What you do not see (much of at all if ever), are widows starting afresh with young men. I also note that the numbers of elderly widows who remarry are not statistically high for any number of reasons.
The point at issue here is that there is a disparity between windowed men getting back on track with a fresh reinvigorating life with a bright eyed new wife and children and that of widows who for essentially biological reasons do not have the same self evident attraction.
My wife Delma in her ministry has come across numerous women in their later fifties who have become widows and has detected a number of quite specific issues for women in this age group.
Delma recognises that for any woman, or man, regardless of his or her age, to lose their partner in life is a tragedy and there is no amount of family support and emotional compensation can in any way begin to fill such a terrible void.
However, by identifying issues that have been mentioned specifically by women in their late 50s, she hopes that she can help widows of any age to find meaning in their lives.
Fresh new situation
To be needed
One important issue that Delma has identified is a desperate lack of being 'needed'. In discussion with many women, she has tried to identify exactly what this means.
When they and their husbands are near retirement, these women have looked forward to the 'golden years'. Generally, in our society, they have spent most of their adult years as the mainstays of the household, and often arranging care for elderly parents and parents-in-law as well. In this generation, very few had careers that could give them a sense of their own identity outside the home.
When the children left, and they were content to relinquish some of the punishing routines of their younger years, and to re-establish a more relaxed lifestyle with their husbands - maybe travelling or indulging in some hobbies together – or maybe attending some courses that they had not had time to undertake before.
Although of a slower pace, there was still the comfort of a routine. Often, with the husband working fewer hours or retiring, there was time again for re-establishing a sense of playfulness in the bedroom too - and time and money to purchase some attractive lingerie for themselves – maybe for the first time in their life.
Then their husband died.
There was now no one to prepare meals for. There were no dirty footprints from the garden to vacuum every day, and even the weekly washing and shopping really only need to be done once a fortnight. For years, they had been thinking of and planning the evening meal for at least two hours every day – now it was over in half an hour – if they felt like eating anything at all - with only one plate to wash and the rest of the evening to be filled.
Some plants are challenges
A whole different life
For years, they had planned their own daily schedules around husbands, parents, children ... now there was no-one else's activities to add spice and meaning to the day. Visiting friends as an 'older single' person now seemed awkward; they no longer felt like ringing up and suggesting an outing or a dinner at home. And, although the evening hours stretched longer than ever before, they dreaded going to bed in the lonely bedroom.
In other words, not only were they dealing with loss and bereavement for themselves and helping their children and possibly grandchildren cope with such heartache, their own lives immediately had a sense of valuelessness in their basic routines.
It is this area of personal identity loss that Delma Tronson has recognised as being of serious consideration for this age group of widows. Her discussions while undertaking her 'pastor' duties have been illuminating, and have given her a whole new perspective of the loss these women feel. And moreover, time doesn't seem to dull this particular sense of loss and pain.
"One widow, who lost her husband when she was in her late fifties, which was many years ago, mentioned quite recently that this sense of 'no longer being needed' still has the greatest affect on her," Delma noted.
Shopping was always a pleasure for this widow, Delma explained, as she was always looking for a bargain in little gifts and clothing items for her husband; and all that pleasure in an 'outing' has now gone. The intimacy of being wanted and knowing you were special disappeared. Getting meals for two people became a distant lost love.
The Bible, Delma Tronson says, has much to say about such loss and provides many examples of how widows served the Lord.
Local churches provide many avenues for service for widows who wish to be involved, and it is to this area that Delma is now focusing some of her ministry attention, in order to help such widows to establish a new identity and meaningfulness in their daily routines.
She assures any lonely people, including these widows, that they will be cherished and needed in their local community!
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html