Widow Isolation

The Invisible Women: The Anguish of Widow Isolation

In many parts of Asia, widows face immense hardship and suffering after the death of their husbands. One of the most heartbreaking aspects is how they are shunned, ostracized and blamed by their communities. This social widow isolation leaves these “invisible women” emotionally devastated and utterly alone in their grief.[1]

Ancient Superstitions Lead to Rejection

Ancient superstitions persist in some Asian cultures that view widows as cursed or ill-fated. There is a prevailing belief that they must have committed sins in a past life that caused their husband’s death. As a result, people fear that even passing by a widow on the street could bring them bad luck. This makes widows outcasts in their own villages.[2]

Gulika faced such prejudice after her husband Manan died in an accident. Suddenly the people in her village turned their backs on her, believing she was cursed. The sorrow of losing her husband was compounded by the painful rejection from those around her. Like Gulika, many widows’ financial hardship, the severe ostracism they face, leaves these women helpless and emotionally distraught.[3]

Blamed for Their Husband’s Death

Another common superstition is that widows caused their husband’s death through their own misdeeds. Widows are often blamed for their spouse’s death, regardless of the actual circumstances.

For example, a Nigerian widow’s husband lay sick in the hospital when her sister-in-law wrongly accused her of causing his impending death by her actions. The widow was blamed for something completely out of her control. This pattern of scapegoating adds to widows’ anguish.[4]

Abandoned by Family

After their husbands die, widows frequently face neglect and humiliation from family members who shun them. The Kenyan widow Grace Njeri Mwichigi suffered stress, confusion and fear in the months after her husband’s death in tribal violence. Much of the neglect came from her own relatives.[5]

When Gulika’s husband died, even her in-laws rejected her on the grounds she was cursed. She was left completely on her own, without any family support in her time of tremendous grief. Sadly, many widows experience abandonment by the very people who should comfort them.[6]

Seen as a Bad Omen

Another way widows are shunned is through the perception they are a bad omen. For instance, a widow named Damini in South Asia was rejected by her nephews after her husband died. They refused to give her food and drove her out, forcing her to beg from strangers to survive.[7]

People would not even approach Damini when she fell severely ill, because she was seen as cursed. Widows like Damini are cruelly left to fend for themselves due to these destructive beliefs. Their very presence is seen as ill-fated.

Emotional Toll of Isolation

The immense emotional pain of this isolation and rejection cannot be overstated. Widows become “invisible” people, neglected by society. After losing their life partner, they long for care and comfort. Instead they are utterly abandoned. 

Gulika fell into deep emotional despair after becoming an outcast in her village. The added burden of rejection made coping with her husband’s death tremendously difficult. She felt helpless and distraught.

Like Gulika, many widows spiral into severe depression and mental anguish. The lack of any community support causes profound psychological damage.

Vulnerable Widows Face Abuse

Furthermore, the isolation of widows leaves them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. They have no social standing or protection. One heartbreaking account tells of a Nepali widow forced to walk long distances daily to fetch water, as she endured harassment from men taking advantage of her helpless state.[8]

Widows become “easy targets” for violence and predatory behavior when shunned by society. Widows’ inheritance rights are easily under threat. Their emotional fragility and lack of financial stability also make them susceptible to abuse and manipulation. Tragically, social isolation multiplies the hardships widows face.

Urgent Need for Change

While these destructive beliefs persist in parts of Asia, many widows are finding care and hope through the efforts of women’s fellowships. Outreach motivated by Christ’s love provides vital aid and community. Yet there remains an urgent need for societal change to combat ingrained prejudice.

Widows deserve to be valued, comforted and protected when grieving immense loss. Blaming them for circumstances beyond their control only deepens their suffering. May God open the eyes of communities to see widows as precious, not ill-fated. And may all who face such painful isolation find the hope and dignity Jesus desires for each one.

You can make a difference for widows facing social isolation and rejection. GFA World’s Widows and Abandoned Children Fund provides vital support like sewing machines, literacy training, income-generating gifts and more. Help empower widows today.

Learn more about nonprofit organizations in poverty alleviation

[1] “Explainer: What You Should Know about Widowhood,” UN Women, June 21, 2021, https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2021/6/explainer-what-you-should-know-about-widowhood.
[2] “Global Images of Widows Fight Discrimination in India, Bosnia and Uganda,” National Geographic, January 2017, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/article/global-images-of-widows-india-bosnia-uganda-discrimination-exile.
[3] Acevedo, Delia. “Ending Violence Against Women.” GFA World, February 23, 2018. https://www.gfa.org/special-report/ending-violence-against-women/#:~:text=Violence%20Against%20Widows.
[4] “Family Accuses Widow of Killing Husband,” Premium Times Nigeria, August 26, 2023, https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/more-news/617878-family-accuses-widow-of-killing-husband.html.
[5] King, Alexandra, and Masuma Ahuja. “Life after Loss: Widows Share Their Stories of Grief and Survival.” CNN, June 23, 2017. https://edition.cnn.com/2017/06/23/health/international-widows-day-trnd/index.html#:~:text=Grace%20Njeri%20Mwichigi%2C%2052%2C%20Kenya.
[6] Ken Walker of InChrist Communications. “Coronavirus Intensifies Hardships for Widows.” GFA World, June 17, 2021. https://www.gfa.org/special-report/widows-worldwide-face-tragedy-discrimination/#fn:16:~:text=WIDOWS%20WORLDWIDE%20FACE%20TRAGEDY%2C%20DISCRIMINATION.
[7] Ibid.
[8] King, Alexandra, and Masuma Ahuja. “Life after Loss: Widows Share Their Stories of Grief and Survival.” CNN, June 23, 2017. https://edition.cnn.com/2017/06/23/health/international-widows-day-trnd/index.html#:~:text=Santu%20Kamari%20Maharjan%2C%2055%2C%20Nepal.