as a result of World War II and all conflicts since then including Iraq and Afghanistan. The WWA also represents those who have suffered the loss of their husband in peacetime, when his death was attributable to his service life. It petitions for improvements in pensions, the administration of benefits and other issues affecting War Widows. It represents War Widows at national events of remembrance and it maintains close links with all ex-Service organizations and the Service widows' associations.
Tel:0845 2412 189 Website:www.warwidows.org.uk
A confidential, 24-hour helpline providing emotional support service for people who are feeling distress or despair.
Tel:0845 790 9090 Website:www.samaritans.org
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide
Provides a confidential helpline, email support and information, and group meetings and events for those who have been bereaved by suicide.
Tel: 0870 241 3337 Website:www.sobs.admin.care4free.net
Lesbian and Gay Bereavement Helpline
London-based organisation London Friend provides support and practical information on a range of services across the UK.
Tel: 020 7403 5969 Website: www.londonfriend.org.uk