The psychological hazards of widowhood have received more attention in recent years. While the loss of a spouse can be traumatic for anybody, studies show that working women, in particular, have a more difficult time adjusting to life after the death of their partner. There is also a “negative relationship between family income and mental health among widows and widowers who were working, and the lower the income, the worse the mental health effects.”
Studies show that widowed women who work are more likely to feel sad and anxious than widowed women who don’t work. They also may have a higher risk in terms of their mortality.
Widowhood can be more challenging for women in their professional lives, and their depression adds to their physical vulnerability regarding their health. For many reasons, career-working women tend to have fewer personal relationships than their nonworking counterparts. After a spouse dies, they may have fewer close friends and acquaintances to turn to for comfort.
A woman’s professional life may also have additional demands on her time and energy. They may feel rushed to return to work after a loss, so grieving is put on hold. Working women, especially those in executive positions, may experience more stress and anxiety than the general population because of the demands of multiple roles they must assume. This may make it harder for them to accept their spouse’s death.
For women, the mental health hazards associated with widowhood can devastate their professional lives. Being a widow can be mentally wrenching and can affect the immune system. There is some evidence that women who have lost a loved one are more likely to get heart disease or high blood pressure when widowhood enters their lives.
The problem with the current state of research is that it doesn’t seem to have caught up with women’s roles in corporations and, instead, looks at elderly widows who haven’t been involved in management positions. The paucity of research in this area screams out for attention. Who will answer the call?
We have a book on Hemingway’s widow, a best-selling book on personal widowhood by a publishing insider, and Sheryl Sandberg’s book about sudden death and resilience, but what about the typical woman professional who is suddenly widowed? Who’s writing about her?
Of course, there are actions these women can take, like focusing on expanding their support system. Having dependable friends and family members can be a comfort in difficult times. But do they have time and suppose they have young children? They must put their sense of loss and the new burden of taking on a larger role in the home and their jobs on hold; the children come first.
Working women should prioritize self-care or they can’t care for others, their jobs or their children. Exercising, taking time off, and participating in hobbies may fall into this category. Will they be able to handle yet another demand on their time, a demand that entails keeping their health intact?