Honoring "International Widows Day" With Miriam Neff
And 245 Million Other Widows Across The World
Psalm 68:5 Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.
Miriam Neff is not leaving the task of protecting, educating, and uplifting widows to God alone. No siree. Miriam has become yet another hand in righting the injustice that 15% of the world’s population succumb to following her extensive career as a mother of four, educator and counselor, and the wife of one of the most influential and beloved leaders at Moody Broadcasting, Bob Neff.
It was her personal loss of Bob and strong faith which compelled Miriam to move into the next chapter of her live, devoting much of her time and intention to helping widows around the world overcome the devastating realities of widowhood too many experience -- isolation, loneliness, poverty and, even, early death.
Beyond writing several books and speaking on the topic, hosting sixty second radio features called New Beginnings, and establishing a nonprofit “Widow Connection Incorporated”, Miriam Neff also launched WidowConnection.com -- a wonderful and helpful website designed to advise, inform, comfort and share ‘when’ and ‘where’ it is needed most.
As "International Widows Day" is June 23rd, I couldn’t think of a better way to recognize the day or do my part in helping a cause I know too well (as I am one) than by introducing you to the work, words and website of Miriam Neff. Take a moment to heed all. No doubt, the breath of Miriam’s impact will leave you both speechless and amazed.
What is your personal mantra?
I want to encourage and help other widows wherever they are. There are a lot of us. Most don’t realize but the average age of a widow today is fifty-two.
What was the hardest part about becoming a widow for you?
Simply admitting that this - a widow - is who I am. After forty-one years of marriage to an amazing man, that suddenly was gone. The surprise of being alone took a lot of adjustment and change as it does for most widows. Eventually, there is a freedom in it, though. Finding that comes over time.
Do you feel, your mission to help others arose from as much a place of self-healing as it did altruism?
Yes. I am wired to help. When I couldn’t find the depth of what I needed in my own healing, I decided to use 'how I am wired' for the betterment others, which, ultimately, helped me heal too. This decision opened my eyes, especially to the depth of poverty widows bear in the United States, but worse yet, internationally such as in Ghana. A poor widow in Ghana makes a poor widow in the United States look wealthy.
When did you know you had come full circle?
I’ve never come full-circle. I see threads of my former life, daily, but my path changed. For the last ten years, I’ve become a servant to other widows and continue to be. Now, I encourage widows not to look back but to look forward.
I was once asked by a random stranger after discussing the death of my husband with four little kids at my feet, “where is God in all this?” I ask you the same question.
He’s wrapping you up in his arms. Our reality isn’t God’s intention. He provides us the strength and ability to get through it all and move forward.
Many widows remain alone because they ‘unconsciously’ feel as if they will be betraying their former spouses or belittling the love and life they had together by marrying another? What say you?
'Remarriage' is an individual decision. The new person in your life is unique and can be a new blessing and companion. The spouse who dies does not have ownership of the widow left behind. I do caution widows from marrying too soon after their spouse’s death. That usually does not work.
What say you to the men who want to date them but remain frightened that there is a ghost in the room at all times?
It is not the widow’s task to reassure these men. These men have to move into this situation self-assured in their own right. I would caution widows about having to ‘fix’ a man coming into a relationship.
Share five absolutes all widows need to know in order to successfully move through their widowhood and into new and fulfilling lives?
Change is necessary;
No person will replace your void;
Be willing to let go -- including of friends who leave you because you are no longer married;
Find a purpose;
Take risks and discover your life.
What is the most important piece of advice that you can give any widow?
“Psalm 139: Your back is bigger than any burden; your energy is bigger than any day.”
What do you miss most about Bob?
Everything, including our deep connection and closeness. Specifically, having the person next to me that knows me most intimately.
When “all” is said and done, how do you want to be remembered?
She loved; she laughed; she lived large.
From sharing words of wisdom to teaching widows living in Africa and Albania how to sew their way to better tomorrows, Miriam Neff is a testament to sanctity, survival and servitude like few I have ever seen. I admire her greatly and urge you to learn more about her work by visiting WidowConnection.com. Truth-be-told, the lady is as close to being a saint as our own humanness and current religious criteria will allow.