Warning. Some swearing.
As I said in part 1, people have some odd perceptions of widows. There is an idea that widows, especially widows without children, cash in pensions and life insurance and live giddily, splashing the cash and living the life of Riley. Flash car. Foreign holiday.
This idea of all widows being wealthy is far from the truth. In the UK in 2021, over 1.5 million widows lost out on pension income after their partners died, and 59% experienced a sharp drop in income following bereavement. People who are widowed lose their partner's income. Especially if they are not married, they may not get access to their partner's pension or life insurance. Unmarried widows may also lose their home. Bereavement support payments only go to people who are married or civil partnered.
Some of us, after we were widowed, did press the Fuck-It button a few times. A new car (or a car new to us). A holiday. Gorgeous boots.* Being a widow is pretty shitty, and that little fizz of dopamine is sometimes just what we need. But I think I speak for pretty much all of us when I say that we would rather live in rags and in a cardboard box with the person we loved than have all the money in the world.
*Yes. That one was me.
There are odd perceptions of women as widows out there. They are ancient and wizened. They are very humble. They are virtuous and will sacrifice everything. They are master criminals. They are wily husband hunters (at least where the Victorians were concerned).
Clearly, there's not real evidence behind any of these images of widows, but the one that seems to persist is that women who are widowed are out to steal other women's partners. I've never heard of a case of this actually happening. Widows are just out to survive from day to day and they don't want anyone else's partner – they are too busy missing their own. What I have heard of, however, is women who have lost friends because the women in her friendship group are withdrawing to 'protect' their partners from the supposedly wanton widows. That way, the widow loses both female and male friends.
Why? I suspect a lack of understanding about grief, and a feeling of insecurity. It's tough enough being a widow, though, without losing friends.
Thank you to Dave Seed for the permission to include his picture Red Queen
I want to be happy for you but...
…you’re getting engaged and my fiancée died a week before our wedding.
…you’re having a baby and my chance of motherhood went when my husband died just before we could start what was to be our last chance at IVF.
…you’re buying a house with your boyfriend and I have to move back with my parents because my late boyfriend’s family want his flat back.
We love our friends. They are amazing people (after all, we wouldn’t have them as our friends if they weren’t) and we want the best for them. But it’s really hard to see them have the things we wanted or planned before we were widowed. And it’s hard to tell them we are so happy for them when inside we are wondering why they got to have the partner, the baby, the house, the life, and we didn’t.
What do to?
I was widowed at 50 when Tim, who I expected would be my happy-ever-after following a marriage break-up, died suddenly from heart failure linked to his type 2 diabetes. Though we'd known each other since our early 20s, we'd been married less than ten years.