International Widow Day

image courtesy internet
image courtesy internet

Home they brought her warrior dead:
She nor swooned, nor uttered cry:
All her maidens, watching, said,
‘She must weep or she will die.’

Then they praised him, soft and low,
Called him worthy to be loved,
Truest friend and noblest foe;
Yet she neither spoke nor moved.

Stole a maiden from her place,
Lightly to the warrior stepped,
Took the face-cloth from the face;
Yet she neither moved nor wept.

Rose a nurse of ninety years,
Set his child upon her knee—
Like summer tempest came her tears—
‘Sweet my child, I live for thee.’

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Just think about this one day you are married, the next you are single alone and grieving. The journey is like a rollercoaster, decisions to make, forms to fill, shock, loneliness anger, confusion, fear and depression, there can also be acceptance and new beginnings

In 2010 the UN resolved to adopt 23rd June as the international widow’s day, this day is the ratified day of action to address the poverty and injustice faced by millions of widows and their dependents in many countries. How very noble. Hope the Halo does not hurt.I dread the day, the media will say “celebrating widow’s day”

Before we go ahead with this article there is a woman I would like to salute, my grandmother Singari who was in her late twenties when my grandfather died. In the British India, she stood, and took on the challenge of bringing her children up the way her husband and she had visualized.

It meant renting a house in the town, an unheard occurrence in the conservative temple town of Udupi. She educated my Aunt, who went on to be the first Brahmin women to be a teacher in a Christian school. My Uncles were all stalwarts in their professions and my father is a legend in the Ophthalmology circles.

When we talk of widowhood in India, it usually with reference to Varanasi, Mathura, or the sati system, incidentally Sati is and was an economic venture. The challenges faced by the widows in the southern social structure are very different from the challenges of widowhood in the north.

Religious, economics and age of the widow are also huge factors when we consider the existential markers of widowhood. I would like to look at the situation where a human being has lost a partner. The vacuum which is an individual experience.

When my grandmother was to get married, her father who was an astrologer considered my grandfather because, he was alpaayu.. that is a person with short life span and she had bala vidhava yoga or the probability of early widowhood. It does seem callous when we look back but in the then context it made sense.Astrology can predict the loss of spouse.Of course the age, the events and the impact would vary with the individual horoscopes matched.

Sometimes it is an Karmically planned event by the soul with the consent of the concerned person to either resolve a Karmic consequence of ones own action or as trigger to discover a latent source of , fortitude,patience and/or self conviction.

The first international widow’s day was established by the Loomba foundation. It was this day in 1954 that Lord Loomba’s mother Pushpawati Loomba was widowed.

Let’s look at Widowhood… when we say widow we generally mean a woman whose husband has died. But a woman whose husband often leaves alone while he plays sports or is involved in other activities is also a widow. Golf widows and Gulf widows are social realities presenting their own set of challenges that need resolution.

The social, economic, emotional factors and its impact are very different for each age group of widowhood. And the type of widow hood

Things are tough for the second category of widows for they do not have the emotional support that the widow who has lost her partner gets. This is not a judgement, but essentially it is about being stuck and unable to move on.

The challenges and limitations of being a widow is something very individual, all that we can do is be there as support only when they need it. Even anticipating a need does not really work.

When a person faces grief there are definite stages that they go through… there are stages of grieving denial, shock, then bargaining, anger depression and acceptance. These may not happen in the particular order. As you cope, the right time to empty drawers and closets and deal with personal items like wallets, purses turn up. There is no point in pushing the bereaved person, the best we let the person be until they are ready.

A great Indian culture is being strong, for the kids’ sake, don’t cry. But it’s okay to cry pain is necessary so are the tears. Tears help to heal they are actually the emotional first aid. Tears are natural pain relievers since they are made of Lucien –enkephalin prolactin encourages the secretion of tears that’s one reason women tend to cry more often than men.

Most people are uncomfortable with death; they are quite at loss what to say. It is quite okay to hug a person who has just lost his or her spouse; it is okay to mention the spouse’s name.

The worst thing probably is having to face the calendar, the holidays, the Valentine ’s Day, the birthday’s the anniversaries they all take on a new form these dates are to be faced and dealt with. I have seen people trying to manipulate things all in good faith, but it is okay to let the person plan their day the way they want it. Yes, if we can subtly say I am there if you need me, that would be letting the person make the choice on how they would like to handle things.

Essentially be it divorce, death or terminal illness there are 5 stages that people go through

  1. Denial – refusing accept that the loss has occurred.
  2. Anger – this may be directed either at the person who has left or at any one else who happens to be there. If the person is attending therapy it could be directed at the therapist.
  3. Depression – very often this goes hand in hand with anger. Or rather the person oscillates between anger and depression.
  4. Bargaining—this is very strange stage where the individual tries to bargain with everyone, god, doctor, therapist and sometimes even themselves.
  5. Resolution is acceptance setting the house in order and moving on.

Yes, we have moved on in India, widow remarriage is quite acceptable, though it would require lot of maturity from both partners.

Incidentally the Shetty communities from time immemorial have accepted widows taking on another partner, this was considered legal and acceptable though not called a marriage it was called an alliance.

Widows from Benaras, Vrindavan mark International Widows day

3 Replies to “International Widow Day”

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