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What Is a Widow?

When a married woman loses her husband due to death and chooses not to remarry, she is referred to as a widow. The state of being a widow is called widowhood or viduity. Many issues exist in reference to widowhood or being a widow. Such issues mostly deal with the economic and social consequences of being a widow. However, all these issues are dependent upon the culture in which the widow is subject to.

A widow can face economic hardship if the husband she was married to was the only financial provider in the family. This was typically the case in the past when men married younger women and women statistically have a longer lifespan than men. Thus, most charities in the past tended to help widows who were in financial ruin. In few societies, it was possible for the widow to continue whatever economic endeavor her husband was pursuing in order to maintain financial stability.

Culturally and socially, many widows face extreme issues. In traditional societies, widows are usually expected to remarry from their late husband’s family. Such a practice is common to India where widow burning is also practiced. Other societies require that a widow wear all white or all black to signify mourning for her late husband while more liberal societies allow a widow sexual freedom. In the past, widows were often subject to social stigma that prevented them from being active members of society. However, such stigma as well as cultural, social, and economic ramifications associated with being a widow has lessened.

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