Discover more from Widow Life
Why are Widowhood Causes So Underfunded and Under Supported?
Look for the Clues
Yesterday, I was on a phone call with a certain community foundation who had a funder interested in interviewing us for a future grant to support Modern Widows Club initiatives and programs.
They reviewed the profile we created 9 years ago and have updated every year to remain compliant. This is the backend world of nonprofit life that no one tells you about when you decide to launch a nonprofit. All the profiles and portals you will constantly need to keep up to date annually in order to be considered for funding.
Thanks for reading Widow Life! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
We’ve been an organization for 12 years and a 501c3 nonprofit for 9 years. Last year, we also received our 509a2 status as a public charity after 5 years of tax returns showed that our support truly is public based. To date, Central Florida foundations have not given our nonprofit funding for supporting 10K+ widows locally.
As the interview proceeded, the question of “Why we’ve grown so fast, yet funding has not kept up?”
This is when I start explaining how the pandemic deaths left millions of widows in its wake, while most people are moving onward, these women and their families are not in many ways.
For many widows, the secondary losses are very real for them and have begun to negatively impact their lives. Struggling to keep or maintain their homes or rentals, jobs, healthcare, childcare, transportation, insurances and families from falling into deep mental health crisis and depression. The increase in almost every item from gas, food, and essentials drastically impacts solo parents and female surviving spouses.
Everyone seems to have forgotten in the foundation and grant world that millions of people died during the COVID-19 pandemic! So, millions of new widows and fatherless families are in either acute, short and long term need. The interviewer literally said to me, “Oh, you are probably right!”
Widowhood remains an unrepresented, unsupported and unrecognized cause to support after the widow making pandemic and it’s sad and shocking.
But not just in foundation world, it’s at the United Nations, United Nations for Women, Capitol Hill, discussions around Ukraine and Afghanistan, and the worldwide refugee crisis….widows in need are invisible in all these areas. Where there is a major war, poverty, or catastrophe, there will be widows suddenly finding themselves in a vulnerable state as a survivor.
The lack of support in places of worship is also an issue, both church and state have forgotten widows terribly in the wake of this pandemic. Rarely have I ever heard of new programs being initiated or revived from pre-pandemic reality for widows.
Widows can lose traction at every turn in the road.
The systems that exist for widows are broken and sets them up for failure (no fault of their own) in big and small ways that impacts overall health and a fair chance at survival. Unless you are fortunate to be considered economically empowered and financially secure, which is the lowest percentage of widows according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with 700K impoverished widows in the U.S., what a shame this is that no one is paying attention to them except advocates rallying to be heard as a population.
Widows with more economic security can buy themselves through the many obstacles faced from the economics and business of death, changes in tax status, SSI restrictions, earning restrictions, healthcare requirements and penalties from insurance companies, banking industry, mortgage industry and creditors.
There are two groups of widows that receive more support than any others: Military and first responders survivors whose spouse and partners were killed in the line of duty.
Civilian widows are the largest demographic and receive the least support services. Beyond monetary survivor benefits through social security (after age 60 for disabled widows and after 62 for others), few other programs exist if you look at the Department of Health and Human Services website. But those are also restricted based on your age, if you have dependent children or are disabled. Just type in the word “Widow” or “Widowhood” or “Surviving Spouse” for due diligence into the Potential Federal Benefits to see for yourself. (Look how they added the word ‘potential’ so clearly!!) Unfortunately, many widows are shocked by what they won’t potentially qualify for after it’s too late. And there’s no one there to hear them to speak up about their adversities. It’s a “take it” and “so sorry” situation.
One area that widows were mentioned is in Surgeon General Vivek Murthy latest research on the 2023 report “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation”- The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community.
Modern Widows Club is vital and fits into social connection category and why we are asking the HHS on June 23, International Widows Day Forum to consider creating an Office on Widowed Persons to further their commit to millions of widowed citizens that will only increase in numbers drastically as the generations of baby boomers die.
In the report it states, “The lack of social connection can have significant economic costs to individuals, communities, and society. Social isolation among older adults alone accounts for an estimated $6.7 billion in excess Medicare spending annually, largely due to increased hospital and nursing facility spending. Moreover, beyond direct health care spending, loneliness and isolation are associated with lower academic achievement and worse performance at work. In the U.S., stress-related absenteeism attributed to loneliness costs employers an estimated $154 billion annually.
The impact of social connection not only affects individuals, but also the communities they live in. Social connection is an important social determinant of health, and more broadly, of community well-being, including (but not limited to) population health, community resilience when natural hazards strike, community safety, economic prosperity, and representative government.”
Investing is social impact organizations such as Modern Widows Club who has evidence based programs backed by research is clearly decreasing depression, overwhelm isolation, loneliness, anger, lack of purpose or lack of interest in health. Our communities and programs are a new solution to an old problem that’s never been resolved. Much like the movements of domestic violence and human trafficking in the last 30 years. But wait…..we have one more unresolved women’s worldwide issues- SUPPORTING WIDOWS and believing them when they say they need support.
Investing in our programs and impact is something every community needs to rally behind. These women are the backbone of families, businesses, places of worship and communities.
In my own town, I know there are 80K widows in Central Florida, but every legislator, every foundation, every community leader and corporation that I speak with had no idea that is was an issue to address. When we know better, we do better.
Places of worship rarely invest in widow specific programs because of the monetary and volunteer costs it may have to adjust for. I recently looked at the website for the Central FL Catholic Charities to see what I would partake in if I was a new fresh widow. The word ‘widow’ is no where to be found in their search engine. There are many other resources for homelessness, food insecurity and behavioral counseling services which are wonderful.
But what do they do specifically to practice true religion towards the fatherless and widows in distress according to James 1:27? I asked CFCC President Gary Tester in a meeting 4-5 months ago. In the first few moments of meeting, I asked how many widows were within their 17 local dioceses? The answer was “I don’t know?” I replied, “Maybe you could find out and ask what kind of needs they have.”
A friend of mine said that their church, First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, was doing amazing work in the community with a large foundation and school. I went to their website to see what they specifically provided for widows (again, acting as if I was a new widow in need). I entered “Widows”, “Widow Ministry” and “Widowhood” into their search engine. No ministry, no group, only one article post was found “COVID19- How to Help” from March 2020.
They wrote “Create Margin & Be Generous: Consider planning extra time in your prep schedule and daily routine to help others. A disruptive and powerful witness in this broken world can be as simple as reaching out to those in your community that may be more susceptible or vulnerable to the virus. Two examples would include elderly people or widows and hourly wage workers. Keep in mind these people all may need something different. Begin with listening. (2 Corinthians 9:7, Psalm 112:5)”.
Since then, there has been no identifiable indication of supporting widows on their website, no new outreach or programs or “planning of extra time” for these women. Looking at their financials, they allot from their annual appropriations 15.6% into women and children programs. We can safely say, this is not for fatherless and widows specifically. There was no line item for that. That is a clear sin of omission to what is at the very center of God’s heart to care for the fatherless and widows.
I shared with my friend that it’s not that hard to show love to widows by mentioning them on their website. Often, places of worship will opt for the popular Griefshare program sold to them by ChurchInitiative.org. A several week long, volunteer led program available for any grievers to attend. Any person who has experienced a loss can learn the emotions, language of grief and its impact. Their website states “With this lay-led, turnkey support group ministry, your church can provide continued care for the bereaved” This financially costs the place of worship around $395-595 investment and a cycle of volunteers to initiate the program.
*Warning: But don’t mention suicide or you’ll be told they are not in heaven!! Ouch….
We’ve heard mixed reviews from this Griefshare program from our widow polls and what we do know is this program doesn’t have a follow-up review process, so improving the program based on efficacy feedback and measurable outcomes isn’t even considered. (Places of worship are 501c3 nonprofits, yet are protected by the IRS enabling them to forego public financial reporting or prove program efficacy).
A ministry without a widows outreach to me is a red flag, bright and clear indicator that widows and their families are forgotten.
In fact from the First Presbyterian Church of Orlando website, if I had not known this was a “church”, I would have thought by the photos it was a straight up country club. Not much diversity in their photos. Who would be welcome here? Well, just look at their photos, it’s all the hints you need.
I’ve grown to hear and see this over and over the last 23 years of advocating for widowed women. Widows are unmeasured, and unknown in all the places most people believe they are seen and heard. That is not what our widow research and annual polls indicate. It’s quite the opposite to be honest, widows do not feel supported, but who is going to listen to one or two widows in such big institutions that don’t have to do anything if they don’t want to.
Modern Widows Club works every day to challenge this mindset and lead the way in advancing real conversations about the effect of widowhood on a woman’s physical & #mentalhealth. The loss of a spouse is generally acknowledged as the most stressful life event. Spousal loss consists of two elements that elevate the mortality risk, which are the loss itself and the secondary losses that follow as a result of the new life situation. The former is primarily related to grief or emotional distress, while the latter is associated with difficulties in managing life without the support of the late spouse.
The physiological impact of grief and symptoms of #grief can range from poor sleep and weight loss to lower immunity and illness. Often there is a lack of social support, ongoing recovery from the physical and mental tolls of being a caregiver, loss of identity, loss of purpose, and loss of interest in the future, frequently leading to severe depression, sleep deprivation, and other mental and physical health impacts.
As a result, widows may be unprepared to make key decisions or navigate overwhelming situations due to lack of life skills, education, loss of working memory, and loss of confidence, leading to increased economic instability. Not to mention the massive amount of predators that widows will encounter in this new life stage. We block over 5000 predators profiles from our social media annually, and unfortunately, I’ve had predators/ strangers show up at my personal home as well! Frightening. Widows are preyed upon around the world. They are rarely prayed for in congregations or protected from predation.
Today, our mission is to accelerate our pioneering work in widowhood research, solutions, and support; continue creating inclusive spaces in which widows feel understood and valued; build new frameworks for #awareness and knowledge about widowhood; continue implementing innovative ideas for widows, with measurable results.
We are telling the true #story about #widows and their experiences. Our wives, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, nieces, friends, cohorts and family.
What about you, what are your thoughts?
Widow Advocate, Founder Modern Widows Club
To support our amazing nonprofit empowering widows to thrive worldwide with many local communities, e-courses, virtual and in person events, mentoring and advocacy, contribute or donate here. Your support is what keeps programs alive for the thousands of widows that find us every month!! We hope to keep many of these at no cost to her and low cost for those that we charge a fee.
Here is according to grievers where they find real support. Eye opening- from Dr. Joanne Cacciatore’s research on people who know. This is why listening to those in widowhood matters.
#widow #widowhood #support #mentalhealth #loneliness #health #womenshealth #omission #socialimpact #genderlensinvesting #humanrights #grief #growth #hope #heal #empoweringgood #doinggood #grants #philanthropy #angelinvestor
Thanks for reading Widow Life! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.