Widow is a title no one wants. In fact, many women who have lost a husband choose not to use it at all.
But not saying the word doesn’t change reality. There are more than 700 widows of all ages who attend Southeast Christian Church. The list grows every week.
They are not forgotten. The church cares for widows through support groups and benevolence, but helping widows find community is not as easy. In 2017, a group of widows began gathering for dinner once a month. Those gatherings met deep needs for fellowship, understanding and encouragement.
That group of 30 widows has grown to 100 widows meeting in 11 homes.
Jill Keith hosts a group of widows in her home. After her husband’s death two years ago, Keith planned to continue volunteering in several ministries at Southeast, but she also volunteered to open her own home for a widows group.
Several months later, the blessings couldn’t be bigger. Keith’s group ranges in age from 50 to 80. There are tears, but there also is a lot of laughter.
“We have become good friends,” Keith said. “We see that God has a purpose for us. I have a family and a great support system. Many women don’t have that. These groups are a lifeline for them.”
Murphy Belding, campus pastor at Southeast’s Chapel in the Woods Campus, said the response to the groups has been “overwhelming.”
“But we want to reach more,” Belding said. “We get calls from women who are so grateful to the church for remembering them and are eager to know how they can serve other widows. They are hungry for community. Time and time again we heard that being a widow is a title no woman wants to carry, but walking alongside others who are on the same journey provides comfort they wouldn’t otherwise receive.”
Sherry Stumph, who helps organize widows groups, said every group is different. Some meet during the day. Others at night. Some meet once a week; others twice a month.
“As I visit groups, I hear, ‘I was so lonely.’ ‘This changed my life.’ ‘I needed purpose.’ ‘God is not done with me yet,’” she said. “One group I visited is meeting almost every day. They have game nights, lunch and more. It’s amazing how each group has its own identity to meet needs in their own group.”
Stumph said groups are not Bible studies, though women share how God is caring for them. They are not a support group, though that happens as they build friendships. Groups are not about counseling or grief.
“These groups are relational at their core,” she said. “It’s simply loving one person at a time. Women can be themselves. When I visited one group, I sat next to a woman with tears running down her cheeks. She had only been a widow two months. She said it was hard for her to come to the group the first time, but now she can’t wait to meet with women who understand.”
Stumph, who has been a widow for several years, often tells women, “I don’t know much. But I promise you Jesus will not take His eyes off you. He has purpose for you. Let us love on you in this time.”
To host or find a group in your area, email or call Stephanie Dowell at email@example.com or (502) 253-8470.