Losing a spouse is one of life's most difficult transitions, and as a large portion of our population approaches their retirement years, this possibility looms ever closer. One tool that is helping many cope with such as loss is the internet site WidowNet.org.
Widownet, founded in 1995 by a 37-year-old man who had just lost his wife to cancer, serves as an internet community where those in similar circumstances can receive support from others around the world. An active bulletin board carries discussions about grief, survival and recovery, and the site offers a large library of information on all aspects of the topic, right down to small but important questions such as
Should I take off my wedding ring?
What should I do with clothes and personal items?
Where have all our friends gone?
What about taxes, licenses, titles, registrations?
How do I relate to in-laws now?
The site does not serve as a dating service for the widowed, a panacea for loss or a come-on for fee-based services and products. While it is an internet-only site, many users, once familiar with their chat mates, have chosen to get together to share and support one another in person.
As older Americans become more comfortable with the internet, (and, according to AARP, 59% of those 62 and older use it to keep in touch with friends and family) sites such as this one can be invaluable in helping them maintain communities based on shared experiences rather than location. One of the most devastating problems that the elderly and suddenly single can suffer is loneliness. WidowNet seem like a wonderful way to lessen that burden.