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The Widowed Self

The Older Woman’s Journey through Widowhood

By Deborah Kestin van den Hoonaard
Subjects Social Science, Sociology, Women’s Studies
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Paperback : 9780889203464, 186 pages, January 2001
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554587223, 186 pages, October 2009

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
The Widowed Self: The Older Woman’s Journey through Widowhood by Deborah Kestin van den Hoonaard



Part One: Embarking on the Journey

The End of the Old Way of Life

The Journey Begins

Part Two: Experiencing Relationships

They Have Their Own Life: Relationships with Children

Relationships with Friends

Part Three: Discovering New Paths

Speaking of Money

Connections to the Community

Conclusion: Discovering New Paths

Part Four

Appendix A: Methodology

Appendix B: Interview Guide




How do older women come to terms with widowhood? Are they vulnerable or courageous, predictable or creative in dealing with this life challenge?

Most books about widows usually focus on younger women; this book interweaves the voices of older widows their experiences and insights to show how they have come to terms with widowhood and have recreated their lives in new, unsuspected ways. The widows speak about how they relate to their children, their friends, to men. With powerful emotions they describe their husbands’ final illnesses and deaths, and the challenging early days of widowhood. Disputing stereotypes about older women and widows, The Widowed Self allows the reader to visualize the impact of losing one’s life partner and offers a new way of thinking about widowhood.

This new book by Deborah Kestin van den Hoonaard fills a void in previous work on widowhood. Rather than seeing these women as unfortunate, passive victims of life, the reader will come to appreciate the strength and creativity with which these women face one of life’s greatest challenges, a challenge that affects more than half of all women over the age of sixty-five.

Widows and their families, scholars, social workers and other professionals who work with older adults will all be interested in reading The Widowed Self: The Older Woman’s Journey through Widowhood.


``By allowing widows to express their ownstories in their ownway, this book significantly expands our knowledge of the experience of the loss of a spouse. Importantly,we learn that widowhood is not just about loss but about the possibility for growth through diminishment and the strength of the human spirit. We also learn that the experience of widowhood initiates changes in the entire biography of a person, that is, in all areas of life, including relationships with men and family, money, community, and religion. Dr. Kestin van den Hoonaard provides us with both a scholarly work and a very practical source of healing. ... This book gives widows the freedom to travel their own journey through grief and hopefully to a new self. ''

- Gary M. Kenyon, St. Thomas University, New Brunswick

Deborah van den Hoonaard has succeeded in combining sociological theory with her use of autobiographical accounts to produce an accessible, refreshingly jargon free insight into the lives of those under investigation here. ... It is a pleasure to read a book about olderwomenand widowhood, which is not primarily depressing and doom laden. ... I would strongly recommend it for students of gerontology as an excellent example of the successful intersection of theory and methodology, symbolic interaction and qualitative research. However, the special strength of this book is that it also speaks to older widowed women and their families in a language that is accessible and meaningful with a story that has true relevance to their lives. ''

- Kate Davidson, University of Surrey, England

``Selected features of this book, such as the way it enables widows to give voice to their own experiences, and its recognition of the important larger social context of ‘community’ in shaping the context of widowhood, are noteworthy. ... This book contributes to our understanding of diversity in older women's experiences of loss of a spouse in later life and of how women understand and renegotiate their own lives in widowhood. ''

- Anne Martin-Matthews, University of British Columbia

``Sociologists will find an excellent methodological appendix and a solid theoretical foundation of symbolic interactionism. ''

- Helena Z. Lopata, Loyola University Chicago