Women and Mental Health

By Elizabeth Howell; Marjorie Bayes | Go to book overview
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Group Work with Widows



Of 12.6 million widowed individuals in the United States in 1976, 10.7 million were women. Furthermore, today the chances that the typical marriage of a bride of twenty and groom of twenty-three will eventually end with the death of the husband are 70 in 100 (Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Statistical Bulletin 1977a, pp. 10-11). In this country, one of every eight women fourteen years or older is widowed (Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Statistical Bulletin 1977b, pp. 8-10).

In response to the grim reality behind these statistics, the authors began planning for a group therapy program for widows. A search of the literature revealed an abundance of books written by widows for widows, but the authors could not find a formally organized group therapy program for this particular population (cf. Caine 1974, 1978; Kavanaugh 1974; Kreis and Pattie 1969; Lewis and Berns 1975; Lindsey 1977; Young 1976).

It was clear from the literature, however, that the death of a husband provided such a strong common denominator among women that the initial question concerning the composition of the group was indirectly answered. The authors believed that women of different socioeconomic backgrounds and ages could be mixed without jeopardizing the quality of the therapeutic experience. This turned out to be correct.

The Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo, New York, agreed to sponsor the group. The authors decided to conduct six sessions, and to limit the size of the group to twelve. A number of issues significant to


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Women and Mental Health
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