About once a week, I get a message that goes something like this:
My husband died six months ago, and now I’m a 35-year-old widow. I’ve gotten to the point where the grief is somewhat manageable, but my problem now is that I feel so isolated. My friends want to help, but they just can’t understand what it’s like to be me. I’ve tried going to spousal loss groups, but everyone is twice my age. How can I find a group of young widows in my area?
For a long time, my replies to these emails were always the same: “I have no real answers for you. I found people organically.” And that was true, in a way. But really, there were some specific steps I took to meet other young widows.
First, I was very public that I wanted to meet other young widows. I told everyone I knew that I wanted to meet people like me and when someone knew someone who knew someone who’d lost a spouse or a partner, I always met that person for coffee (or at least a phone date). I didn’t always hit it off with everyone, but sometimes I’d make a friend.
Second, I joined some specific online groups that really helped me connect with other young widows. There are many (I mean, there’s a website called “Young, Widowed and Dating” along with many other niche ones) but the one I really loved was the Hot Young Widows Club. Started first on Facebook, but now on another platform, it’s a place where young widows can connect with each other – both nationally, and in specific areas (and no, you don’t have to have been married, or hot, or really even that young to join). It was started by Nora McInerny, who I profiled about a year ago.
Third, I joined a few different in-person groups. Most important, I went to my local grief center (there are a few in DC, the one I went to was the Wendt Center) and attended a spousal loss group. Was everyone young? No. But I did meet others who understood my loss and that is where I met my dearest widow friend, Abena. In addition to this one, I tried out every grief group I could (some were disasters, including the one that I went to about a month after Shawn died where I had to listen to a woman go on and on about the traumatic grief of losing her dog). But others were really good. One of my favorites was The Dinner Party, which gets together grieving people in their 20s and 30s for informal group meetings. (I know right now it’s hard to meet in person but many of these groups are meeting virtually.)
When I did finally have a group of young widows surrounding me, we created a closed group so we could call or text or have dinner together with the understanding that we could share things that wouldn’t leave the group. I think this is important, because this sense of privacy has really allowed us to express things that we might not say out loud otherwise.
Listen, I don’t have all the answers, but I’ll say this: there are a lot of other young widows out there. I wish there weren’t, but they exist. And if you’re in a small town, or unable to get out of the house because of coronavirus or young kids or whatever, the online community is also a great way to connect with others. (If there’s something I’ve missed that’s been really helpful for you, please feel free to share in the comments!)
Not every young widow needs to find other young widows. But I certainly did. I needed to know I wasn’t the only person going through such tragic loss at my age.
I needed to know that I wasn’t alone.
And that is exactly what I found: I wasn’t alone.