Widowhood in contemporary society: The agony of choice

Widowhood in contemporary society: The agony of choice
Widowhood in contemporary society

Dear Couple: “Do not ask for whom the bell tolls: It tolls for you”: Francis Bacon.
Widowhood is a condition or the state of a married person having lost the spouse or partner by death.

In contemporary society these days as opposed to the ancient or past times, the effect remains the same though there could be differences in perception.

The normal living relationship with the dead therefore becomes terminated supposedly physically but not entirely spiritually. The living dead concept in widowhood refers to a condition where one of the two related person has died while the other is living.

Just like death, widowhood has become an inevitable and irreversible chapter in the life of every couple. It is a wound on the palm whose nagging scar is seen and noticed whenever the palm is opened. The foundation of the mathematical jargon of one plus one equals one in matrimonial parlance is shaken to extremity and annihilated.

The original bond in matrimony is completely divested of its validity and this renders the widow or widower an object of sympathy and pity in the society with its overwhelming limitations and temptations.

The widow or widower: a woman or man that has lost her husband or his wife by death have the same psychological problem but their emotional reaction to the bereavement is usually different. Also what ancient or contemporary society expect of the widow and the widower is far from being the same.

Whereas a man is expected to bear the loss of a spouse courageously, a woman is expected to collapse or totally breakdown emotionally and mentally at the demise of her husband. There are variations of these societal expectations in various cultures world wide but basically African traditions do not approve for a woman to bear the loss of the husband with any manner of fortitude.

If she dared to be courageous she automatically becomes liable to various unfounded allegations including masterminding the death of the husband. The man is equally not spared in this regard if the wife dies.

In contemporary human society, we are not in the days when the slaves and youngest wives of a polygamous king were buried alife with his dead body so that they could continue serving him in the land of the dead.

This is a climax of personifying the dead by the living. It was not only an abominable and abhorrent case of mans inhumanity to man, (yet if was approved by the contemporary society of those days), but also a clear idolatry of worship of the dead as these unfortunate victims were sacrificed to the God of death in the idolatry of Satanism.

Yet in modern contemporary society, the widowed woman is still expected to relate with her dead husband as if he is still alife and issuing instruction to her as before. This is a personification of the living dead.

She is expected to maximize her obedience, obeisance and subordination to her late husband, by mourning for a period not less than one full year, wear no other dress but a black or dark outfit during the mourning year. In years back she is to remain indoors while she is to shave off her hair for a period of one year.

She is to wear a miserable and never a cheerful look throughout the mourning year despite the fact that the scripture says the opposite, that believers should not mourn like those who are faithless and have no hope, but a real widow has set all her hope in God (1Tim. 5:5).

After the mourning year she becomes free according to cultural practices in many traditional African societies e.g in Igbo land and Eastern Nigeria, to make more children for the late husband. This is happening despite the biblical injunction that a young widow or one below sixty years should remarry (1st Tim. 5:14).

Making children for the dead man is another clumsy unbiblical error which is no doubt a glorification and idolization of a dead man by his living wife.

As for the man, who has lost his wife, the societal expectation is rather different. He is to mourn for his late wife for as long as he desires but not less than one year. His next line of action will depend on his mental and physical disposition.

However some men impose upon themselves some miserable conditions akin to dead hero worship. This is especially so with those male folks whose relationship with their departed wives had been one of great inseparable love obviously predicated upon patience.

Such men find it hard or even impossible to accept the certainty and reality of the demise and total absence of their wife. He is never himself and nothing seems to be going well again. Here the dead living is personified.

While alife, in vacant or in pensive mood nothing pleases him except a conversation about his late wife as his mind and thought are occupied by endless mourning.

This can lead to a lot of health challenges, such as increased sickness, arthritis, premature dementia, mental ill health and chirosis of the liver.

But when the going was good, there was all forms of merriment. The house that was full of joy becomes instantly abandoned through death and gives room for doubtful sympathy.

The man needs adequate rehabilitation in a serene environment where the drumming of the rain and the doleful chorus of amphibians provide a soporific lullaby.

Poor widow and widower. No embarrassment will be spared he or she; no word; no jest; no detail; absolutely nothing has been considered unworthy of public commentary.

With time, suspicion will come a long way to give place to mutual respect so that old enmities will begin to give way for new alliances through bonds created by pain.

As the widow or widower looks around, the eyes will search in vain for some colleagues, his or her erstwhile mentors, brave men and women with whom side by side fearful odds were faced for the ashes of our fathers and the temples of our gods.

Conversely he or she remembers bereaved relations too numerous to mention who have died so that we may survive.

Instead of sitting, vegetating and wallowing in self pity he or she should embark on some productive enterprise.

Everybody avoids you like a plague and pretend total ignorance of your presence even at close quarters.

For the widow and widower nothing is actually real again.

The sullen good morning from the house help, the reluctant grunt of subordinates that passed for welcome sir all help to exacerbate your mental torture.

For the widow, each days survival is victory over challenges.

He or she must create routines that keeps him or her occupied. He or she must develop the knack for laughing at everything even him or herself.

Many have climbed into positions of preeminence by using your rump and shoulders and your head as rungs of a social ladder to fame and kicked aside that ladder once they reached the top.

Many will disappear into thin air and are prepared to strew flowers upon his way “that comes in triumph over your blood”.

In terms of social existence, he or she is a residual element.

In some cultures he or she has no position or rights and is subject to all sorts of fraud and taken for granted. In widowhood loneliness is worne like a shroud. Everybody revolts even close family members.

The sympathetic effort of those intimate to pretend that nothing has changed soon wears very thin and any attempt to maintain authority appears grotesque. Widowhood existence is Quasi-monastic.

Soon the mere response yes sir appears a term of abuse or ridicule.

The widow shrinks, hides and threads warily. He or she begins to read faces and analyse any random gesture. The widow or widower does not choose his or her friends. Friends choose him or her. He or she is permanently on view for approval or otherwise.

His or her friends stay for only as it is convenient. The widow or widower does not fear death because death is preferable to remaining a non person.

He or she is a living dead and a moving sepulchre. While alife some of his or her properties are tampered with by the very relatives he or she trusts even those who prospered under his or her tetulage.

News filters in and each news is another betrayal. In some cases associates turn Judas and deny him or her. Each denials is a nail hammered home on his or her invisible coffin.
The widow or widower has a chance to survive or succumb.

He or she must now realizes that before him or her many had suffered the same blackmail, the same betrayal, the same abandonment. Soon it becomes clear that widowhood was not the separation of kit and kin but rather an assault on the mind. This is a battle in which he or she is to be victor.

God had said that once married the two are one (Gen. 2:24, Mtt. 19:5) but while they love each other as one, they must keep in view that God had also said that death will separate them finally. So when it happens the living one must adhere to biblical directives and not promote the widowhood style which is nothing short of the personification of the dead.

Relating with the dead in any practical way is offensive and idolatrous.

In the case of burial; to muster enough funds to organize a so called befitting burial, according to the societal status of the late man or woman may not tally with the financial status of the late man or woman at death. This is mere pretence and playing to the gallery which can break ones spine. This is because the God of this vain world has blinded the conscience of those alife in the society to promote vain gloriousness.

But for Reburial or 2nd burials or memorial service, old wounds are revitalized to further destabilize the widow or widower.

Nowhere in the scriptures is this approved. Yet the unfortunate widow or widower is subjected conventionally to this practice given glorified names like Xth year anniversary of late ABC etc.

When critically analysed you find it is an extension of the glorification of the dead living but an idolatrous extra burden on the widowed victims man or woman.
After all the dead person will not come again to live and die again as there is no reincarnation.

“For it has been appointed unto man once to die and after that judgment (Heb. 9:27).
Directly the grave was closed and all kept their distance, the vanity of all the frivolities of life start to effervesce in bold relief.

The survival of the widow or widower is ephemeral as part of him or her has left through death even if the couple existed in such a way that they were so academic and so dead to themselves that they merely cohabitated on mental planes – one lump of grey matter communicating with the other.

Time passes slowly in widowhood. The widow/widower gets used to his or her fate by making each days survival a victory.

He or she may finally realise that there is a short past to forget compared to the future promise which he or she looks ahead to hence the memory lingers and unconsciously waited for the return of the departed spouse in vain.

“Any mans death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind” Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. I share the same view and corroborate the import.

Sir Andrew A. Ajaero (KSJI)
Public Affairs Commentator/Analyst
Onicha Nweorie Ezinihitte
Email: andrewajaero@yahoo.com 08037735697