Widows: Society Must Hear the Pain of Broken Hearts
22 June 2023
On June 23, the international community marks the Day of Widows to remind society about the most vulnerable category of mankind and their children left without their men.
What happens in the world to women left without their breadwinners? What do women who have lost their husbands in the war in Ukraine feel? Does society hear them?
What example of treating widows did Christ set? Can we share the inconceivable pain of widows following their loss of their beloved ones?
Widows in the world
285 million…. According to official statistics, this is the number of widows in the world, with one of ten of them living beyond the poverty line.
Widows living in developing economies are especially vulnerable since, having lost a husband, a woman loses her civil rights.
In some African and Asian countries widows are subject to physical, sexual and psychological abuse, they are not eligible for inheritance, cannot work, they are not considered full-fledged society members.
Widows enjoy restricted rights to property and, therefore, do not own a place to live. Circumstances often make them hunt for an official job as a servant, go begging or become prostitutes.
There are around 40 million women in India who have lost their husbands for different reasons. 15 thousand live on the streets.
A terrible ritual of burning a widow together with her deceased husband existed up to the 18th century until the British missionary William Carry managed to have this tradition abolished.
In a number of countries, widows are forced to take part in humiliating rituals, for example, drinking water in which a deceased man was cleansed. Funerals, sometimes, presupposed intercourse with relatives of the dead, shaving hair, and making scars.
In some cultures, widows are considered to be under curse. Thus, in Tanzania, hundreds of elderly women, mostly widows, were accused of witchcraft and killed.
Widows in Ukraine at wartime
Oksana, Nadia and Tetiana… These are widowed young women who planned their life together with their husbands. This, however, did not come true. The war claimed their beloved husbands in 2022.
Today, they are learning to live through the pain of loss.
Oksana: “You have been deprived of your future, your dreams. You wake up in the morning as if to fall in an abyss again.
Nadia: “It is hard to realize that it is about me, about my life. I still don’t understand where my place and place of my child is. How should I further exist? I would not say I was completely immobile, but I was feeling pain in my muscles as if under a concrete slab. In the first months after I learnt about the death of my husband, I could not remember what my name was…”
Tetiana: “I was trying to feel anything besides that terrible pain, that abyss in which I was living… It feels like I am erasing myself. There is no me as I was. The former me died together with him.”
“Why did you let him go there?” “Did you want more money?” “Why are you suffering?” “You will get your compensation!” “The sooner you forget about it, the better…”
This is what wives of the killed soldiers often hear from society instead of compassion. But their pain is worth listening to impartially, as they buried a part of them together with their husbands.
Women are sad to admit that society is not ready and sometimes is reluctant to understand and support them.
The way Christ treated widows
When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,[b] here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home (John 19:26-27).
Medically, we know what Jesus was feeling when crucified on the cross.
Experiencing terrible pain, he knew that His mother, who must have been a widow at that moment, would be without her first-born son, who, according to Jewish traditions, had to take care of his widows mother.
Facing death Himself, Jesus found it possible to assign care of His mother Mary to John, “the disciple whom He loved”.
How Cristians care about widows (shared by ministers)
“We would like to build up long-term relationships with such women,” says Andriy, a minister from Ternopil.
The minister and his team hold meetings, which include a concert, food and fellowship, for wifes of the killed soldiers and mothers who lost their sons in the war.
In general gatherings, women are not asked personal questions as it often ends in tears and remembrance of their beloved ones. Andriy says that he is forced to change a topic, though he understands such reaction very well.
Ministers listen to those who are open enough to share as much as needed in individual meetings.
The church often offers unprotected women help looking after their children, solving household issues and doing man work at their homes.
“First and foremost, such women need someone to listen to them. Second, this is spiritual and psychological assistance as well as thematic master classes in spheres participants are interested in. We want such people to feel that the church wants to support them,” shares the minister.
Viktor, a pastor from the Mykolaiv region, believes that these are widows, especially elderly, who need tender treatment. They like to talk, are happy to share their feelings, and to listen to them one needs to show attention and compassion.
Children or grandchildren of many widows defend Ukraine. That is why it is even more difficult for them both materially and morally. We need to pray together with such elderly women, to comfort them, as they cry a lot.
“Morally, it is very difficult, they are unprotected, lonely. They need comprehensive support, at least to be listened to realize that someone needs them. We are trying to be their friends,” shared Viktor.
This is our common pain
Of course, a widow of a killed soldier can understand another woman who has suffered the same loss. However, this does not annihilate the fact of participation in the life of such women by society. There are many such widows around us. Or is it only about financial assistance by the state or civil organizations?
Our society must realize that their pain is a common pain of all Ukrainians since their beloved one gave their lives for Ukraine.
The first who can come to help, support and give hope, is the church where compassionate people will say how to soothe pain of loss and help such women continue living.