Larger text size Very large text size For most of us, the term widow evokes visions of an older, even elderly, woman, left to live out her days without her long-time love.
A natural, albeit devastating, part of life — after all, someone has to go first. For some women, though, sudden loss of love comes much earlier than expected, bringing with it a host of surprising challenges alongside the tragedy of a young life lost.
Supplied "As a widow you're suddenly thrown into a new world," says Cynthia Tainui, spokesperson for Young Widows, a community support group for people who have lost their spouses at a younger age.
They're trying to find a new normal and this is often aggravated by friends or family telling them they are still young and can find someone new. But they don't want that — at this stage, they want their old life back. Be kind to yourself and do what works for you.
It may take some time to find out what that is. Supplied "You hear people say that they are best friends with their partner, but we really were," says Lisa, now 46, who met her late husband Aaron in through mutual friends. Both teachers, the pair had dreams to start a family and travel the world. But they were forced to put their travel dreams on hold when their second son, Noah, was born with a severe disability. They went on to have two more boys, and vowed to make the most of every moment spent together.
But in , year-old Noah died, and just three months later, Lisa also lost her husband. Though she had always imagined grief to involve sobbing day and night, she instead simply felt numb. It felt so strange that the world was going on around me like normal, but my life was falling apart.
They were 12, seven and three when Aaron died, and all had different challenges with grief. We visited the graves a lot and sometimes we would cry.
We still miss Aaron and Noah every day but when we talk about them now, we aren't overwhelmed with sadness. Nothing could ever match the relationship Aaron and I had. Though I'm lonely, I'm only lonely for him. Supplied Opposites attracted for Deb and Stuart Rae when they met during their last year of high school — he was loud and extroverted, she was more subdued — and five years later they were married. After finding out at 34 that Deb couldn't have children, the couple embarked on a global travel adventure, teaching English.
After a few months in Poland, Stuart, 36, went on a rare night out with friends, the first time the pair had been apart since their arrival. Though she was in shock, Deb had to focus on the immediate tasks. I thought all I needed to do was to survive until the funeral then I'd start rebuilding my own life, but I was so wrong.
People had expectations of my meeting someone else, but that just seemed abhorrent, like adultery. I couldn't see how my grief would ever end, and I didn't want it to — it was the final connection I had to Stuart. She wrote Stuart letters, went back to university and penned a book about dealing with grief. Twelve years later, she now knows how to turn grief into gratitude. My husband recognises that my past with Stu made me who I am today.
Supplied There was nothing out of the ordinary when Jo Langford left her husband David at home while she collected their three children from school. When they arrived home an hour later, David was dead. Jo administered CPR until the paramedics arrived, but she knew it was too late.
I didn't sleep for more than two hours a night and ate nothing for weeks after, losing more than 20 kilograms in that first month. I think if I didn't have them I would have done nothing," she says. I didn't know what that was going to look like but I knew I had to make something good come out of something so tragic.
She describes her life now as chaotic but full of joy. At the time I thought I could never find a gift in something so tragic, but now I see many. Supplied Maria Carr was 12 weeks pregnant when her husband Dan died suddenly at the aged of Dan was driving to work when he suffered a seizure. He was put into an induced coma. Tests showed that he had a blocked artery in his neck, which had caused a stroke. Two days later, he was pronounced clinically brain dead.
I was booked in for my week baby scan, which showed that the baby was OK. After about six weeks, exhaustion took hold. I would control my grief, allow myself to feel the emotions but not allow myself to go into a dark place. This baby was all I had left of Dan. In the early days I would put on a brave mask, keeping my grief and emotions to myself and releasing them when I was alone. She joined the support group, Ever After Widowed, run by Aisling Pont, who had lost her husband Nick at about the same time.
He was also The pair forged a strong friendship and launched a website for the support group everafterwidowed. It has a forum where people can post relevant topics, discuss their feelings and exchange information in a safe, confidential environment.
They've also written a book, Forever Loved. We will never 'get over' our husbands' deaths but we have learnt to accept and live with our loss. Our husbands' lives ended far too soon, so the best tribute we can make them is to live full and happy lives for us and our children. For more information visit youngwidows. Most Viewed in Lifestyle.