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At the crossroads

Being widowed young is highly traumatic. But life, with some help, does go on, writes Namya Sinha.
Hindustan Times | By Namya Sinha, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 09, 2008 02:39 PM IST

The early years of marriage look like your gateway to the future — one filled with happiness, world travel, children and a home of your own. That future crashes round your ears if you suddenly find yourself a young widow. Besides the emotional trauma, it becomes a very difficult time for a young woman if her husband was the breadwinner of the family, too.

Citing the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale — based on research conducted on 5,000 people by psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe — Dr Jitendra Nagpal, psychiatrist and HT City columnist, says, “The death of a spouse is the highest stressor anyone can face.” You need a release valve. Letting the tears flow does help the process of healing. It also helps to move to different surroundings, as that signifies a fresh beginning. “The woman should not remain in the same environment,” says Dr Nagpal. “Recalling memories can make one suicidal.” To be a survivor, one needs to shake off the shroud of grief and create a plan around the following aspects.

Support system
Parents’ and in-laws’ support at this time is vital, says Dr Nagpal. Unfortunately, he adds, our society often denies this support to young widows. If such family support is not available, seek new friends. And get back to activities that you loved before marriage. This will help you cope, too, he advises.

Cash flow
There are more practical issues to be addressed. Once a young widow has somewhat recovered from the pain of losing her partner, the money worries begin. If the couple had invested jointly in property that needs to be paid for, or if she is expecting a baby, the financial fallout of the death becomes even bigger than the emotional shock. The website,, advises that young women make sure that they have their finances in order.

“Many women leave all the financial aspects of the marriage to their husband, so it comes as a great shock to them when they have to sit down and go through all of the household bills and financial affairs,” the site says. “It pays to be methodical. If you cannot think straight then find someone you trust to sit with you.” A solicitor can help a young widow with the deceased partner’s will, if he made one.

Job skills
A widow who has no employable skills could turn to vocational courses. Such a course can help her earn money as well make new associations. In time, she could think of remarriage, a practice no longer frowned upon in Indian society. Websites like and organisations like the Aastha Centre for Remarriage serve this need. It is a great misfortune to be widowed young; but it’s a greater misfortune if you let life come to a standstill.

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