Soaring Spirits Survey of Widowed People
Since 2008, excellent, innovative programs have made Soaring Spirits the world’s largest inclusive network of widowed people. Our size and diversity put us in a unique position to serve our communities.
In 2013, Soaring Spirits collaborated with Dr. Carrie West, and Schreiner University, to conduct a survey. The goal was to find out more about the lives of widowed people, their needs, and whether Soaring Spirits programs have made a difference. Nearly 900 widowed men and women spent a half hour or more to share their information, experiences, and feelings with us. To date, Dr. West’s survey has been the most comprehensive study of widowed people of all ages, men and women. Participants included a large sample of younger widowed, widowed people with children at home, unmarried widowed, and LGBT households.
Unlike most studies of widowed people, we didn’t concentrate solely on grief or on the first year after the loss. We wanted to learn about the full lives of people living through loss in order to provide complete, comprehensive, and innovative support.
Why is this research important?
We believe that grieving people are undersupported in society today. Widowed people widely report suffering huge social stigma, losing family and friends, and even low levels of church, neighborhood, and other community support. While there is often an outpouring of love, promises, and casseroles right after a death — and as helpful as those supports are — most widowed say the feel abandoned for some of their darkest times. Finding out what widowed people need, and where the gaps are in filling the identified need — using real data — is powerful.
Program Efficacy Results
Soaring Spirits assessed program effectiveness in a survey of 877 widows and widowers. Respondents who used Soaring Spirits’ programs reported higher levels of each of the following when compared to respondents who do not use any Soaring Spirits’ programs.
- Personal growth since the loss of their spouse
- Self esteem
Respondents who attended at least one Camp Widow reported significantly better scores in these additional areas:
- Feeling listened to by others who understand
- Feeling loved
- Social support received from widowed peers, online support, and overall social support
- Confidence in ability to set personal and professional goals
- Confidence in ability to maintain a healthy weight
- Confidence in ability to speak with children about a deceased parent
- Confidence in ability to find and keep a job
- Confidence in ability to accept him or herself as a widow(er)
Impact of Survey Results
In the developed world, death strikes those of all incomes and classes. Widowed People don’t (generally) fit the definition of “underserved:” people who lack food and shelter. But we face tremendous social isolation and when we have trouble reintegrating into society, many suffer — including young children.
Because all of the staff of Soaring Spirits, as well as the majority of our board members, are also widowed, we were certain that the social support provided by peer-to-peer programs like ours made critical differences in improving life for widowed people. The survey results are demonstrating these benefits!
We are proud to be a part of this much needed shift in support for widowed men and women, and continue to design our programs specifically to assist widowed people in recreating their lives after the death of a spouse or life partner.
Our survey results indicate that those who participated in Soaring Spirits programs scored higher on common measures of personal growth after crisis than widowed people without those supports.
Soaring Spirits is grateful that we have grown to the point where we can collect important data that will enhance understanding and support of widowed people today.
We thank our community members for joining us in creating a new face for widowhood, and allowing us to give a voice to their needs, their challenges, and their triumphs.