In the developed world, death strikes those of all incomes and classes. Widowed People don’t (generally) fit the definition of “underserved:” people who lack food and shelter. But we face tremendous social isolation and when we have trouble reintegrating into society, many suffer — including young children.
Because all of the staff of Soaring Spirits International, as well as the majority of our board members, are also widowed, we were certain that the social support provided by peer-to-peer programs like ours made critical differences in improving life for widowed people.
In 2013, Soaring Spirits International collaborated with Dr. Carrie West, and Schreiner University, to conduct a survey. The goal was to find out more about the lives of widowed people, their needs, and whether Soaring Spirits programs have made a difference. Nearly 900 widowed men and women spent a half hour or more to share their information, experiences, and feelings with us. To date, Dr. West’s survey has been the most comprehensive study of widowed people of all ages, men and women. Participants included a large sample of younger widowed, widowed people with children at home, unmarried widowed, and LGBT households.
Unlike most studies of widowed people, we didn’t concentrate solely on grief or on the first year after the loss. We wanted to learn about the full lives of people living through loss in order to provide complete, comprehensive, and innovative support.
Soaring Spirits Impact
Soaring Spirits assessed program effectiveness in a survey of 877 widows and widowers. Respondents who used Soaring Spirits’ programs reported higher levels of each of the following when compared to respondents who do not use any Soaring Spirits’ programs.
- Personal growth since the loss of their spouse
- Self esteem
Respondents who attended at least one Camp Widow reported significantly better scores in these additional areas:
- Feeling listened to by others who understand
- Feeling loved
- Social support received from widowed peers, online support, and overall social support
- Confidence in ability to set personal and professional goals
- Confidence in ability to maintain a healthy weight
- Confidence in ability to speak with children about a deceased parent
- Confidence in ability to find and keep a job
- Confidence in ability to accept him or herself as a widow(er)
Our survey results indicate that those who participated in Soaring Spirits programs scored higher on common measures of personal growth after crisis than widowed people without those supports.
We are proud to be a part of this much needed shift in support for widowed men and women, and continue to design our programs specifically to assist widowed people in recreating their lives after the death of a spouse or life partner.