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In Their Own Words:

How Women Changed Since the Death of Their Husbands

Bob Baugher, Ph.D.

Peabody/Vanderbilt University

In my doctoral dissertation titled, Perceptions of the Widow’s Bereavement Process by Her Adult Child, I asked the 59 widowed women in the study:

“How do you feel that you’ve changed since you spouse died? List 3 of the most significant ways (if any) that indicate how you are different”

Here is what they said:

A better business person because I have had to be

A healthier person

Able to make decisions.

Acceptance of total responsibility for self, house, life, etc.


Afraid to “speak my mind” openly

Alone, without spouse

Although I’m relatively financially secure, I’m afraid to spend money.

Anxious, uncertain, suspicious, take nothing for granted.

As a perfectionist, I feel I am spread too thin.

Aware of having to take care of myself

Become more concerned about my physical condition.

Become self-supporting

Better understanding of financial affairs


Can’t sleep

Close to my sisters even more than before

Closer to God and my church

Concerned about money management

Deeper spiritual life

Developed more friends of mine rather than ours

Don’t eat like I should


Empty and hopeless feelings

Even more concerned about children than before

Excellent gardener

Express my feelings more

Feel less adequate to me decisions

Feel more able to interact with people outside the home

Finally, acceptance

Free thinking in matters of religion

Gained confidence

Going places by myself

Greater faith in God

Grew to meet my problems

Guilt over not caring for grandchildren

Had to be self-reliant (completely)


Have more confidence in myself

Helpful to others

I am a career woman.

I am depressed more.

I am extremely depressed, unhappy, and lonely.

I am frightened by the uncertainty of my future.

I am less trusting of others than I need to be

I am more self-sufficient, stronger.

I am quieter.

I am stronger.

I come to understand myself better, who I am, and what I want.

I cry too much when alone.

I devote more time to work than family.

I don’t have the interest to go on trying.

I don’t laugh often.

I don’t take what I have for granted anymore.

I feel different about my work since I have to work.

I feel for people more.

I feel more inhibited in my actions or speech.

I get discouraged trying to live alone.

I have a void in my life that’s hard to fill

I have become belligerent if someone tries to tell me how to run my life.

I have become more independent. (This was, by far, the most popular response.)

I have become more self-sufficient.

I have become spoiled (living alone)

I have learned to be a “person” on my own.

I have less purpose in life.

I have moods of depression.

I haven’t been able to “trust” that another person could care for me as my husband did.

I live each day more fully rather than saving everything for the future.

I love my new husband very much.

I must go on and live as he would want me to.

I stay at home more.

I take charge of my own business.

I talk more in a group.

I think I am not different.

I try harder not to worry about my new husband.

I work less in my house.

I’m not as cheerful or happy

I’m not as sure of myself as I was while he was with me.

I’ve become more aware of other people feelings.

I’ve been forced to manage money, house, alone.

I’ve finally realized that life isn’t a game, I don’t think I’ll ever be as carefree as I was before becoming responsible (entirely) for the children. I’ve not quite yet learned to live with the knowledge that I do it alone.

I’ve learned I have to be responsible for myself.

I’ve matured because I’ve had to do new things.

I’ve tried to live as I did when he was with me hoping someday that I’ll see him again.

It seems as though everything has gotten much harder to deal with and sometimes I just sort of “cave in.”

It’s hard to love someone; scared they might die.

Kinder to myself

Knowledge I can enjoy companionship of friends

Learned how to make decisions

Learned that happiness is a choice

Learned to accept living alone (but not to like it)

Learned to accept people for what they are. You cannot change them.

Learned to ask for help and accept it gratefully

Learned to be myself not worrying about others opinions.

Learned to do things (mechanically) that I had never done before.

Learned to make decisions on my own

Learning too slowly to going alone, but feel if and when I accept the fact, “this is the way it is,” I will be a stronger person.

Less angry

Less anxiety about being out at parties

Less bothered with housework

Less concerned about my own death

Less concerned about outside opinion.

Less judgmental of others

Life has grown in different directions.

Life is more purposeless.

Lonely even if other people are around


Low esteem

More aggressive

More aware of the hurt that others suffer.

More calm

More cautious with spending

More comfortable with my own mortality

More compassionate

More concerned about practical affairs, finances, etc.

More confidence, worry less (because of turning to more faith in God)

More confident in myself regarding my ability to work things out.

More content

More cynical

More dependent on God for help and guidance

More dependent upon friends

More difficult to “do business” with

More easygoing, less critical of others

More fun

More handy around house

More inclined to spend money and spoil children

More knowledgeable of finances

More lazy

More lonely

More of a loner

More outgoing

More positive

More reliant on my own decisions

More religious

More reverent in my thinking

More self-sufficient, more self-confident

More thoughtful

More tolerant

More women as friends. Most are alone too

Much more emotional and sentimental

Much more mature, but a little hardened

My life requires an extremely imposed discipline of work/companionship, etc.

Not as cheerful (or more irritable).

Not as outgoing

Not a first-class citizen

Not quite as patient with people

Not trustful of men

Nothing to live for, no one needs me

People tell me I appear to be more serious.

Politically much more liberal

Probably more selfish

Resentful of others happiness and togetherness


Responsible for all finances

Sad all the time


Seek company of interesting female companions


Skilled repair woman

Still learning to be alone, but not lonely

Stronger emotionally and psychologically

Stronger, don’t need absolute control.

Take life more easy

Tend to love and appreciate others more


Travel more, keep moving and involved

Try to be understanding of other people’s problems.

Try to live each day more fully.

Understanding to others



Withdrawn from life

Work a little more than right before he died

Worry more about the future

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