What is International Widows Day?

4 Min Read

A woman stands alone on a hilltop

International Widows Day was this week. Here we talk about what the day was created to do, who started it, and the difficulties of being newly widowed.

What is a widow?

A widow is a woman who hasn’t remarried following the death of her spouse. It’s a label that signifies difficulty, heartbreak and loss, but it’s important for every widow to know that they are not alone.

What is International Widows Day?

International Widows Day was started by the UN, who explain:

International Widows Day is a global awareness day that takes place annually on 23rd June. The day was launched by the United Nations in 2010 to raise awareness of the violation of human rights that widows suffer in many countries following the death of their spouses.

In many countries with traditional societies, women find themselves left in poverty when their husband dies. In some countries, these women find themselves denied of inheritance and land rights, evicted from their homes, ostracised and abused. The children of widows also often find themselves affected, withdrawn from school and more vulnerable to abuse, especially in the case of girls.

How are widows treated?

As is mentioned in the UN’s explanation of IWD, cultural differences can make life even more difficult for some widows. Widowed and Young, a charity for those bereaved of a partner before the age of 50, recently shared the story of a widow from the Indian community and how the social implications of being a widow in Indian culture had affected her.

As a society we often struggle to talk about difficult subjects like death, and this can result in people who have experienced a loss feeling cut off from family and friends just when they need them most. Charities like Widowed and Young are a chance for women to come together and share their stories, creating a network of support for all widows to draw on.

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Are you financially prepared for the death of a partner?

If your spouse was the main wage-earner in the household, becoming a widow can also lead to real financial difficulties, adding stress about money to the already heavy load of grief. If you are widowed young and have a family to raise, you might have to reduce your working hours or give up work.

The result might be immediate financial concerns about paying the mortgage or the balance on a planned holiday, or longer term concerns about having enough to live on. These would be difficult enough to deal with in any situation, but in this scenario they can really heighten the feelings of loneliness that are already present.

The Government’s Death and Benefits page has some useful help about benefits and tax implications but also features a step by step guide on what to do when someone dies. There is a service called “Tell us once” that will notify most government organisations in one go, although not every registry office offers it. This guide produced by the BBC also has a lot of helpful advice and guidance on coping with the loss of a spouse.

Research shows that the financial implications of being widowed can last for years, but in some cases you may be able to make a legal claim that will help to make ends meet.

Can I claim compensation?

If the death results from the negligence of another, for example a car accident, poor medical care or a failure of mental health services then you might be able to claim to ease the financial burden. If there is negligence then the claim can include an award for the pain and suffering of the person who died and any financial losses associated with their death.

Significantly, a claim can also be made by close family members who have lost the benefit of income from the deceased or the benefit of their services. As a widow, you can claim for the reduced household income and the cost of replacing the services that your partner used to provide. A child can claim for the loss of the love of a parent but also for the commercial cost of replacing the child care that parent would have given them, even if that care will be provided gratuitously by the surviving parent or other family members.

It can’t ease the grief, but a claim can significantly ease your financial worries if newly widowed and bring back some financial security for the loved ones left behind.

To find out how we were able to help one of our clients who had been widowed, see the video on our Fatal Injury page.

At Enable Law we act for the bereaved both at Inquests and in claims for compensation. To find out more, contact us today.