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How can widows help each other?

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MOTIVATION:By Ashley Thaba

HOW can family and the body of Christ facilitate change in the narrative of an African widow? Find below some valuable pearls of wisdom from my friend, Gracious Chifamuna:

I want to give a few suggestions on how family and the body of Christ can help in facilitating a change in the narrative of an African widow.

The most important aspect that all widows need is healing: Her heart was broken, her heart is bleeding, and the question is how can family, society and body of Christ facilitate the healing and restoration process? The answer: Allow a widow to mourn her real loss —the loss of her husband. I think that in most African cultures a widow is denied the opportunity to mourn her real loss.

When a widow is denied the opportunity, it will prolong the healing and restoration process. Family, friends, and those around her can help a widow process her loss from day one by simply asking her questions of what she desires to see on the funeral.

This requires patience because the way she processes things might be very slow but trust me it can be done. Instead of thinking and planning on her behalf during the first days, allow a widow to begin the painful journey of making the tough decisions because that is what is going to happen after everyone is gone. I know that people mean well by planning and running around on her behalf, but a balance is needed.

The second thing is to avoid bringing sensitive issues while someone is still grieving and in shock, which contradicts the idea that widows do not need to be dragged and involved in the funeral plans.

In many cases, there might be some tension especially with the in-laws, I recommend shelving those issues during the early days of loss and allow the widow to mourn her loss. Many widows are accused of killing their husbands. If it’s not that, it is issues to do with lobola, unresolved tension between a mother-in-law, or sister-in-law etc.

Bringing up these issues during the funeral, in my opinion, is undermining the pain of a widow because after laying to rest the deceased, the widow is left alone to try and process her loss and all the allegations, tensions, and all.  My suggestion is if there are issues to solve, set a date to come back. There is a proper place and time for correction, teaching and rebuke.

When we gather for a funeral, let’s mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15) and do not afflict the widow (Isaiah 1:17)

Never drag a widow into unnecessary cultural things that she doesn’t agree with-it, it does leave a wound in her heart. I have talked with many widows who were not given the opportunity to go and observe their husbands being laid to rest and up to now, they are still hurt.

Recently, I watched a YouTube video where there was a clash of cultures and a widow had to pay a cow. The burial process had to be stopped and one is left to wonder: who was right? The truth is cultures are different and cultures evolve. Different does not mean that it is wrong or right.

One of the things that really helped me in my grief journey is I was allowed to mourn my real loss. Those around me gave me the opportunity to do so.

In terms of her parenting journey, the question is how can the family and body of Christ intentionally help a widow? I know this one area is very sensitive in so many ways. Culturally, the brothers of the deceased are to take over but what if the brother is not a Christian? Imagine kids who were raised by a devout father being introduced to other religions? What if the brothers are not physically present? Imagine the pain the widow goes through.

We need more Christian father figures. Recently, I marvelled at some programmes initiated by Christian men to try and help single mothers raising sons -The Mentorship programme and the Character Company. These are Christian men who have seen the need and have committed themselves to help single mothers. We need to normalise the issue of father figures in our society to raise the next generation.

Instead of focusing on donations to widows and orphans, let’s focus on empowering the widows economically. This will enhance a widow’s social status and give her a sense of purpose. I have read beautiful testimonies from Kenya and India, and we want more of this because it does work.

The narrative of an African widow can be changed, will you be a part of those that facilitate the change?

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