2021 marks the seventh year since the founding of Widowed Friends. That’s pretty special. We’re different now though than we were when we started. We’ve transformed over the past seven years from a small group that met in person (like most groups did pre-COVID) to a larger, differently-connected community. These days we are building friendships—and rebuilding lives—anywhere there are widows and widowers trying to figure out how to take the next step forward, or if they are even ready to do so.
It means that in our seventh year here, we’re meeting, we’re presenting, we’re emailing, and we’re connecting like never before. But one thing hasn’t changed. We’re still all about making it easier for widows and widowers to talk with other widows and widowers—and only other widows and widowers. It’s what makes us unique from most other groups, and it’s something that makes a big difference. And here’s why.
There is one thing that we know for sure, having gone through losing a partner ourselves: there is a big difference when you talk with someone else who’s shared the same experience compared with a well-meaning friend who listens, but can’t connect at a deeper, more personal level.
At Widowed Friends, our members benefit from the power of shared experiences every time a connection is made regardless of geography or time zone. Often, it’s a widow who for months has felt “stuck”, unable to find a way to move back into social circles. Or perhaps, a widower, who finds himself now excluded from couples’ events. We hear from you every day and we also hear “if you’re not a widow or widower, you don’t really understand.”Our members totally understand. It’s the common thread that binds us tightly together.
There’s lot of science to back up the power of shared experience when dealing with the outcomes of trauma and grief. Researchers and authors on the subject, Cheryl MacNeil, Ph.D. and Sherry Mead, M.S.A., spent a career studying and advising on what they refer to as “peer support”.
In one of their many papers, McNeil and Mead make the essential point: “Peer support is not like clinical support, nor is it just about being friends. Unlike clinical help, peer support helps people to understand each other because they’ve ‘been there’….”
The two researchers also make the point that people who have a shared experience also are in a better position to offer empathy, compared to sympathy. Does this sound familiar to you?
Although empathy can be offered from a good friend or family member, it is typically more authentic (and more natural) , meaningful and reassuring when it comes from someone else who’s been “in your shoes”. Otherwise, you risk receiving the dreaded sympathy response, such as “Poor you”, or “Aren’t you glad that…”. Such comments result in the opposite of empowerment and confidence.
Maybe you want to talk about how lonely you feel, or why you don’t want to go out anymore, or just complain about people who don’t understand what they’re going through.
That’s okay. It’s why we’re here: to offer our shared experiences to bring understanding, acceptance, and validation typically not found in other relationships. Or maybe you’d like to just connect with others in a social environment and start thinking about planning the next stages of your life.
We want to give you, as a widow or widower, the confidence to find a way to get back a social life and a new path forward. Over and over, we hear that this does happen when a connection is made with someone else “in your shoes”. As one of our members wrote: Widowed Friends has helped ease my new journey into widowed life since we are all of like minds. It has helped make my life more meaningful.
Our tag line, Building New Friendships: Rebuilding Lives is as relevant today as when we first started. Seven great years of connecting with new friends, and still counting!