6 Ways to Support a Widow
Written by: Asmaa Hussein Most women dream of growing old with their husbands – […]
Written by: Asmaa Hussein
Most women dream of growing old with their husbands – encountering their first grey hairs together, breathing a sigh of relief when their last child is finally married, and planning their retirement.
Every woman wants a partner she can lean on and build a harmonious life with. Regardless of age, no woman wishes to take on the title of “widow.”
Allah (swt) says, “It is He who created you from dust, then from a sperm-drop, then from a clinging clot; then He brings you out as a child; then [He develops you] that you reach your [time of] maturity, then [further] that you become elders. And among you is he who is taken in death before [that], so that you reach a specified term; and perhaps you will use reason” (40:67).
No one is guaranteed old age. The span of our lives is something Allah (swt) has already planned. He sometimes takes the people we love and rely on as a test of our faith – will we remain steadfast and patient, or will we turn away from His reminder of the brevity of this existence?
When a woman loses her husband, whether to illness, accident, violence or natural causes, she is faced with the immense task of holding on to patience and raising her children – all while encountering one of the most difficult losses. The support of her family, friends and community is paramount to her emotional and physical well-being.
Supporting a widow and her children is a noble task. The Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, “One who cares for widows and the poor is like those who fight in the way of Allah or those who spend their days fasting and their nights praying.”
He also said, “Would you like that your heart becomes soft and that you acquire what you need? Be merciful with the orphan, pat his head and feed him from what you eat. This will soften your heart, and enable you to get what you need.”
There are many ways you can support a widow and her children. Here are some of them:
- Remain steadfast in your friendship to her
If you are close to her, call her and visit her regularly. You can even make a schedule for your visits that work for both of you (e.g. every third Saturday). When someone is going through the loss of a spouse, having a friend consistently visit and check up on her can make all the difference to her spiritual and emotional health.
Always bring wholesome, homemade food with you when you visit. Cooking is not at the top of her priority list now, and even she has to cook for herself or her children – she would probably rather not. If you’re bringing a meal, this will also take “hosting” pressure off of her so she can just enjoy your company without worrying about what to serve you.
- Be patient with her
You want to support your friend and that is admirable. If she does not wish to have visitors at a particular time, respect her wishes for privacy – but still maintain regular contact.
If you call, text or email her and she does not respond right away, don’t become upset or annoyed. She is encountering a set of emotional, financial and spiritual challenges that are very difficult. If after a day of dealing with those challenges, she doesn’t have the energy to respond to your messages, give her a break.
(But don’t take that as an excuse to not maintain regular contact. You can still write to her and send her encouraging and supportive messages without always expecting a reply. She will appreciate your effort.)
- Love her children
Losing the father of her children is one of the greatest sore points a widow will experience. Whereas she previously had someone to help her support, raise, discipline, and love her children, she is now faced with the task of doing all of that alone. The nagging feeling of being a single parent weighs heavily on her shoulders. While juggling her many responsibilities, she may fear that her children aren’t getting enough attention and have lost a significant role model in their lives.
Love her children. Don’t just hand her an envelope with some cash in it or buy her children some toys and then ignore them (although toys are always appreciated by kids!). Come into her home and play with them, read to them, teach them something new. Take them on a trip to the zoo or to a park. Become their surrogate family member. They are now orphans, and every moment you spend supporting them is a moment in which Allah (swt) will reward you. As the Prophet Muhammad (saw) said in the previously mentioned hadith, you are the one who will benefit from being kind to orphans.
- Don’t pressure her into remarriage
Don’t pressure a widow into remarrying, especially during her mourning period. The period of four months and ten days is nobody’s but hers. She chooses how to mourn. She chooses what she wants to talk about, or what she doesn’t want to discuss at all. Respect her space in this time.
The topic of remarriage is bound to be on her mind, and if she brings it up, discuss it with her gently. If she doesn’t, respect her privacy on the issue.
If you still feel strongly that you are able and qualified to advise her on the issue of remarriage, tread carefully and employ wisdom and understanding.
- Don’t unknowingly leave her out
Losing a beloved spouse leaves a widow feeling emotionally raw. Everything she hears and reads has the potential to cause those unhelpful and difficult feelings to resurface. While we should always be careful regarding what we say to people, be extra vigilant when you are interacting with her.
For example, did you just invite a widow and single mother to an event with “no children allowed” boldly listed on the invitation? To you it might not seem like an issue, but to someone who has lost her husband and doesn’t necessarily have access to any other regular or trusted babysitter, this could leave her feeling alienated. Make an effort to include her and her children in your activities, even if you’d rather have a child-free event.
Take the time to contemplate her situation and include her in your events and gatherings.
- Offer financial help – tactfully and respectfully
Losing a spouse may sometimes mean losing the family’s breadwinner. But offering a widow a pile of cold, hard cash might embarrass her or make her feel uneasy. We are commanded by Allah (swt) to care for widows and orphans in our community, but we are also encouraged to always give in a way that honours the recipient.
Some people are very well meaning – they ask widows openly whether they need financial assistance. While that is admirable, more often than not, the widow will reply with a resounding “no,” even if she is need.
It is imperative to provide help to widows and their children while still protecting their honour and dignity. So, be a good listener. Find out where she shops for her kids and get her a gift card. Is she having trouble with her old phone or computer but can’t afford a new one? Buy her one as a gift and say, “I noticed you were having trouble with your laptop, so me and a few friends chipped in to get you this new one!” Instead of being embarrassed, she will be happy that a) you noticed and listened, and b) you were caring enough to give her a gift, instead of charity.
May Allah (swt) grant relief and comfort to the widows and orphans of our communities, and may He abundantly reward those who seek to help and support them.