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death, loss, widowhood, widows



  1. Scannell-Desch, Elizabeth A. PhD, RN, OCNS


Most widowhood research focuses on women more than 60 years old. A woman's experience and issues may be quite different when widowhood occurs at a younger age. This manuscript describes prebereavement and postbereavement struggles and triumphs of widowhood as defined by 10 midlife widows, aged 35 to 60 years. This was one aspect of a larger study that asked the general question, What is the lived experience of midlife widows? Purposive sampling was used, and data were generated using seven broad open-ended questions and in-depth face-to-face interviews. The research method was phenomenology, incorporating data analysis procedures of Colaizzi and the constant comparative method. Five struggling and two triumph theme clusters were identified. This study found that providing care at home was preferred by women whose husbands were chronically or terminally ill; and that juggling family responsibilities and financing care were primary struggles for these women. Widows whose husbands died unexpectedly and suddenly, as well as widows whose husbands died from chronic or terminal illnesses, struggled with worrying about their family's future, emotional health, and the financial impact of their loss. Triumphs were described in terms of individual personal triumphs and family or environmental triumphs. Most widows were surprised by their own resiliency.