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5 Surprising Facts About Widowhood

5 Surprising Facts About Widowhood

July 24, 2017

*For the sake of this article, “widow” refers to both genders.

If you’re like most people, you try to avoid thinking about death, especially the death of a spouse. Losing a spouse is one of the hardest things one can experience. On top of the emotional burdens that a death can bring, it may also result in major financial and lifestyle changes as well. Let’s look at some facts about widowhood that may surprise you.

1. Widowhood Is More Common Than You Think

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 13 million widows in the United States and over 11 million of those widows are women. We also see that men are more likely to remarry after losing a spouse, increasing the number of women who are alone in the latter years of their life. Despite these numbers, widows are often an overlooked group in our society.

2. Widows Aren’t Always Old

If those numbers don’t shock you, consider this: the median age that widowhood occurs is 59.4. So if you picture all widows as being elderly people in the latter stages of their life, think again. Since the average life expectancy for men is 84.3 and 86.6 for women, losing a spouse around age 60 could mean over 20 years of life alone.

3. Widowhood Is One Of Life’s Most Difficult Events

The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory tells us that the death of a spouse is hands-down the most stressful life event one can experience. Many believe that the first year of widowhood is the most difficult, but once the shock and grief wear off, an overwhelming sense of loss may occur when surviving spouse realizes they are truly on their own.

Even if you move on outwardly, widowhood is often deeply isolating and can lead to mental and physical health issues. You may have heard of widows who suddenly pass away only weeks or months after their spouses die, otherwise known as the widowhood effect. There are only theories as to why this occurs, but the phenomenon leads us to the next reality of widowhood: the need for a community of support.

4. Widows Need Support

Since widowhood is such an intense experience, widows need a strong support system to get them through the dark days. Many widows lose a large part of their community when their spouse dies, possibly because of a lack of connection with married friends, or people being uncomfortable with grief. Regardless, in order to survive widowhood and even thrive again, widows need a strong support base to help them stay emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy.

Most often, family and friends gather around the grieving widow for a short period of time, then go on with their own lives. But widowhood doesn’t have an end date. Just because the surviving spouse made it through the first month or year doesn’t mean they aren’t still battling loneliness and isolation. Reach out to those close to you who are widowed and find out how you can help them carry the burden.

5. Widowhood Wreaks Havoc on Your Finances

Did you know that poverty is often a hallmark of widowhood? In fact, the Social Security Administration states that the rate of poverty among elderly widows is three to four times higher than their married counterparts.

When couples are married for any length of time, they tend to create an economic bond. They become dependent on each other financially, so when one spouse is taken out of the picture, the whole thing can fall apart. It may be that the surviving spouse was not the primary breadwinner, or that the spouse who died was the one who handled all the finances. Regardless of the reasons, widows often struggle financially. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Widowhood is an extremely stressful, harrowing life event. While no one wants to think about the future death of their spouse, it’s critical for you to prepare yourself financially so you can eliminate the financial burden that often accompanies widowhood. Work with your spouse and your financial advisor so that you are aware of your financial situation, know where important documents and accounts are stored, and have a clear picture of income and expenses. Let me help you prepare your finances so you can experience peace of mind if widowhood happens to you. Contact me by phone at (949) 631-3840 or email at

About Jim Peters

Jim Peters is an independent financial advisor and the founder of Grace Wealth Management Group, Inc., a full-service financial firm committed to helping people pursue their financial goals. With more than 24 years of experience in the industry, Jim combines his extensive knowledge with his genuine interest in helping people pursue financial independence. Beyond his experience, he is certified as both a Chartered Life Underwriter® (CLU®) and Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®), meaning he has advanced training and knowledge in financial planning and insurance. Based in Irvine, California, Jim specializes in working with individuals, families, and businesses throughout Orange County. To learn more, connect with Jim onLinkedIn or visit