3 Types of Widows

 Passive Widow: These women have tended to be passive in their life prior to their husband’s death. They usually are not progressing in their grief work for a variety of reasons. They tend to sit and wait grief out. They do not seem able to define a clear direction and appear unwilling or non-interested in changing.  They often come across as needy to others and frustrate those who try to help them because they are so dependent. Many of them come to learn that you either walk through grief or it walks all over you. These widows are waiting for some else to make it better and might remarry too quickly only to find that their new marriage does not resolve the grief feelings and process. They often do seek help, but after their lives and issues are even more complicated.

Complaining Widow: These women also bring their past coping styles into widowhood. They tend to stay too long in the feelings of victimization and anger, resentment, and sometimes bitterness, and struggle with taking personal responsibility for their own grief work. Instead they move through a series of crisies blaming everyone else for their condition. They appear unwilling to change, or take action. They expect others to change by accepting their perspective. They tend to frustrate those that try to help because they are so negative and drive others away.

Intentional Widow: These women certainly struggle with passivity and anger at times; however, their coping style is one of walking through and along the path of grief and seeking to understand, express their feelings verbally or in writing, and move from present –past living to present -future living. They realize there will be grief cycle relapses on their journey. These widows stay connected to, or find support during their grief work.

Any widow can have aspects of these three different types; however, those who tend to recover more quickly are the intentional widows. The passive and complaining widows tend to experience more complicated and prolonged grief.

Grief work for a widow is hard work. Some say it is the hardest work they have ever done.

Remember, either you walk with grief or it will walk all over you.

Walking With Widows/Dr. Dan Trathen


4 responses

  1. I dont agree with either one of these. Greif does control you no matter what. Its how much fight you have in you to keep it from taking over. for me it depends. I just passed the 3rd anniversary of the death of my husband and for me it felt just like the 1st and it took me by surprize because the 3-4 months before I felt like I had come so far. I spoke @ my cousin husband funeral and sang @ my grandmother funeral. Had the best holidays I have had since my husband death and then 3 wks before the anniversay it started the closer that date came the worse I felt. the bad days will always come and I think when we realize that then we can be better prepared and other people need to realize that its ok for a widow to have bad times and not judge them or label them. You dont know what I need because at time I dont know what I need. Each day can be diffierent. Thats what so hard about this each person is different so every persons greif is different so there is no way you can label women this way. I think you need more compassion. Melody


    • To Melody: As Candy mentioned, she didn’t write the article for today. I think it was easy to miss Dan’s name at the end of it. I almost missed it too. Candy does indeed have much compassion for widows. I’m sorry you had a difficult time before the 3rd anniversary of the death of your husband. I would say, though, that if in general you are doing pretty well and only have occasional grief days or weeks, than you are probably not stuck in either category of being a passive or complaining widow, but are rather an intentional widow and have been doing good work on processing your grief. Hugs and blessings to you.


  2. Melody, thank you for your comments on this post. I am not the one that wrote it. I shared what a man who has worked with many, many widows for over 30 years has learned. i, myself, worked with him directly for 9 months and found him to be a very wise man who is truly passionate about widows and all that they go through. I have seen him literally become angry when a widow has been mistreated by others who don’t have a clue nor care to get a clue.

    I agree with you that we widows do have bad days and I definitely do not judge any widow or label them. I understand completely that I don’t know what you need nor do you or anyone else but God know what I need. Everyone’s loss is different and everyone of us grieves differently and there is no judgment in that.

    I am very sorry that you feel I need more compassion. I wish you really knew my heart and how passionate I am about other widows.

    Thank you again for sharing your feelings with me.



  3. Candy, I’m not sure the idea of categories of widows would have occurred to me, as much as I’d have thought of it as people being in different stages of their grief work, but Dan’s thoughts on “types” of widows does make some sense to me. Like he said, we can all exhibit parts of all of them sometimes, but I agree that we have to be intentional about doing the hard work that getting through our grief requires, and I do feel I’m in the intentional widow category. That gives me some hope that even with the dark days I still experience sometimes, I’m on a good path overall toward a deeper healing of my heart.


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