Widowers are vulnerable. Very vulnerable! In fact, according to research by Dr. Justin Denney of Washington State University, widowed men have 1.6 to 2.0 times the risk of death by suicide compared to otherwise similar married men, and they will do so within two years of their wife’s death. Still, another research suggests the rate may be even higher. And that is just the beginning. Widowers have an increased rate of diabetes, hypertension, and more. Widowers are at risk of being diagnosed with depression, which can negatively impact virtually every aspect of their lives. The challenges are many, from raising children to maintaining their career, handling personal finances, ongoing relationships with others, and dating. Sadly, few men are equipped to handle any of these.
“If we’re all going to die, why is it that we are so ill-prepared to deal with it?” said John Von Der Haar (68), who lost his wife, Mary Jane, in 2013. Good question.
While there is no cut-and-dry answer, we can point to clues that have contributed to the problems widowers face. From the time little boys are learning to walk, they are repeatedly told how “boys don’t cry” or “Be a man!” Much like our fathers and grandfathers who returned from wars, rarely speaking of their days in uniform, many widowed men do not believe they are allowed to cry or grieve outside our society’s shadows. It is as though they are seeking permission to grieve. They hold their feelings to themselves until they feel they can speak, offering common phrases such as “I’m OK; just leave me alone with my thoughts.” When family, friends, and colleagues leave a widower alone, they create an environment that will likely make the widower’s grief more challenging. Frankly, it is the worst thing that can happen.
Master Sergeant Chris Sweet – USAF (ret) has worked with military personnel diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A terrifying event triggers this mental health condition. When asked if he thought widowers are at risk of PTSD diagnoses following the loss of their spouse, Sweet said, “Absolutely.” Sweet should know he lost his wife, Danielle (30), who contracted Leukemia in 2009 after the U.S. Air Force deployed her to Afghanistan. According to Sweet, “All of the symptoms people living with PTSD experience are precisely what I went through following the passing of Danielle. It’s no different.”
Men need a purpose. To provide, protect, and love their mate. When a wife dies, many men seem to lose their reason for living, providing the basis for other problems to grow.
With so many problems facing widowers, you would think there would be a host of self-help materials available for them. I felt so too. That’s why I visited a large box book store following my wife Michelle’s passing in 2008. “Mister, we don’t have a damn thing for you.” These were the words spoken to me by the clerk after he had searched his store’s database for available titles. The fact is the publishing industry has abandoned men by their refusal to publish books that address the needs of men. “Men don’t buy books,” multiple publishers have told me. My response: “Men certainly can’t buy what isn’t on the shelf.”
SOLUTION: For all the reasons cited and more, I elected to leave my 38-year career in banking and dedicated my life to the comfort and support of widowers. After nine years of research and writing, I published The Widower’s Journey in 2017. The Widower’s Journey is a self-help book for widowers and those who love them, featuring candid advice and best practices expressed by over forty contributing widowers. A team of experts from law, phycology, sociology, financial planning, religion, and more supports the contributing widowers. The book’s contributors hail from across America and represent a cross-section of social, economic, and geographic backgrounds, as well as various circumstances surrounding the passing of their wives.
If you are a widower, or should you know a widower that you want to comfort or assist, The Widower’s Journey is the perfect guide to give them. Available on Amazon.com in paperback and all digital formats.
You will also find additional support available at Widowers Support Network LLC (WSN). There are three ways to access WSN resources, four of which are free.
1. Visit the WSN website at www.WidowersSupportNetwork.com. It contains helpful information, including nearly 500 articles written by subject matter experts, Ph.Ds, authors, and widowed men.
2. Join Widowers Support Network – Members Only on Facebook. A private men’s only group page where widowers, caregivers, and subject matter experts support one another. This Facebook page is a “Men’s Only” resource.
3. Listen to episodes of “Widowers Journey Podcast” (https://widowersjourney.libsyn.com) featuring outstanding guests and currently followed by widowers in forty-four countries.
By completing all three steps, you will receive numerous comforting suggestions, time-sensitive grief recovery tips, and best practices from widowed men and various experts.
You are also encouraged to purchase The Widower’s Journey, my book that earns 4.5 stars on Amazon. Available at Amazon.com in paperback, kindle, and audiobook.
Feel free to write me at [email protected] or by contacting my office at 615.579.8136.
Herb Knoll is a retired banking executive, an advocate for Widowers, a professional speaker, and the author of the breakout book, The Widower’s Journey. Available at Amazon.com in paperback and all digital formats. Herb founded the Widower’s Support Network LLC (WidowersSupportNetwork.com), featuring the Widowers Support Network – Members Only, a private Facebook group page for men, and a second Facebook page open to the general public at Widowers Support Network. Contact Herb at[email protected].
Copyright 2023 Widower’s Support Network LLC (Proof)
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