Sorrow and Stigma: One Third of Widows Don’t Disclose Their Widow Status When Meeting New People, Survey Finds

It’s estimated that there are over 3 million widows in the UK, with over 100,000 of these classed as young widows and widowers, under the age of 51. 

Losing a partner, at any age, is one of the most difficult things a person will have to go through; from the pain of bereavement to the practical challenges that come with being widowed. 

In our recent Chapter 2 community survey, it was revealed that many still faced multiple challenges and stigmas associated with being a widow or widower. 

The research found that almost a third of widows (30%) still struggled with disclosing their widow status when meeting new people, with one widow from London, stating: “People don’t know what to say to you when you admit you’re a widow, so actively avoid you. It’s all new to me, too, so I don’t know how to approach the subject.”

Another widower, from Oxford, said: “Nobody understands how you feel. Widows, like me, live in a completely different world now, and we don’t fit this society/world. I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb when I tell people I’m widowed, and I don’t have the same amount of confidence that I used to have. I just seem to exist.”

The survey found that widows and widowers in Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh were least likely to disclose their widow status, whilst those in Reading, Brighton and Exeter were more likely to tell acquaintances about their status. 

Elsewhere, the survey revealed that around 75% of widows stated they would not consider getting married again, with those in Birmingham, stating they were least likely to marry.

Of those who did want to marry again, the majority were between the ages of 56-64. 

40% of those surveyed aged 55 – 64 wanted to marry again, followed by 30% of people aged 70 – 80, 18% aged 36 – 55, and only 12% of those 80 and above.  

The survey also found that one in 10 widows and widowers feared their or their late partners’ family reactions as to why they wouldn’t date or marry again, and equally one in 10 widows stated they wouldn’t date or marry again for fear of disrespecting their late partner. 

One widow, from Norwich, said: “It’s daunting being alone after 40+ years with the same man. I wonder if I can ever be comfortable holding another man’s hand. I’m not sure how to explain to my children that I’m lonely. Of course, no-one will ever replace their father, but I would enjoy having male company again.”

Whilst another widow, from Leeds, said: “I just measure everyone against him.”

Widows and widowers in Southampton and Bristol are more likely to wait over two years before contemplating moving on whilst those in Liverpool and Yorkshire among the first to move on, with 20% of them stating they would be ready to date again within 3-12 months of their partner passing. 

What we find as widows and widowers is that we gradually become excluded from our social circles; we’re no longer part of the ‘couples’, other friends don’t know how to act around us, and invitations for social events become rare. 

We’re too old to go out, but too young to stay in, with nobody to share the daily joys and frustrations with. As far as the world is concerned, us widows simply just exist. 

This is why it was so important to create a community, such as Chapter 2. It’s a safe space for anybody who wants to talk openly about their fears, frustrations and even future plans. We’re uniquely placed to understand exactly what we’re going through – even if no two grief journeys are the same. I sincerely hope that through Chapter 2, we can finally end the stigma of widowhood.

Widowhood is a journey unique to each soul, yet united by a common thread of loss and longing. Through platforms like Chapter 2, there’s a beacon of hope to dismantle the societal taboos surrounding widowhood. The aim is not to erase grief but to embrace it openly, fostering understanding, empathy, and acceptance for those navigating this poignant path.

The story of widows and widowers is not one of mere existence but of resilience, strength, and an unwavering spirit. Let us heed these voices, lending our empathy and understanding, and together, let us redefine the narrative surrounding widowhood—one of compassion and inclusivity.
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