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Joni Hilton
Thursday, July 25 2013

Widows, Widowers, and Empty Nesters: Finding a Fit

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There’s a growing group among our ranks— seniors who feel displaced. Many who enter their golden years without a partner know there are programs designed for them, but nevertheless feel disconnected. A friend in my area whose wife passed away four years ago, told me of his frustration in trying to fit in again as a single man. Temple nights, ward dinners, church activities—it just isn’t a good fit anymore. And, at the same time, the Singles’ program isn’t comfortable because he isn’t looking for a new wife. He still feels married to his sweetheart, and though she’s passed through the veil before him, he continues to view their marriage as ongoing. Many of our seasoned saints feel the same way: They want to socialize with others like themselves, but they aren’t shopping for another mate.

My friend told me of 90 people in his stake alone who fall into this category. Other stakes may have many more. There’s an invitation-only website on Facebook for LDS widows and widowers, and my friend has started up a sub-group called NorCal LDS widows/widowers, adding new subscribers every week. Across the globe there are Empty Nester groups who gather to have Family Home Evening. Some of them have amazing lectures, elaborate meals, entertainment, stories, games, and travel opportunities. I’m aware of one group with 50 members, half of whom aren’t even church members. They’ve invited so many community members to join in that the missionaries call it their best night of the month. The widows and empty nester couples get to have the social interaction that they crave, without it feeling like a Speed Dating night. My own ward has a senior gathering called “The Forget-Me-Nots” that meets weekly, and has developed close bonds among its members.

Any ward with a good group of seniors is lucky; their wisdom and experience are invaluable in callings and classrooms around the world. And it’s essential that these members be valued and included, and invited into homes all year, not only on holidays. They can act as surrogate grandparents for children whose own grandparents are unavailable. They can bring immense strength and comfort to struggling members who need to know others have survived their same trials. Never should an elderly member feel neglected, or “put out to pasture,” as one sister described it, telling me she wished she could have a “fun calling” again.

And, likewise, these same mature members need to roll up their sleeves and join in, not always hanging back and waiting for an invitation. By stepping up, introducing themselves, and reaching out to others, they can feel more connection than if they wait for an activity to come along that’s tailor-made for seniors. They can attend Primary events and cheer on the little ones, they can get to know the youth at camps, sporting events, and performances. Sometimes showing an unassigned interest in young people can make all the difference in a developing testimony. Volunteering to serve is the best remedy for loneliness and depression— seniors need to sign up for funeral/moving/new baby/missionary help, and use their talents to bless others. Serving is also a great way to discover new friends, of any age.

The key is love, just as it’s the key for all of us in whatever our own personal challenges. Married members need to reach out to include those without spouses, and those without spouses need to initiate some socializing as well.   In an effort to meet the needs of widowed members, let me ask our wonderful Meridian readers to leave comments below, sharing ideas that have worked in your area. Have you used Facebook, blogs, or websites to gather with others? Have you formed a sub-group of an existing singles program? Let us all know, so we can better meet the needs of our brothers and sisters. As the song lyrics go, “This could be the start of something big.”


Joni Hilton is “Your Youtube Mom” and teaches household tips and life skills at

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Be sure to read her blog at jonihilton.blogspot.com.

Hilton’s most recent LDS comedy, Funeral Potatoes-The Novel, is available at LDS bookstores. She is currently serving as Relief Society President of her ward in Northern California

 

11 Comments

  1. I'm ab LDS empty nester, formerly divorced, never widowed yet and am quite aware of singles concerns in the church. I have written a book FHE Ideas for Empty Nesters and Singles. Learn more on my blog http://lettersfromlin.blogspot.com
  2. I live in a ward that is primarily members under the age of 50. I'm 81 and one of the oldest members. I am a widow of four years and am definitely not looking for a mate. I still consider myself married. I have a calling but still feel somewhat disconnected. I have adult children nearby so I have family support but it doesn't compensate for the loss of my husband. The loss doesn't lessen over time.
  3. I wish there were groups like this for younger empty-nesters (people who are married but don't have children).
  4. Thanks for the article, you did a great job of expressing our feelings and the plans for our NorCal group. Below is our website plan; "Want to get out of the house? Want to meet other Northern California LDS Widows/Widowers? This is the place for you!! This is a group dedicated to widowed members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This Facebook page is not officially sponsored by, or affiliated with, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but we do strive to abide by LDS principles and standards as we share. Use this "safe" place as a point of refuge and release. Express ideas, thoughts, memories, and make new ones! We hope to connect with others and get out and have some fun!! Friends of other faiths willing to abide by LDS standards may request to join. Here we can share common interests and experiences. This is not a "singles" page. It is a place of support and friendship. We strive to address the unique needs of Widows/Widowers of all ages." Our NorCal group plans FHE, Potlucks, Temple Trips, movie nights, etc. and go on outings in the community such as dancing, the Sacramento Jazz Festival and we are working on a Widow & Widower Conference for next spring. If this sounds like a place for you, contact me at pamelaharrel@gmail.com Pam~ (with Robyn & Tom)
  5. Funny that I should read this item today. Some 10 years ago, we began an Empty Nester pot luck luncheon at the church building. Up to 20 members enjoyed a meal and camaraderie. This went on for over 5 years, until I and one other brother found it increasingly difficult to set up the tables and chairs. About the same time I observed members of this group bringing to the pot luck items purchased at a cost greater than the senior price at one of two local buffets. We moved the luncheon to the buffet and about 3 years ago, with the help of a senior missionary couple added a monthly fireside. The group has remained small, but very enjoyable. Once a senior member brought 3 of his grand children ages 4 to 9 to the luncheon. All in all, it was a great luncheon. While there seems no official church program, nothing stops you from speaking with your bishop and beginning an empty nester program for your seniors. We have singles and married attendees. So far, no romances. We do ask discussions at lunch not include politics nor religion. Do have a pair of single non member women who come to lunch on a regular basis. They get to know us as people interested in people.
  6. Yes, this group might find it difficult finding a fit but another group you have omitted from this article is the Divorced Senior. Although it is not openly stated, there is the hint of a stigma on us who are in this category.
  7. Other suggestions: A water aerobics class in the mornings at our community center gets me going in the morning and the cost is very reasonable. It also brings me into contact with others my age for developing friendships. Classes and low cost meals at the community center offer this also. In addition, belonging to the Daughter of Utah Pioneers finds me in company with many in my age group and situation. Developing hobbies, such as taking Chord Organ music lessons, scheduling an afternoon a week at the Temple and serving others by providing rides add a balance in addition to empty nesters and church activities. I find that the community also offers a lot of free concerts, etc. that enrich my interests. Along with taking an interest in Family History, I never have a dull moment but have made many friends wherever I go.
  8. I'd like to point out that not all the widowed are senior empty-nesters! Many younger widows and widowers also find meaningful, fulfilling friendships through their associations with one another, but it can be very difficult to do so while still juggling the needs of their nestlings.
  9. We have in our ward three widowers we call the "three wise men". We invite them to our home for dinner and enjoy their life stores and wisdom. It's always a fun night!
  10. I love our monthly Empty Nest Family Home Evenings. We have the most amazing speakers. It is easy to get someone to speak and everybody knows someone who is interesting.
  11. These groups might work well where there are sufficient numbers of LDS. In my area of central Washington where we are scattered, it is hard. Any other suggestions for websites we can participate in on-line?

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