By Terese Tse
Literally, a widow is a woman whose spouse has died while a widower on the other hand is a man whose spouse is no more alive. The state of having lost one’s spouse to death is termed widowhood. The treatment of widows and widowers around the world varies from society and culture.
Widowhood is not a thrilling experience; it is an experience that no man or woman would want to go through as it comes with a lot of calamities.
Research has shown that widowhood is tough during the first three months, after losing a spouse. Most widows suffer from this effect during the first three months of their spouses’ death; however, they can also suffer from this effect later on in their lives for much longer than three months.
Widowhood has caused most men or women around the world to have a change of lifestyle, they are visibly seen to lose weight due to lack of eating which is caused by depression. The feeling of being alone due to death of their spouses has negative impact on their mental, as well as physical well being.
They carry more burden which makes them to be less than what they should have been. In fact, if being a mother of children whose father had gone to his grave yard were to be a choice, no woman would have made this choice, because it is unbearable.
This is why Mrs Nguamo Anyagh, an Executive Account Officer with the Makurdi Local Government Area, a widow, said, “there is still some feeling of shock within me after nineteen years of being a lonely mother. Loneliness still eats my heart. I have many close friends, colleagues and neighbours yet I still feel lonely and unloved and this is devastating. This is the way most of my fellow widows whom, I interact with, feel at one point or the other”.
According to Mrs Anyagh, there are millions of such women around the world that sleep without a man to cuddle them.
“You may not know one but these women who circumstances made them widows have horrifying experiences which words cannot adequately describe; some of these experiences are personal while others occur to almost all”.
For Mrs Ruth Ajonye, her husband died barely eight years into their marriage when she was still tender and needed love, with her little kids.
She said for more than twelve years, she has been languishing in loneliness as it still troubles her heart.
“The loneliness I feel as a widow is like a biting wind that only the toughest football fans were willing to endure. In fact, any woman that blood runs through her veins would not envy to have had such a devastating moment in her life”.
In her words, Mrs Lois Haainya said, “there is a saying that, you will not value the truth extent of what you have got until you loss it but I used to take it for granted until I lost the man that had always make my sadness to disappear no matter how stressed up my day might have been to the cold hands of death. His transition into the greater glory yonder is more than eleven years today but his memories are still ever green in my heart. His departure has hit me hard and I still find it difficult to come to terms with the reality that he has gone and would never return.
“What pains me most is the great opposition I am being faced with from members of his family who should be consoling me instead. The biggest concern is some assets that their brother left behind. They denied me access to almost everything and I want to inform you that everything we have got was done with the collective efforts of both of us. My husband was a teacher just as I am and we were both determined to make judicious use of our earnings, that explains why we decided to operate a joint bank account to achieve this aim. Our marriage was more of a fifty fifty affairs but here I am, totally alone with all we had together confiscated by his family,” she bemoaned.
Also, a widow, Mrs Ngôhemba Jime said, when her husband was alive, she never knew there will come a time where life would bring her despair, emptiness and sorrow.
Now, she stated that she is helpless and hungry for the love of her husband.
“My life was complete when I had him by my side. He made it clear to me that he would never forsake me and he was living by his words until his death. I accepted the inevitability of death but his own particularly leaves me devastated, confused and in great pains.
“Our four children who are our pride were in those days enrolled in standard elementary schools but as I speak to you, they are withdrawn back to a school where they receive instructions while sitting on the floor. My heart is never the same since his passage and there is no day that would pass in the sky without one event or the other reminding me of his caring nature while alive,” she narrated.
A young widow identified as Mrs Mimidoo Tertsegha said, she was seemingly a happily married woman until few years back when a heartbreaking news of the demise of her husband came through a ghastly road accident.
“This was the day happiness left my life without any tendency to return because all the efforts I made to be happy afterwards failed. His happiness was always in what he can do to make me happy. God has designed us for each other and the day I missed him, I knew that I have missed everything.
“I now watch with envy when women go about alongside their husbands and club together with them and I keep advising young woman of my age who have men to call their husbands by their side to consider it as a privilege and hold them with both hands,” she decried.
Conversely, the treatment of widows around the world varries, depending on the part of the country they originate from. There is ritual cleansing in some African traditional societies and this happens particularly in rural areas.
Some point, the widow is taken to the stream to bath. Her clothes are burnt and she is made to walk home naked. It is a necessary traditional rite that if she doesn’t, the consequences are that, she and her children would die one after the other in quick succession, and will be buried in separate graves.
The belief of some Nigerians, in some culture, is that a widow’s hair should be shaved during the period of mourning, and within this period, she is expected to cry at the top of her voice to announce her mourning state.
While some cultures go as far as asking a woman to sleep in the same room with the corpse or drink the water used in bathing her husband, others, during the period of mourning, the woman is restricted to her room. She is not allowed to cook or do any house chores she would normally do; she is made to sit on the floor while mourning as a sign to show that her status has fallen. This is to mention but the least because there are several other societies with long tradition of impunity that made these women to be shunned with no fault of theirs.
Widows have seen a lot in this part of the world ranging from unfulfilled promises, failures to disappointments overtime such that nothing surprises them anymore. Circumstances have exposed everything to them. They are faced with embarrassments, hatred and intimidations that ordinarily wouldn’t have been if their partners were still living.
Sometimes, it is their biological children that add more troubles to their heavy hearts; they contribute to their depression and pain. It is difficult for a woman to get on well with the children alone, especially when they are not cooperative and did not understand the plight of widowhood. There are some spoilt children on the streets today that would not have gone wayward had their fathers lived on. Their lives would have certainly count for something significant but they end up being wasted.
When a man dies and leaves behind his wife, it becomes very difficult for her to live a normal life again. The litany of problems she faces are enough for her to even think of taking away her life if she doesn’t have faith in God.
In some cases, the woman is denied right of ownership to her husband’s property at his passing. She is thrown out of the house by in-laws and denied of her spouse’s entitlements. Those of them who do not have dignifying jobs are compared by this circumstance to take to petty trading in order to make ends meet and their children on the other hand are forced to fend for themselves by hawking on the streets of cities of the world.
Often times, she is being accused by relatives of the dearly departed husband for being responsible for his death. And of course, the biggest issue they encounter is raising of the children. The issues are numerous.
One thing that remains an issue to ponder is whether or not widowhood should be sad or happy moment to the affected persons.
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