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Widow to Widow: Support group helps fill the gaps

Sunday, June 17, 2012

From left, Deloris Smith, Barbara McConnell, Alpha Philpott, Lorraine Stewart, Frances Stewart and Ann Vanatta listen as Betty Bennett, middle, reads from the Bible during a study group at Celebration Way Assisted Living on Union Street.
(T-G photo by Jim Davis) [Order this photo]
It's nearing a year now since Betty Bennett lost her partner, her closest friend. She and Monte had been married 43 years before pancreatic cancer took him from her after a nine-month battle.

"I thought I was prepared," said Bennett, 65, of the transition from wife to widow. "I had no way of knowing."

Betty Bennett made a point during a Bible study group at the Celebration Way Assisted Living located on Union Street.
(T-G photo by Jim Davis)
Bennett recalls now all the women in her circle of friends who had lost their husbands along the way; she had been supportive of them, sure, but without understanding fully the difficulty these women faced long after their partner was gone.

New understanding

"I in no way knew what they were going through, and I felt really guilty about that," she said. "I knew at that moment that I would like to be of help and support for others."

"Suddenly, your life becomes so different," she said. For most, their income changes suddenly, and the evenings at home are very quiet. Too quiet. Then there are the practical, the day-to-day of a life together, now halved. Who will do the yardwork? When is the car supposed to get the next oil change?

She was comforted, she said, by a friend who reminded her, "Betty, you and your husband completely fulfilled your vow before God." In truth, she continues to honor those vows, to honor, to cherish Monte, even as she completes this first year of 'firsts' without him.

New ministry

Her grief has borne a new ministry, to women like her, widows. She discovered there were 44 widows in her home church alone.

The success and popularity of Widow to Widow at Fairlane Church of Christ has led the women there to open the Bible study up to the community, to any widow - young or old - who wishes to attend. Bennett also leads a study with women at Celebration Way Assisted Living.

Frances Stewart and Ann Vanatta listen to Betty Bennett read from the Bible during a study group at Celebration Way Assisted Living on Union Street.
(T-G photo by Jim Davis)
"You don't know what it is like until you've lost your husband," Bennett said. "No one is able to feel your pain like another widow."

Sharing emotions

There is comfort -- and healing -- together.

"A lot of women go through this journey, and they want to hide from it, push it aside and fill their lives with busyness. They don't deal with the grief and it comes back to bite them later."

Each widow is in a different stage in her journey of grief, but all are welcome. "I had one widow tell me that her husband has been gone 26 years and it still hurts."

Bennett still hurts, she admits. But she hopes to build a ministry of support to others that will not only include support and study, but practical lessons for women like automobile maintenance basics, self defense and dealing with grief through the holidays.

If you go

Alpha Philpott listens to Betty Bennett read from the Bible during their study group at Celebration Way Assisted Living on Union Street.
(T-G photo by Jim Davis) [Order this photo]
With busy summer schedules, the next meeting of Widow to Widow will be Thursday, July 19 at 1 p.m. at the annex building of Fairlane Church of Christ on Dow Drive. To find out more about the growing ministry, contact Betty Bennett at 680-0637 or email bennettmonte56@gmail.com.

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