Friday, July 13, 2007
This presentation is part of : Women's Health Initiatives
The Lived Experience of Widowhood During Pregnancy
Mary Ellen Doherty, PhD, RN, CNM, Department of Nursing, University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Lowell, MA, USA and Elizabeth Scannell-Desch, PhD, RN, OCNS, Division of Nursing, Mount Saint Mary College, Newburgh, NY, USA.
Learning Objective #1: list and describe three behaviors on the part of others which these widows found helpful in dealing with their situation.
Learning Objective #2: list and describe three behaviors or strategies these widows used to help themselves in dealing with this pregnancy and loss.

The purpose of this study is to describe the lived experience of being widowed during pregnancy. About 7 million U.S. women lose their husbands to accidents, crimes, and illnesses every year.  Terrorist acts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have added to the numbers of childbearing age women who have become widows.  There are no published studies examining the experiences of widows who were pregnant when their husbands’ died.  Descriptive phenomenology was used to answer the question, ‘What is the lived experience of women who become widowed during pregnancy?’  Descriptive phenomenology seeks to describe the experience in terms of essential structures embedded in human phenomena.   Women who became widows while they were pregnant comprised the voluntary sample.  Participants were recruited using ‘snowball sampling.’  Participants were able to recall, and willingly discuss their widowhood experience.    The setting was homes of study participants.  Data was collected using face-to-face audio-recorded interviews.  Four questions guided the process:  How would you describe your circumstance of becoming a widow?  How would you describe your experience of becoming a widow while pregnant? What words, or image comes to mind when you hear the word ‘widow?’   What else would you like to tell me about your life and experience?   Analysis procedures from Colaizzi  and Lincoln and Guba were used.  The aim was to preserve the uniqueness of each participant’s experience while capturing essential relationships among the statements.  Several themes emerged:   ‘Denying’ and ‘bargaining’ gave way to ‘planning,’  ‘supporting,’ ‘appreciating,’ ‘changing,’ ‘moving,’ and ‘building.’  The emotions, vulnerability, and challenges experienced by these women were given a voice.  This study illustrates how unprepared childbearing families can be, and how practical and empathetic support plays a pivotal role in helping widows cope.  Nurses can serve as advocates for these widows as well as teaching others about the grieving process.