12 Aug Overcoming Loneliness of Widows (and Widowers)
Full and complex social networks help to ease the loneliness of widowhood. Having more than one person in our lives to meet a variety of social needs builds in resilience, to better cope not only with widowhood but also with loneliness after divorce and separation.
Forms of loneliness
Various forms of loneliness, as listed below, can give clues about finding other ways of meeting these needs. Some may already be in place. There may be other people in our lives whom we hadn’t previously considered for their potential to help overcome various aspects of loneliness. We might also nurture other social connections before loss or separation strikes.
– no longer an object of love
– no one to care for or be a recipient of care
– no sharing of experiences
– no presence of another human being
– no one to share the workload
– loss of a life style
– rifts in previous social relations
– inability to make new friends
In real life, what do widows actually do to overcome loneliness?
– combine activities they enjoy with social contacts (join a group whose members do things you like to do)
– find meaningful things to do (what matters to you, what matches your values)
– develop new relations (and not be too choosey about new friends)
– be useful to someone (there are lots of other lonely people)
– take on new roles
– pamper one’s self (things you didn’t do when you had a partner)
In 2006, 43% of women and 13% of men aged 65 and older in Canada were widowed. There are more widows than widowers because 1) women live longer; 2) women tend to marry older men; and 3) men are more likely to marry after widowhood.
The more education a woman has, the more personal resources she has for engaging socially in a variety of levels and forms: friends, neighbours, organizations, professional associations, community-level interactions, and different sectors.
Online communication skills among older adults help to decrease loneliness, reduce depression, and improve quality of life. Older women use the internet to find potential new partners. They find that it helps them distinguish between men with a romantic interest, and men who are looking for a caretaker.
Lopata, H.Z. in Loneliness: The experience of emotional and social isolation. 1975. Robert S. Weiss, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. 260 pp.
Lopata, H.Z. in Loneliness: a sourcebook of current theory, research and therapy. 1982. Editors L.A. Paplau and D. Perlman. Wiley Press. 429 pp.
Novak M., Campbell, L. & Northcott, H.C. Aging and Society: Canadian perspectives, 7th edition. 2014. Nelson Education Ltd., 439 pp.
Amichai-Hamburger, Y., & Schneider, B.H. in The Handbook of Solitude: Psychological perspectives on social isolation, social withdrawal, and being alone. 2014. Editors R.J. Coplan and J.C. Bowker. John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 588 pp.